Christmas in August

Hands up if you are thinking of Christmas – nope, me neither. But I am thinking of home-grown new spuds for my Christmas dinner. There is still time …just, but you’ll need to get your skates on.
In the world of veg growing you have to be several steps ahead, rather like the fashion Industry has to think one or even two seasons ahead to get the next new colour out there.
Think of this project as ‘Stop Press’…. or ‘Hold the Front Page’.
Growing new spuds to harvest on Christmas morning is a real joy and you don’t even need a patch, large or small, to do so.
All you need is a spud-growing bag; you can buy these all pretty and packaged up from most garden centre outlets or online nowadays, a small footprint to stand it on and somewhere to nestle it into when (if!) the frosts come – be it a greenhouse or indoor space.
If we get a very mild winter (not unheard of) in the run up to Christmas you could even get away with running outside with some fleece, ideally horticultural, (rather than your Rugby Club fleecy top) to drape over the haulms. Keeping the spud bag in the shelter of the house away from harsh winds will help too.
The best spuds to use are what they call ‘early’ and ‘second early’. I usually save a few tubers from my spring plantings – although I didn’t save any this year so I will have to order from a good supplier online.
I am (now) pleased I didn’t keep any from my spring stock as my spuds got hit with blight and I’m pretty sure the seed potatoes were bad/infected because no one else got it on the allotment plot – although this isn’t a  guarantee, it is a good bet they were infected.
Potato Blight (Phytophthora infestans) is evil and can spread faster than kicking out at school-time. It will spread rapidly in wet and warm conditions, both of which we had this year. Had I been quicker off the mark (i.e. not away) I could have pulled the infected leaves to save the rest – such are the joys and challenges of growing your own. When it’s good, it’s very good….when it’s bad…I make a cup of tea.
Aim to have your Christmas seed potatoes bought and tucked up in their little bags before the end of (I did say it was a tight deadline!) August!
In addition to the posh bags you can buy from the garden centres, you can also use a large multipurpose compost sack, turned inside out so that the black is on the outside – ensure that you make some holes in the bottom before filling with the compost.
Easy steps:
  1. Roll down the sides of your chosen container, bag, sack
  2. Put a thin layer of gravel in the bottom
  3. Add compost to about 4 inches/10 cms deep
  4. Lay the tubers (three to a sack) on the compost, ensure that the ‘eyes’ are facing upwards
  5. Cover tubers with another thick layer of compost, anything from 4 to 8 inches/10 to 20 cms to ensure the baby spuds are well covered
  6. Water well, make a cup of tea
  7. When the first green shoots (haulms) appear, roll up the sides of your bag/sack/container a little and add more compost
  8. Repeat 5 and 6 until the bag is full
  9. Wait for Santa
As this is a tight deadline it will be a challenge to source the tubers – but at time of writing, Simply Seeds still have some in stock. They sell them in packs of 10 tubers which is enough for 3 potato bags/planters.
I have gone for the variety Dunluce as these are new to me. I shall report back to you around Boxing Day-ish on their worthiness of my time, space, money, care and love.
So that’s Christmas dinner on the way, I shall put the Brussels sprouts on to simmer slowly next month.
Still in time for sowing now:
  • Spring cabbage – harvest April/May
  • Chicory – harvest October
  • Endive – harvest January/February
  • Radish – harvest October/January
  • Spinach – harvest October
  • Turnip – harvest November/December
  • Lettuce – harvest October/April (that’s a big growing window, so choose lots of different varieties)
photo credit: Paul and Jill via photo pin cc
photo credit: jo-h via photo pin cc

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