After giving up my allotment at the end of last year, I decided to have a rest from growing my own veg this year, with three exceptions, cucumbers, tomatoes and potatoes, all grown in containers. I only ended up with one cucumber plant after the other keeled over and died for no apparent reason but it's produced lots of delicious fruit which I've been able to share with my mum and dad.
I think this year has been my worst tomato year and that's down, in part, to me starting the seeds off late. I just couldn't get going at the start of the year, probably due to the fact that I didn't really have that much to do at seed sowing time. I think that sometimes, the less you have to do, the less motivation you have to do it. The Bloody Butchers, which I bought as young plants from a local garden centre, have given me a good enough crop for our house and to supply my mum and dad but the Maskotkas, which I grew from seed, are only just starting to ripen now. Still, they'll be worth the wait as they're the tastiest tomato I've ever grown.
Which just leaves the potatoes. I've grown two varieties this year, Anya and Arran Pilot, and again, they haven't done as well as in other years. The yield has been small compared to what I usually harvest, though Anyas never produce a very large crop.
When I grow potatoes in containers, I put them in the bottom of the pot with a little compost beneath them and a little on top to cover them and then as they grow and the foliage begins to show, I add more compost bit by bit until the whole container is filled. This is known as earthing up. When I grew potatoes in the ground at the allotment, I didn't bother with this method, instead just burying the potatoes and leaving them to get on with the business of growing. Earlier this year, I read a post on Mark's Veg Plot blog titled "Earthing-up". Is it worth doing?
I decided that I'd have a go at growing one lot of potatoes the way I usually do, earthing up as they grow, and one lot planted about half way down the container before filling it completely with compost from the start. Apart from this, each container was treated in exactly the same way, the same compost was used, they received the same amount of water and the containers were stood side by side. I did the trial with both Anyas and Arran Pilots and three tubers were planted in each container.
This is the harvest from the first container of Anyas grown using my usual method of earthing up. The potatoes are rather small and the contents weigh 625g.
The second container of Anyas which were grown in a container filled with compost from the start produced larger potatoes but the weight of the harvest was less at 500g.
The first harvest of Arran Pilots grown using the earthing up method weighed in at 775g.
This time, the second container of Arran Pilots which were grown in a container filled with compost from the start produced a heavier crop at 800g. Again, the potatoes were larger than those harvested from the first container but there were very few of them.
I don't think this trial gives any clear results and that may be down to a poor growing year in general. I would usually expect to harvest a lot more potatoes than I have from any of these containers so I don't think these results can be used to say that one method of growing is beneficial over the other. I think it would be interesting to give it a go again next year and see what results it throws up then.
One thing's for sure though, no matter what method you choose, home grown potatoes are so tasty.
You know, you are quite right - I find that I'm usually the most productive when I have MORE on my plate, not less...when I know I have "plenty of time", I tend to procrastinate.ReplyDelete
It's so funny how the 3 of us questioned the hilling of potatoes this year. My questions arose last year when I used the hilling method - when I dug up the potato bed, it seemed as if all of the potatoes were in the bottom layer of soil, with hardly any in the top few inches of "hilled" soil. So this time round, I decided to bury the tubers all the way down in the bed, covering them with soil and straw right from the beginning. I've not dug up the bed yet - still a couple of weeks to go as I want the potatoes to toughen up a bit so they store better - but I'm anxious to see what the results are. So far I have found several potatoes, by accident, right near the surface of the soil, so I think that's promising.
I could never wait to get started with the sowing when I had my allotment but I think I lost a bit of my enthusiasm for gardening this year. I've never used the hilling method when growing potatoes on the allotment, I just dug a hole and put the potato in, I don't think I'd have got more potatoes if I'd earthed them up. I've always preferred growing potatoes in containers though, even when I had the plot, as they're much cleaner when harvested with hardly any suffering any pest damage. I hope you get a great harvest when you eventually dig up your potatoes, it's great that you manage to grow enough to last right through winter.Delete
You seem to have got a fair crop of potatoes to me, i like your idea of growing them in tubs, i will have to remember this next year and have a go myself.ReplyDelete
I can get up to double this amount usually, it hasn't really been a very good growing year this year. I do think growing them in containers is worthwhile and they taste absolutely delicious.Delete
Your post was interesting, Jo. We had a terrible year with our garden, too. We usually have so many tomatoes, cucumbers, squash, etc, etc., we're giving away more than we can keep, freeze or can. Last year DH canned 32 quarts of tomato sauce and salsa. This year....nothing. DH surmises it's been too wet....and too many deer having their go at our smorgasbord each evening. Hopefully we will have a bumper crop of veggies next year,....you, too 😃ReplyDelete
Some years just go like that, don't they? That's the great thing about gardening, every year is a clean slate and we can start all over again. I sympathise about the deer, that's something I don't have to contend with, my worst pests are slugs but they don't seem to have been too bad this year.Delete
I think that, thanks to the weather, is been a poor growing year all round. My potatoes certainly didn't do well, and I'm still waiting for most of the tomatoes to ripen.ReplyDelete
Let's hope that we all have a better season next year. Flighty xx
I'm sorry to hear that your veggies have suffered too. The weather is one thing we can't control but hopefully, we'll both manage to get some more ripe tomatoes before this season ends.Delete
It may not be cut and dried (or fried?) but given that both containers had identical growing conditions it is encouraging that the non earthed up potatoes did just as well. I may well be tempted just to plant some deep next year and see how they go. Thanks for doing the trial!ReplyDelete
I think the results do indicate that it's definitely worth growing potatoes in containers whichever way you choose to do it. I've always usually had success and I'm still happy with these results even though the yield is smaller than usual, the taste just can't be beaten.Delete
If we grow potatoes we plant them in the ground with no earthing up. We usually get a decent crop. This year all the potatoes have been big. We've left them in too long but are steadily eating our way through them.ReplyDelete
That's the way I've grown potatoes too when planted in the ground and they've always done okay apart from pest damage, that's the benefit of growing in containers, they always come out nice and clean.Delete
I may just have had dinner, but all this talk of potatoes is making me hungry!!ReplyDelete
My mouth starts to water when I think of home grown potatoes, cooked with mint and smothered in butter. Yum.Delete
My Christmas spuds are just showing, I will earth them up as I go along. Our harvest was poor, but like you I was a late starter, looking forward to next season, I will start really early.ReplyDelete
I've always grown my Christmas spuds in containers so that I could move them in to the greenhouse when the weather got cold but I haven't bothered planting any this year, a decision I'll probably regret when I'm peeling supermarket bought ones for Christmas dinner.Delete
My only disaster this year has been runner beans, everything else has been better than the year before. I am going to try potato container growing next year. It has been a strange sowing season with the early cold spell, then extreme heat with next to no rain!ReplyDelete
I'm glad someone's had a good growing year, but you're right, the weather has been rather odd so I'm putting any failures down to that.Delete
I bet you enjoy eating then whichever way they were grown, the satisfaction of them being grown by your own fair hands.ReplyDelete
Definitely. I don't think you can match the taste of any home grown veg.Delete
I think trial and error are all part of gardening and again we have good years and bad, so as you say some of what you grow always taste better. I'll be popping in a few things once we get home & will probably have a hit & miss situation too. It's great hearing how you go about your veg gardening & thanks for sharing your trialling. Take care.ReplyDelete
There's always new things to learn in the garden no matter how long you've been growing your own veg. I think many of us continue to do things the way we saw our parents and grandparents do them and sometimes they're still the best way but sometimes they're not.Delete
Interesting experiments. I do love the idea of Bloody Butchers tomatoes. The imagination runs riot.ReplyDelete
Ha ha, there's some great names of vegetable varieties out there, I must admit that I first grew Bloody Butcher tomatoes because of their name, it's a bonus that they're such a tasty variety.Delete
We haven't had a good year veg wise. Our only cucumber plant didn't do much and we didn't plant any potatoes this year. Our best success was the peas and the Spring Onions. You're so right though, nothing is a patch on home grown xxReplyDelete
I think many of us are in the same boat this year with a bad veg growing season. Usually something comes good though, even in a bad year, that's the great thing about gardening.Delete
Most of our potatoes are gren under weed control fabric and so are not earthed up and we haven't noticed a decline in cropping.ReplyDelete
I really don't think that earthing up affects the yield, what it probably does do is protect the potatoes growing near the surface from going green when exposed to daylight but the weed control fabric would prevent that too.Delete
I totally agree, homegrown potatoes are far tastier! I'd be interested in seeing how this trial works out next year, as you say, it's been a poor year for all sorts of reasons. I sowed my tomatoes at the normal time and have had my worst year ever!xxxReplyDelete
I can't believe the difference between last year and this, I had my best tomato growing year ever last year and this year has been my worst.Delete
Interesting to read this Jo ...ReplyDelete
I think any vegetable / fruit homegrown is just better and tastier!
Wishing you a great weekend.
All the best Jan
It most certainly is. It's always worth growing your own for the taste alone.Delete
Well, an interesting experiment even if not a conclusive one. I reckon you could easily get that amount of variation in the yield even from tubers grown in exactly the same way. My potato yields this year have been normal - and I agree with you that it is definitely worth growing some this way, because they are so nice.ReplyDelete
I think you're right, there's always a bit of variation between containers anyway. I'm glad to hear that you've had a usual harvest this year, mine's definitely been less than normal but there's always some years which turn out like this in between good years.Delete
Interesting, Jo. I don't grow potatoes, but I think you motivated me to give it a try. BTW -- love the name of the tomato 'Bloody Butchers.' P. xReplyDelete
I think growing your own potatoes is so worthwhile, even if you only grow a few. You can buy very small packs these days, just enough for a container or two, you just can't beat that home grown potato taste.Delete
I bet they are delicious. I have never grown them at home, I can't even handle a simple tomato plant so your yield looks wonderful to me.ReplyDelete
They are delicious, it's amazing how different home grown veg tastes when you compare it to supermarket bought, definitely worth growing your own.Delete
We've grown some tomatoes this year and they did quite well. Although I know a colleague of mind just couldn't get his to survive. My grandad is a dab had at growing things, he just seems to have that magic touch :)ReplyDelete
Some people do seem to have green fingers whilst others just don't. I think we all have good years and bad years though, gardening isn't an exact science.Delete
Hubby grows ours the earthing up method, we didn't get so many this year either, but they were yummy.ReplyDelete
It's been a funny year, I think the weather's had a lot to do with it. They're always worth growing though, even with smaller yields, the taste can't be beaten.Delete