Sunday, July 06, 2008

Potato crop

If, like me, you have managed to break the top of your kitchen swing bin and thought that the bottom bit would be of no use for anything, think again!

It is ideal for growing potatoes, either outside your home, on your patio or, if you live in a flat, on your balcony.

First, you need to make some drainage holes in the bottom of the bin. You also need a piece of plastic pipe about 1 to 2 inches in diameter, cut so that the top of the pipe will just protrude above the rim of the bin. You will need to make holes in the pipe, which will ensure that water reaches all parts of the interior of the bin. Potatoes like plenty of water when they are growing.

Put the pipe in the swing bin, as near the middle as possible, and add a good quality all purpose compost to a depth of four to six inches. Then add three or four chitted (sprouting) potatoes and cover with a further two to three inches of compost.

When the leaves start appearing above the compost, just add enough compost to cover the leaves up again. Repeat this each time the leaves appear until the compost is up to the top of the bin. This is the equivalent of earthing up, which you would do if growing them in open ground.

Keep the plants well watered, the end of a hose or watering can will conveniently fit into the top of the plastic pipe and will ensure that all the compost in the swing bin gets a good soaking. This is very important as the compost must not be allowed to dry out. You may have to water twice a day in the height of summer.

Eventually, the potato plants will flower and the green leaves will start to die off. Your potatoes are ready for harvesting and eating.

This vegetable is now so common-place, with many more varieties being added over the years, it is difficult to believe it has been with us for only a few hundred years.

The potato has been grown in South America for 7000 years and was brought over to Europe in the 16th century by Spanish explorers. It was not until the 18th century that it began to be accepted as a nutritious staple food item and people began to learn how to grow potatoes.

The humble potato has had to battle against many prejudices over the years - it was not eaten by some because it wasn't mentioned in the Bible , others blamed potatoes for causing leprosy and tuberculosis. The English even thought it led to lust, currently many blame this vegetable for causing obesity (chips).

This photo is my crop of organic potatoes in July which i got from growing 4 spuds in a single small bin...yum

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