I’m growing spuds…. in winter!

I was at the garden centre the other day and noticed the craziest thing.  There were loads and loads of seed potatoes on sale.  Now I’m pretty sure this isn’t the season for potatoes, but I had my judgement questioned.  I mean come late summer when I want to put in a sneaky crop to harvest before the frost, there is hardly any to be found anywhere.  So if they aren’t available in a time that is marginal for getting a late crop then it confounded me that they were available now – so early in the winter, where they are most likely to rot in the wet soil and if they survive that the frost will wilt the leaves as they try to push through into the crisp winter air.

So I did what anyone self respecting gardener would do – I bought some.  A quick search on the great big internet for “90 days from today”  told me I should expect some lovely new Rocket potatoes some time in September.

seed potatoes
Not a bad looking bunch of spuds. I hope they grow well for me.

It turns out spuds can be planted in as early as July provided they can be protected from the frost.  It would seem I have been missing out.  I am a creature driven by ritual and tradition and I have always planted my potatoes 100 days before Christmas with my eye on the Jersey Bennes for Christmas day.  I must have read somewhere that this was the day and it stuck.  But it also suited my microclimate.  Any earlier is wholly unsuitable and no amount of phaffing about would saving them from the hearty spring showers soaking already wet soil and not to mention the crop and soul destroying late frosts.  So if it’s working for me then don’t fix what ain’t broken I say.  Spud planting day will forever more be September 16 in my garden.

raindrop on brassica leaf
We have had a lot of rain lately

Undeterred I pushed on and put the spuds in a warm shady spot in the greenhouse, to try and bring on some fat sprouts.  I want to make sure they are beginning to grow before I make them disappear beneath the soil in this adventure of trial and error.  I’m hoping for less of the error as I have great expectations for these seasonally early treats slathered in melted butter with a hint of mint.

Of course I won’t be planting them out into the great wide open and abandoning them to their chances.  Not in my soggy, boggy soil.  There would be no trial in that – just all error!  The rotting would commence within the week and my crop would be doomed and my money wasted.  No I shall be planted them in the snug warmth of my greenhouse in large pots.  They will have the best of everything.

Didn't I say I wasn't going to grow broad beans again?
Didn’t I say I wasn’t going to grow broad beans again?

I will make sure the soil I put in the pots will be exactly what the spuds need.  A nice crumbly friable soil full of all the nutrients and organic material essential for a fabulous potato harvest to, blended in.  I will even ensure the temperature remains a warm (ish) consistency so as not to shock them.  This will mean going out to the greenhouse each evening before dusk and setting up my little heater if it looks like it will get really cold and shutting the door.  Having to do this every night for 90 days will really test my memory.

You will love my wee heater it is so simple – a tea light candle placed under two terracotta pots, one quite smaller than the other and balanced on an old cake tin so I don’t burn down my greenhouse.  It does a fabulous job at keeping the temperature above freezing.

I’ll bury the plant as it grows through the soil, and this always seems weird to be burying a perfectly healthy looking plant.  But having seen the way tubers form along the stem, I don’t want to miss out on any through a misguided perception I was hurting the plant, or the sheer laziness of ‘I can’t be bothered’.  I’m in this for the mash!

And come September when the main crop goes in, these babies will be coming out and it will be all good.

Come again soon – gardening against the odds is all the rage in winter.

Sarah the Gardener  : o )

25 thoughts on “I’m growing spuds…. in winter!

  1. I can typically grow potatoes deep into autumn (as I wrote about here – http://bit.ly/1taxY5n) but as soon as the first frost hits me (usually the first or second day of June), theyre down for the count until September when I put in a second crop. I have grown them in pots before (which I spoke about here: http://bit.ly/1Ji9ihH) but didnt get the yield I was used to – makes sense really! Ill be very interested to watch your experiment though!

  2. I have sweet potatoes growing again from a crop I harvested a couple of months ago – but I live in Queensland, so no worries about frost here.
    Good luck with your spuds!

    1. Hi Barb. It would be nice to have a climate for extending the growing season. But then there is always a down for every up side. We may have colder winters but don’t have snakes! Having said that… perpetual sweet potatoes does sound tempting….
      Cheers Sarah : o )

  3. You inspire me. I love the sound of the heater too .. very clever. I have grown spuds in June before in a hot box. Which is literally stuffed full of horse manure (fresh) and straw. Get some heat happening, with an activator and cover. Let the heat drop back as it will get hot – then top with compost and poke in spuds. Cover with cloche to protect from frost. Spuds in about 60 days – this speeds things up. Don’t get excited like I did and poke them in earlier – they got toasted.

    1. Hi Elaine. I can’t take credit for the heater, I have seen it all over the internet in various forms, but thought I’d give it a try. It seems to make a bit of a difference keeping the chill off but I wouldn’t describe it as toasty warm, but it doesn’t need to be. Give it a go.
      Cheers Sarah : o )

  4. I am growing some Broad Beans for the first time this year in Oregon U.S.A.
    My husband is from Mexico and they eat them (Favas, habichuelas) Toasted in oil and then rolled in Dried chile powder, salt and lime juice. I think they are harvested slightly immature for this snack. 🙂

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