As I want to keep the vegetable garden providing for the kitchen through the autumn and winter, there’s not a moment to be lost in making the most of any spare room in the beds.
In spare moments over the last two weeks I’ve been refilling space vacated by spent crops with new sowings, some cuttings and a few plug-plants I ordered online. When these plug plants arrived I suddenly realised I’d overbooked the beds…
In mid-July I cut back all the foliage on the potatoes and left them in the soil until I had a decent dry spell (and the time) to harvest them. Time passed and I still hadn’t done the deed. Now I needed their space rather urgently for my new guests… They have become the equivalent of sofa-beds!
I tipped the potatoes out with the soil (much easier using the strong handle that’s underneath the bags as well as on top) onto a large sheet of plastic, sorting, washing and letting them dry before bagging them up.
This is the sort of harvest I’ve been getting from the Marshalls grow-bags. These shown are both the Belle de Fontenay variety (actually semi-harvested back in mid-July). On the left are the results of 3 seed potatoes in the same bag, and on the right 2 seed potatoes. As you can see, not a lot of difference. There wasn’t much difference between the varieties either, or when they were harvested. Basically, I got a heaped large colander of spuds from each bag… ie 30-35 good-sized spuds, regardless of any differences in varieties, first/second/late type. They were all grown in the same sized bags, compost and watered the same.
So what about the taste? I grew 5 varieties:
Top left: I’ve just got a couple of Maris Peer left now. They were delicious with a creamy firm texture, and the fact we ate those first says something.
Bottom left: Epicure, quite a knobbly-knee shaped potato. They were nice, but I’m after ‘exceptional’ to make them worth the fuss of growing in bags, so I don’t think I’ll grow them again.
Centre left: Belle du Fonteney. Nice, clean small spuds, thin-skinned, good ‘new potato’ flavour. Thumbs up.
Centre right: Salad Blue. These are great fun to grow, with pretty flowers, and exciting to harvest. The colour goes right through, and if you don’t overlook them they keep a blueish-amethyst colour inside as well as out. Some oil or butter before serving revives their lovely hue and everyone goes ‘ooo‘.
Far right: Blue Danube. Don’t tend to keep their colour so well when cooked, and the only spud to be showing signs of scab (so maybe these are best harvested early when smaller, and not kept waiting in the ground too long?)…I also thought lacking in flavour? Again, maybe left too long and too big.
I refilled the bags (which are in great ‘as new’ condition compared to the cheap ones I used last year) with the same potato compost but serviced with some rich new Dalesfoot Peat-free Vegetable Compost.
The first empty bag was quickly occupied with some tomato plants grown from ‘pinching-outs’ from my established tomatoes. I just inserted them deep into compost and kept them well watered. Three have rooted well and are flowering… there might be the chance of a couple of late tomatoes if September weather is good.
An unhappy courgette being bullied by his larger sibling was rehoused in a bag, and three more bags (and a large pot) now have a cauliflower plug-plant in each of them. These have now gone under butterfly netting along with the red cabbages and flower sprouts, which are also in large pots. Cabbages take up so much space in the beds, so I thought I’d try pots, spreading the growing out onto the gravel driveway. They can be moved back into the garden later on.
Another two bags have been planted with sugar-snap pea plants, 3 in each. And two more cauliflower plants have been put in the bed where the first peas were. When the all these plants get a bit bigger, I’ll top dress the settled soil with some more mixed with homemade wormery compost. It will also give them a bit more stability as autumn winds set in.
I’ve covered the cauliflowers with pop-up food nets, pegged down… quite handy for starting off random Brassica while the white butterflies are still at large. Old wire colanders or plastic sieves are good for this too.
I’ve also planted some purple sprouting broccoli dotted around the leeks. There was nowhere else to put them. They are rather tiny, and I surrounded each with a copper ring to remind myself they’re there as much as deter slugs. I haven’t netted them so I better go and check them…
Many thanks to Marshalls for the opportunity to trial their potato bags. Now £7.95 for a set of 3. And to Dalesfoot for the use of their new Lake District produced, peat-free Vegetable & Salad compost