The Garden Community for Garden Lovers

Making an Early Start.


By david


A couple of weeks ago, i checked on my seed potato tubers, which were stored in a shoe box in the coolest cupboard in the kitchen, and was horrified to find that they had grown masses of white, straggly shoots. I removed the longest ones, leaving only 3 on each tuber and set the potatoes at a kitchen window. The shoots gradually darkened in colour and began to show signs of leaf growth. I decided this week that I had no choice but to plant them out, even though this is 2-3 weeks earlier than planned.

It will be evident to some now that I’ve never cultivated potatoes before. I experimented last year with 4 spuds which had, mistakenly, been added to the compost bin and had grown foliage. These were planted in a spare area, just below the soil surface, with further layers of compost added as required – a sort of “no-dig” method. It worked, because these 4 potatoes produced 14 decently-sized ones. For my first real attempt this year, I chose the first early conservation variety “Witchhill”, dating back to 1881, purely because the “Witch” part fits in with our Wizard of Oz themed garden. I hope this choice doesn’t end in disaster because, being an old variety, it will probably have a greatly-reduced resistance to blight and other diseases.

Luckily, I had treated one of my small raised beds a few weeks ago to some free rotted manure. I spaced the tubers to 30cms apart at their centres, and buried them so that the tips of the shoots are just below the surface. Future “earthing up” will consist
of heaping compost around the plants, as in last year’s experiment. Finally, I added a fleece blanket to protect the tubers from frosts. At the same time, I planted out my rhubarb “Champagne”. This had been growing in a large, glazed pot and, with all the rain last summer, the pot frequently became waterlogged. The rhubarb stems rotted, and I thought it had died, but it is regrowing quite nicely. This was planted out in a corner of this raised bed, as it will benefit from the rotted manure, and more frost. Now, I look forward to seeing the rich, red stems of the rhubarb and the white flowers on the potato plants.

More blog posts by david

Previous post: Gardening with Friends (2)

Next post: In Praise of Our Parks: Part One



'Wow, Buzzbee! What a quick reply, I only just posted this. You've really cheered me up with your mention of blight occurring later in the season. Being first earlies, my spuds should be out of there late June/early July. Perhaps you didn't realise that I'm in Fife, too? Actually, I picked up a leaflet today that may interest you - the Perthshire Gardens Collection. Look at the website It features 10 open gardens, and you can buy a year's unlimited entry ticket to them all for only £16, or, even better, £25 for two!
Amazing value, especially as Scone Palace, Blair Castle, Branklyn Garden and Dundee Botanic Garden are included.

1 Mar, 2008


Hi David,

Like you, I'm going to have a go at growing potatoes this year. My friend bought me some potato grow sacks as a present. We shared some seed potatoes (pink fir, sharpe's express and rocket) and I've put mine to chit in egg boxes in my shed, right up against the window. The pink fir have been there for 3 weeks and done absolutely nothing. The others i put there 2 weeks ago and, if I use my imagination, i think some of the eyes are just showing very slight signs of sprouting. Maybe it's too cold in the shed? Do hope you're successful, i liked your idea of growing an old conservation variety.

1 Mar, 2008


hi Lindsay! I read that the tubers have to be chitted in a cool, but frost-free room. Perhaps your shed is just a bit too cold. Also, no shoots or very short ones may be due to lack of light (although they shouldn't be on a windowsill that gets full sunshine for long periods. Mine ended up in the kitchen on a sill facing north-east and quickly regained the correct colour/length of shoots.
Can you possibly make use of any of this info?

1 Mar, 2008


Thanks for your advice David. I think I'll bring my pink fir potatoes in and try them on a windowsill for a while to see if I can kick start them. I've had another look at the others today and they're definitely showing signs of sprouting so I'll leave those where they are for now. Its fun isn't it, I'm really quite excited by the idea of growing my own!!

2 Mar, 2008


Hi - its better to chit your potatoes in some sunshine - mine are on a north facing window above a radiator. If anyone would like some tips - last year I planted up some in old compost bags and was amazed at how many I got out - put a layer of compost in an old bag (inside out with some holes punched in the bottom) add about 3 or 4 seed pots and keep covering them up with compost as their heads start to appear. Keep doing this until the frosts are over and hopefully by the end when they have flowered you will have some lovely fresh potatoes. I find the earlies do really well - there is nothing nicer than tipping out a bag and finding lots of little potatoes - great for kids to do as well! On my photos are the pics from last year.

3 Mar, 2008


Many thanx for highlighting your success, Genuisscuffy , (which, as far as I'm concerned, should read "Genius".
What a result! Now, I'm famished! What a great example of re-use (of spare bags). Ideal for a small space, too! This is definitely a back-saving, no-dig method, and there is also no danger of your precious spuds being speared by the garden fork - brill!

4 Mar, 2008


I'm dropping hints already about the possibility of getting a yearly ticket as a Fathers' Day pressy, lol! Then I'd still be using it until next year.

5 Mar, 2008

Add a comment

Featured on

Recent posts by david

Members who like this blog

  • Gardening with friends since
    5 Jun, 2008