How do I plant First Early potatoes In bags and containers?
First early potatoes can be easily grown on a budget and in a small space
First early potatoes need to be planted towards the end of March. We have chosen to plant them with our eye on budget and the fact that a lot of people are restricted for space. For this reason we have chosen to plant them in old plastic bags; you can use old compost bags or beg some animal feed bags off a farmer. If you can’t lay your hands on used plastic bags, potato growing towers and bags are available in garden centres, or just use large containers. First earlies are worth growing in containers for that delicious taste of the first of the new season’s potatoes. If you are restricted for space there is no point in growing main crop potatoes as they are usually fairly cheap to buy in the supermarket.
You will need:
- old compost bags or large containers
- well-rotted manure
- multi-purpose compost
- scissors or knife
- hand trowel
- seed potatoes
The variety we have chosen is ‘Rocket’ a good salad potato with excellent disease resistance. It is an ideal variety for growing in bags and containers, being quick to produce ‘baby’ new potatoes.
Slash the bottom of the bags to allow for drainage.
Put in a good 15cm (6”) of manure in the bottom; either buy a bag from the garden centre or if you are wanting to keep the cost down see if you can beg some from a local farmer, just make sure it has rotted down for a couple of years, as fresh manure will burn the potatoes. If you don’t have access to manure just put the compost in the bottom and feed the potatoes every fortnight with a liquid potato fertiliser or incorporate a granular feed into the compost.
Next put in about 5cm (2”) of home-made or good quality peat-free compost.
As we only have 5 potatoes we have spaced out the 3 smallest in one bag and the 2 larger ones in the other; if you are using large pots put 3 potatoes per pot. If you only have smaller pots just put one potato per pot. Don’t be tempted to put too many in one bag as they are quite greedy feeders and will only produce small potatoes.
First earliest are better ‘chitted’ before planting but don’t worry if you haven’t done this you will still get a good crop and they may take a little longer to mature. ‘Chitting’ means just putting the potatoes end up into an egg box for a couple of weeks before you plant them; when they have grown shoots about 2.5cm (1”) long then they are ready to plant.
Cover the potatoes with about 5cm (2”) of compost.
Water with a fine rose on the watering can.
Place in a sunny position.
As the potatoes grow unroll the top of the bag and add a little more compost just leaving the very tops of the potatoes showing. Carry on doing this until the bag is half full of compost.
Make sure they are kept damp as if the watering is erratic, too dry then too wet, it leads to the outside of the potato breaking away and turning to mush when they are boiled.