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Sow it. Grow it. Love it! Growing tatties in potato bags

Congratulations to all who’ve entered our Tattie Challenge this year, and even if you haven’t what’s better than tucking into some home grown potatoes?

The flavour is miles beyond what you can buy in the supermarket. Growing potatoes in a bag is a great way to go if you have limited space, or you just don’t like digging. Here are a few hints on how to get the best results:

Firstly, to chit or not?

"The Potato Book" by Alan Romans says: "chitting gives the potato a quicker start and crops will be of usable size slightly earlier." However , this is also described as "premature ageing, which also speeds up senescence - or deterioration with age and reduction of yield . "

So, it seems to me that if you want an early crop, then chit; if you want a large crop of good ‘keepers’, then don’t chit. But basically it’s a personal choice. Try both and decide for yourself what works.

If you ARE going to chit, which is recommended for early crops, then here’s Thompson and Morgan’s advice:

“Seed potatoes, particularly earlies and second earlies benefit from 'chitting'. That’s the process of allowing them to ‘sprout’ prior to planting, to produce faster growth and heavier crops. Second cropping potatoes don’t require chitting and can be planted straight away.

To chit your seed potatoes, lay them out in a cool, bright, frost free position (10C/ 50F). A reliable, tried-and-tested method is to arrange them in empty egg boxes or seed trays. You’ll notice the immature shoots sprout from one end of the potato – called the rose end. Seed potatoes are ready to plant when the chits reach 25mm (1") in length, and should always be planted with the rose end facing up.”

How to plant

Now for the ‘earthing up’ discussion. Traditional wisdom says after planting on a bed of 4ins (10cms) of compost, cover the tubers with a couple of inches of compost , then continue to gradually add more compost as the shoots grow and leaves appear, until they reach the top of the bag/container. However, recent trials at Thompson and Morgan suggest this might not be necessary, and you can just plunge them into a full bag and leave it at that. Again, it’s a choice.

What everyone agrees on, though (phew – at last!) is don’t let them dry out, let them get enough sun, and don’t overfeed them. Once a fortnight will be fine.

Then all you have to do is bring your potato bag along in August to Ardarden and see if you’re getting a prize! Or just harvest and eat them, soft and tender straight from the garden, with melted butter. Yum.


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