This weekend we took advantage of a brief break in the storms to attend to the most important task of our winter work – planting the early potatoes in large pots in the glasshouses. The normal time to sow the first earlies is towards the end of March or early April. We have some advantages, though, being located in the south and with a couple of glasshouses bolted to a south facing wall, which allows us to get an early harvest.
For this first sowing we use 15 litre pots. We prepared a potting mix of around 3 parts multipurpose compost, one part horse manure, and a sprinkling of fish, blood, and bone. We filled each pot to around ⅗ with the compost mix and placed one tuber at the bottom of the pot with shoots uppermost. Each pot was given a good watering and placed against the glasshouse wall. Except for a particularly nasty cold snap this will keep them happy. If we get another period of cold weather, the pot can always be covered with fleece, which should give plenty of protection to the young shoots. So far, this winter has been particularly mild, but even in much colder winters we have not failed to produce a good crop this way.
The pots will need to be filled to within an inch or two of the rim, but I like the shoots to see some light sooner rather than later, so generally allow them to grow through and then fill around with extra compost in a few weeks’ time. No further feed will be needed, just the occasional watering. First earlies can be ready to lift in as little as 10 weeks, but sown at this time of year they might take a bit longer. We aim to turn out the first new potatoes by 30th April – about 12 weeks from now.