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(This page was originally published on www.nugget.demon.co.uk)

1.  What equipment do I need to start?

A number of bottomless pots at least 9 inches diameter, an equal number of plastic bowls, 2 inches deep and at least 2 inches greater diameter, a bag of seed compost and a bag of John Innes No. 3.

2.  What variety of Potatoes should I grow?

Any first early variety. Suggestions to try are... Arran Pilot, Home Guard, Pentland Javelin, Suttons Foremost, any Ulster name. The author grows Foremost because they are readily available locally, they are quick growing and, most importantly, he likes their taste.

3.  Got everything, what now?

Put your potatoes somewhere convenient to "chit" and when ready, hopefully this will be late February / early March, fill a bowl to the brim with seed compost. Put a pot in the bowl. Put one potato in the bottom of the pot and cover with 2 to 3 inches of seed compost. Water top and bottom and put your pot in a frost free environment and wait until the first leaves appear. Give the leaves a day or two to get a bit greener then cover with 2 to 3 inches of John Innes No. 3. Repeat this topping-up procedure until the pot is full to the brim. Initially water the bowl, but when the potato foliage is above the level of the pot change to watering top and bottom.

4.  When should I put the pots outside?

Basically as soon as possible. The author is fortunate in that he lives close to the sea, has an open south facing wall and rarely suffers from late hard frosts. You must prevent the pots from becoming chilled and/or frost getting to the foliage.

5.  When will my potatoes be ready to harvest?

Foremost usually takes about eleven weeks to mature. Most varieties of early potato take eleven to thirteen weeks unless Spring is unduly cold. Dying back of the foliage is the first visible sign that your potatoes are nearly ready.

6.  What yield can I expect?

6.1.  The author uses 9 inch pots and 12 inch bowls purely because they were "hand-me-downs". From this size a yield of about 1lb. is usual although one pot has produced 1lb. 4oz. The author did try a 7 inch pot one year but the yield was only 8 oz.
6.2.  In 1997 the author used two 11 inch pots he had acquired. The results were encouraging in that the combined yield was 3lb.1998 was even better with a combined yield from these larger pots of 3lb 5oz. No feed was used in either year. From this, very limited, experiment it would appear that a larger pot gives a worthwhile greater yield.

7.  Are there any problems I am likely to experience?

Frost is the main hazard. You must resort to any and every means to keep your pots / foliage from any frost damage. Beware of ants setting up home in your pots. The author has in the past lost one of his pots due to ants.

8.  Any other tips?

One to reduce the overall cost a bit. If you have followed the excellent FAQ on making a compost heap, come January you probably have a nice warm sweet smelling productive heap. On a dry day dig up some of it and riddle the bits you dig out. Store the riddlings in a bin bag and use them in lieu of the seed compost. However if you do this only fill the bowl half full. Put the pot on the riddlings and cover up the riddlings outside the pot with as much sand as you can. As the riddlings are a nutritious source of food for your potato you can also supplement the John Innes No. 3 with the riddlings. However always cover the riddlings with John Innes No. 3. The reason for ensuring the riddlings are covered is because there may be a few live weed seeds in there and you don't need the hassle of weeding your pots/bowls.


Questions which need answers in the fullness of time

1.  Is there an optimum size of pot?
    Presumably a bigger pot will produce a few more potatoes until the law of diminishing returns sets in.
2.  Is there a "best" variety of potatoes for pots?
3.  Is it worth feeding the pots?
In 1997 the author tried an experiment by feeding two of his 9 inch pots using a propriety Tomato feed. However results were inconclusive in that the pot with the highest yield, (20 ozs), and the pot with the equal lowest yield, (15oz), were the two that had the feed applied.


Organic Gardening. 1988 version. Author: Roy Lacey.
Approved by the Soil Association.
Details on potato varieties and a couple of ideas on growing potatoes for Christmas.

If you should try this FAQ it would be appreciated if you would take a few minutes to tell us in urg the following...
1.  Size of pots used.
2.  Number of pots.
3.  Variety of seed potato.
4.  Average yield per pot.
5.  Did you feed the pots?
6.  If yes...
    a.  What did you use?
    b.  Was the yield higher on the fed pots?
7.  Comments on the FAQ.

AUTHOR: Ron Lowe
Version 1.0
Version 1.1  August 1997.
Para 6.2 added.
Version 1.2  April 1999.
Para 6.2 expanded.
Good Reading section added.
Converted to html.

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