A purple pot of potatoes

Last year we bought a very large, very purple plastic pot from the tip shop. Its ultimate fate is to be a home for one of our citrus trees, but they are all still too small to warrant a move to a pot this size. So the pot has sat untouched until a few weeks ago.

To be honest the colour was pretty confronting when we bought the pot (nothing that another coat of paint couldn’t fix) but we’ve rather grown fond of it over time. Indeed the colour actually contrasts very nicely with the lush greens of the veggie garden.

I recently found a use for the pot when I uncovered these unbelieveably skanky potatoes, dug up earlier in the year from our garden and then forgotten. I know that the pundits recommend starting each potato crop with fresh seed potatoes, but my inner Scot got the better of me and I decided to rescue these long suffering spuds.


I think some are Pink Eyes and I’m not sure about the others – possibly Bismarcks.


As the pot is quite deep I decided to plant the potatoes in the very bottom of the pot and then build up the layers of soil and straw as the plants grow. The idea is that the more the stems are covered the greater the number of potatoes the plants should produce.

It is quite popular to grow potatoes this way in a stack of old tyres filled with soil, adding a new tyre as the plant grows. However I read an article in Organic Gardener magazine some time ago (sorry I can’t find the specific reference at present), that suggested re-considering this approach as there was an indication of the tyre compounds leaching out or breaking down into the soil. Neither nice or healthy.


As you can see it wasn’t long before my dodgy spuds responded to a bit of attention and started to shoot through the first layer of soil and straw.


And then they really took off!


This photo was taken about wo weeks ago and I will need to apply a final layer very soon as the plants are now well about the rim of the pot. The true test of this experiment will come once we finally harvest these spuds to see whether we just grew a good crop of leaves or a great crop of potatoes. I’ll keep you posted.


Carrots in a clamp

We planted a crop of carrots in late January and have been steadily picking them through the winter months. This past weekend we’ve lifted what is left of the crop – a respectable 7 kilograms (minus all the leafy bits) – before they all start to go to seed. We will be turning the bed over to a crop of brassicas, kale and collard greens along with some dill.


As you can see we grow a range of different coloured carrots – purple, yellow and white – and since we’ve been harvesting our home-grown seed over the past few seasons we now have quite a few colours in between.

We are taking several approaches to keeping our carrots in good enough condition to eat while our new crop matures. The bulk of the carrots are being stored in a ‘clamp’ of damp sand. We first saw this technique used on the The Victorian Kitchen Garden (an endlessly fascinating BBC TV series from the 1990’s that was re-released as a DVD in 2006). This technique was used to store all sorts of root crops such as parsnips and carrots, prior to the advent of refrigeration.


It’s pretty straight forward. The cleaned carrots, with most of the green top removed, are placed in a suitable box on a layer of damp sand, (we used a 20kg bag of river sand from the garden centre) with more sand placed around and over them. The good thing is that the sand can be recycled for future use for storage or other projects


It turns out that I needn’t have been so careful about placing the carrots, it would have been OK to have them much closer together. Anyway they are all packed away now and we will be storing them in the shade on the cool side of the house.

While the bigger carrots went into the clamp I was left to deal with a stack of what we jokingly refer to as our ‘gourmet micro-carrots’.


While they are fiddly to clean these little guys are just the perfect size for blanching for a few minutes in boiling water before I spread them on a tray to freeze.


Once frozen they can be happily packed into bags for long term storage.

Of course we still needed to complete the cycle so before we packed it in for the day TB sowed our new carrot crop.


He’s not planting a mix of sand and carrot seed here (as is frequently suggested to help the fine seed spread eavenly) – this is pure carrot seed. We’ll just stick to our standard approach of letting all the carrots sprout and thin by eating them from micro size and upwards.