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.