Category Archives: Grow Your Own

Seed Potatoes Earlies to Maincrop

Last years potato crop was so successful that we decided to grow them again this year. Potatoes are a very easy vegetable to grow in containers, which is great if you are new to growing and short on space. There is a wide variety of seed potatoes available, with varieties bred especially to grow in containers to unusual heritage varieties.

The phrases First Earlies, Second Earlies and Maincrop refers to the time the potatoes take to reach maturity. First Earlies  usually take 10 weeks to grow, Second Earlies 13 weeks, and Maincrop up to 20 weeks.

First Earlies which are also called new potatoes, are the most suitable to grow in small containers. A 10l container (about the size of a large black florist bucket) would be suitable for one seed potato but you can grow maincrop potatoes like we do in bigger tubs. If you have a sheltered sunny spot you can plant First Earlies in March but as plant roots can get cold in containers, we wait till the last frost has passed.

This year we will planting Purple Majesty (maincrop), Kerrs Pink (maincrop), Pink Fir Apple (maincrop), King Edward, (main crop), Epicure (first early) and  Kestrel (second Early) which you voted best tasting potato at our  Tasting Event.

Winter Growing

While most of us are looking forward to curling up next to the fire with a seed catalogue, a few hardy growers are still sowing, tending and harvesting. For the beginner, winter growing can be a daunting thought, if one considered at all, but there is plenty of veg that thrives in cooler weather or even relishes a good chill.
Oriental and mustard greens are quite hardy, Mizuna Tatsoi  & Miike are all tasty though the Miike is too spicy to eat raw. Cabbages and parsnips both come in container varieties and stand well in winter and there are winter varieties of spring onions and lettuce available.
Don’t forget you still have time to plant garlic and onions both which grow well in containers.

Roots

Root vegetables may not be the first vegetables that come to mind when planning an edible container garden but they do surprisingly well. Some of our most used vegetables are root vegetables. Carrots, turnips and potatoes all fall under this loose category. Yields are not as large when compared to vegetables grown in the ground but growing conditions are much easier to manage particularly for the beginner. This year we have grown baby turnips, golden beetroot and of course potatoes which we grew in flexi tubs. Onion, carrots and parsnip also do well or if you’re looking for something a little more unusual try Florence Fennel, Jerusalem Artichokes or Oca.

Potatoes

Potatoes in bloomThe potato harvest is in with varying results. We grew five varieties in 42l flexi tubs into which we sowed two seed potatoes of each. The final harvest was

  • Pink Fir Apple 6lb
  • Maris Piper 5lb
  • Kestrel 5lb
  • King Edward 3lb
  • Desiree 6lb

All the potato varieties yielded slightly less than those sown in the ground except the King Edward, which produced significantly less, although this plant sustained early damage during the spring storms. After drying the potatoes in the sun, they were stored in paper bags and placed in a cool, dark place until the potato tasting event later this month.

You can watch a video of our potato harvest here.

You can find more about the potato tasting event here

Brassicas

Beset by insects and disease, not to mention making a tasty snack for pigeons, slugs and caterpillars and accompanied by the memory of overcooked school dinners, it’s not surprising that Brassicas are shunned by some growers as too much trouble.
Despite this they form the bulk of plants grown for the dinner table and make up the majority of the winter kitchen menu. From Cabbages and Cauliflowers to Mizuna, Pak Choi even Horseradish, they are a diverse family of edibles. Freshly harvested and lightly cooked, they possess a flavour that can never be matched by supermarket bought produce.
Quite a few varieties are suitable for container growing and here in The Mediated Garden we are growing Kale, Rocket, Pak Choi and Mizuna, each chosen for their ease of growing, resilience to pests and challenging conditions and value for  money.
Fresh Rocket flowers have a mild sweet aniseed taste and if the plant is allowed to set seed they are an easy way to get into seed saving.

Saving Rocket Seed
When the seed pods start to turn a straw colour, pick them all and dry out on a sunny windowsill. When dry, crumble the pods to release the seeds and separate by sifting with a colander. Store in a paper bag in a cool dry place.

Tomatoes

Green TomatoesEvery garden presents it’s own set of challenges that result from a combination of location, weather and growing conditions. Here in the mediated garden the tomato plants have developed a purple tinge indicating a lack of phosphorus. This can be caused by lack of feeding or cold soil. Phosphorus is essential for photosynthesis and overall plant and fruit health. To avoid this, include tomato feed when watering as an essential part of your routine. This is particularly important when using shop bought compost as it only contains enough food for six weeks.  Low temperatures which inhibit the uptake of phosphorus are more difficult to deal with. Plants can be helped by using mulches, surrounding pots with bubble wrap and positioning your plants in a sheltered sunny spot.

Cucurbits

courgette plant in flowerCourgettes are a member of the Cucurbit family, which includes squash, cucumber and melon.
Next to potatoes these are an easy to grow and prolific vegetable.  They don’t freeze satisfactorily but an easy way to preserve any glut is to incorporate them into soups sauces chutneys and cakes which can then be frozen. Here’s a couple of recipes

Courgette Soup
1kg courgettes
a large potato
1 l stock veg or chicken
1 onion
2 tbsp olive oil
salt pepper paprika chilli  to taste

gently cook the courgettes & onion in oil until soft
add a pinch of chilli & paprika
add stock, salt and pepper
blend or mash the mixture
and cook on a low heat until the mixture reaches your preferred consistency
allow to cool then freeze

Basic Courgette Cake
250g courgettes
150g sugar
225g self raising flour
125ml sunflower oil
2 eggs
a teaspoon baking powder

Grate the courgettes add oil and eggs
Combine dry ingredients and fold in the courgettes oil and egg mixture.
Divide mixture between 2 bread tins
Cook at gas mark 4 for 30 minutes.