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Are you a Primary School who would like to get the children involved in growing potatoes?

If you have answered yes to this question, then have a look at the Grow Your Own Potatoes website and register before Friday, January 29th 2016, for a potato growing pack containing all you need to grow potatoes at your School including: seed potatoes, grow bags, instructions, stickers and a weather chart, Schools can register up to 4 classes to take part!

Grow Your Own Potatoes (GYOP) was launched in 2005 and is now one of the largest growing projects of its kind with over 2 million children taking part and learning where potatoes come from, how they grow and how healthy they actually are.

If you tend and care for your potatoes and they grow well you can win prizes for:

  1. The heaviest crop of Rocket Potatoes
  2. The heaviest crop of the regional potato variety
  3. The heaviest individual potato grown
  4. The largest number of tubers (potatoes) produced from three seed potatoes

If you are entering the competition you will need to use the seed potatoes and the grow bags supplied in your Potato Growing Pack.

Visit the Grow your own Potatoes website for more information and to register your school.

If you are not a Primary School, but would still like to have fun growing potatoes here is what you will need:

Potato Growing Bag 40 Litre

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What you need to do

  1. Once you get your ‘seed’ potatoes put them into egg trays/boxes with the ‘rose’ end upwards, this is where you might see tiny shoots or the ‘belly button’ end facing downwards and place them in a frost-free light (not sunny) room, this is called chitting and helps the potato to produce strong shoots, which speeds up growing once they are planted, when the shoots are about 2-3cm they are ready to plant.
  2. Fill your bag with compost to a depth of 10cm
  3. Place 4/5 seed potatoes, with the shoots facing upwards, on top of your compost equally spaced out so that they don’t touch each other.
  4. Add another 10 cm layer of good quality potting compost and water well.
  5. Position the bag somewhere sunny and sheltered, on cold nights cover the bag with protective Fleece to prevent frost damage.
  6. As the leaves emerge cover with more Compost and repeat until you reach the top of the bag.
  7. Potatoes need to be kept well watered but not soggy.
  • First Early varieties – plant from end of February until end of May, harvest in approx. 10 weeks
  • Second Early varieties – plant from March until late May, harvest in approx. 13 weeks
  • Early Maincrop varieties – planted from March until late May, harvest in approx. 15 weeks
  • Maincrop varieties – plant from March until mid May, harvest in approx. 20 weeks

Children love growing potatoes there is something magical about planting a potato, watering and feeding it and then when it has grown digging it up and finding lots more delicious potatoes.

So get growing and have some fun

Gill

 

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This week is British Chip Week (16-22 February) and there is no better way to celebrate the humble potato than by eating freshly cooked, crispy chips, whether they are chunky, thin, crinkly or wedged, add your favourite condiment; tomato sauce, brown sauce, mayonnaise, salad cream or traditional salt and vinegar or cover with gravy, curry sauce, baked beans or cheese and enjoy. Chips are so versatile they are a snack, a meal and can be served with most foods they are delicious, filling and we just can’t get enough of them, in Britain almost 676,000 tonnes of British potatoes are made into fresh chips each year.

If you want to have a go at growing your own potatoes this year, now is the perfect time to get started. Commercially potatoes are grown in fields, in Britain we grow around 14,000 hectares of ‘chip’ potatoes each year, if you don’t have a garden or an allotment potatoes can be grown very easily and successfully in growing bags or containers.

Potato Growing Bag 40 Litre

What you will need

What you need to do

  1. Once you get your ‘seed’ potatoes put them into egg trays/boxes with the ‘rose’ end upwards, this is where you might see tiny shoots or the ‘belly button’ end facing downwards and place them in a frost-free light (not sunny) room, this is called chitting and helps the potato to produce strong shoots, which speeds up growing once they are planted, when the shoots are about 2-3cm they are ready to plant.
  2. Fill your bag with compost to a depth of 10cm
  3. Place 4/5 seed potatoes, with the shoots facing upwards, on top of your compost equally spaced out so that they don’t touch each other.
  4. Add another 10 cm layer of good quality potting compost and water well.
  5. Position the bag somewhere sunny and sheltered, on cold nights cover the bag with protective Fleece to prevent frost damage.
  6. As the leaves emerge cover with more Compost and repeat until you reach the top of the bag.
  7. Potatoes need to be kept well watered but not soggy.
  • First Early varieties – plant from end of February until end of May, harvest in approx. 10 weeks
  • Second Early varieties – plant from March until late May, harvest in approx. 13 weeks
  • Early Maincrop varieties – planted from March until late May, harvest in approx. 15 weeks
  • Maincrop varieties – plant from March until mid May, harvest in approx. 20 weeks

Why not give it a go children love planting, growing and harvesting potatoes they taste so much better when they are home grown.

So get growing and have some fun

Gill

 

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I have had an ‘Ask the expert enquiry ‘from Ceri Sawyer in Cumbria and one of the questions that she has asked is

What time of the year should you plant a seed potato?

I thought that I would share my reply with you –

There are three types of seed potatoes

First Earlies

Plant in late March to early April – you can expect to harvest these approx. 10 weeks after planting.

Second Earlies

Plant early to mid April – you can expect to harvest these approx. 13 weeks after planting.  

Maincrop

Plant in mid to late April – you can expect to harvest these approx. 15-20 weeks after planting.

These planting dates are a guide, if you live in the south you may be able to plant a week or two earlier or if you live in the north a couple of weeks later it also depends on our unpredictable weather which at the moment is predictably very cold, even if the ground is not frozen it is still very cold and crops simply will not grow.

Seed potatoes can be planted now in potato growing bags filled with vegetable compost and placed in a greenhouse or polytunnel where they will be protected from the weather otherwise cover your vegetable beds with black plastic or cloches to warm the soil up until there is an improvement in the weather.

When you get your ‘seed’ potatoes put them into egg boxes/seed trays with the ‘rose’ end upwards this is where you might see tiny shoots or the ‘belly button’ end facing downwards and place them in a cool, frost-free and light (not sunny) position. This is called chitting and helps the potato to produce strong buds which speeds up growing once they are planted, all seed potatoes especially first and second earlies benefit from chitting. When the shoots are about 2-3cm they are ready to plant, don’t leave it too late to buy your seed potatoes, once the weather warms up the demand will be high and your choice may be limited.

Chitting potatoes

My seed potatoes are sat patiently in their egg boxes.

Gill

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It has come to my attention that this week is National Chip Week 20th – 26th February and I can’t think of a better way to celebrate the humble potato. Whether they are fat, thin, crinkly or wedged we just can’t get enough of them. Did you know that you would need the area of Wembley Stadium to grow all the chips that we British eat every year. A quarter of all potatoes grown in Britain become chips, that’s about 1.5 million tonnes each year or roughly the same weight as 125,000 full double decker buses.

Why not grow your own chips?

There is nothing more satisfying than eating your favourite food that you have grown yourself, and now is the ideal time to get started. The easiest way to grow them especially if you are limited for space i.e. you have a small garden or patio or live in a flat is to plant them in growing bags. These bags are ideal because they can be positioned anywhere, are easy to move, look attractive,  are reusable, give protection from slugs and make harvesting easy.

Potato Growing Kit

Once you get your ‘seed’ potatoes put them into egg trays/boxes with the ‘rose’ end upwards this is where you might see tiny shoots or the ‘belly button’ end facing downwards and place them in a frost-free light (not sunny) room. When the shoots are about 1 inch they are ready to plant. Half fill the growing bag with compost and plant your seed potatoes about 4 inches deep and water well, as the plants grow add more compost covering the leaves and repeat this until you reach the top. Position the bag somewhere sunny and sheltered and as a guide they are ready to harvest after they have flowered. Potatoes need to be kept well watered but not soggy. Varieties suitable for chips are Kestrel a second early, plant out in the bags early to mid April and The Bishop a maincrop, plant in mid to late April.

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Harvesting the first crop of new potatoes was one of the most exciting gardening activities in our school garden last summer.  The children were so excited as we dug through the soil to find a wonderful crop of creamy new potatoes underneath.

For a delicious, early crop of your own get your potato bags established this week.  Here are all the details of what you need and how to get started.

How to Grow Potatoes in a Potato Bag

Equipment

Potato Bag
5 Seed Potatoes
Trowel
40L Good quality multi purpose compost
Watering Can

 
What to do

1. Take the potato bag and place a layer of drainage material such as small stones on the bottom of the bag

2. Next add approximately 15 cm of good quality potting compost

3. On top of this layer place 2 or 3 seed potatoes, equally spaced out and around 15cm from the edge of the bag

4. Add another 10 cm layer of good quality potting compost

5. Place another 2 or 3 seed potatoes on top of this layer

6. Cover with another 10 cm of compost
 
Hints & Tips

• Place the potato bag in sheltered sunny spot

• Always ensure there is a good covering of soil on the top of growing tubers, as daylight turns the potatoes green, and they are then poisonous

• If you want your potatoes to have enough space to grow to a decent size don’t plant more than 5 potatoes per bag

• On cold nights cover the bag with some protective fleece to prevent frost damage

• Water well – around a gallon of water per plant per day is recommended

• When the tops of the plants begin to grow, use canes to support them

• When flower buds begin to appear take heart – it’s a sign that the tubers are starting to grow.

• Harvest after around 10 – 12 weeks

• Watch out for potato blight. Signs include black or brown patches appearing on the leaves. The plants then die off and the tubers will also be affected.

 

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Sowing Names With Seeds
If there is any space left in the garden, or if a space appears where crops have been harvested, why not let your children sow some seeds in the shape of their initials or first name (depending on length of name and space available?!)

Prepare an area of soil, dig it over and rake it ready for sowing seeds. Then take a peice of chalk and write the childs name / initials onto the soil. Older children will be able to do this themselves.

Next sprinkle seeds such as cress on top of the chalk letters. Sow quite thickly to get a good end result. Gently cover with soil without disturbing the seeds and then water well. Watch carefully of over the next few days and watch as the letters begin to grow!

New Potatoes for Christmas
My daughters usually start talking about Christmas in August, which I have to say I generally discourage. But this year I intend to channel all that expectant energy into sowing potatoes for Christmas Day!, There are lots of bargains to be had on buying Potato Sacs with the seed potatoes included, or you can purchase separately. And if you bought potato sacs in spring these can of course be reused.

Plant our ‘Nicola’ seed potatoes, in stock now, until the end of August and have freshly picked new potatoes on Christmas Day. If you plant too many the ‘surplus’ will make wonderful last minute presents. Big smiles all round!

Keep the Kids Happy On Holiday
This great idea comes from Friends of the Earth and we think its fantastic!Don’t pack loads of toys for your trip. Instead, when you arrive at your holiday destination, go into the local charity shop and buy some toys. Let the kids play with them on holiday and then before you leave donate them back. Think of it like a toy library while helping a charity make some money.

 

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This week Spring has sprung and thoughts will be returning to the school garden once again.  Do you grow fruit and vegetables in your school grounds?  We thought you might like to know about a campaign being run by Dorset Cereals.  One of their aims is to make it government policy for every school to have an Edible Playground.  That way all children have a chance to learn where food comes from.

Edible Playground Campaign

If like us, you think this is a great idea why not sign their petition here to get every child sowing, growing and eating.  The petition will be sent to The Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families.

potato-planter-small-011If you want to start or extend your own edible playground then why not have a look at some of our simple growing ideas.  Our potato growing kits are  a great activity for children to do themselves and bring so much excitement at harvesting time.

They are only £10.99 including potatoes and we are doing some great discounts for larger orders.

For growing in a larger area we also do a good selection of easy-to-assemble raised beds.  With no nails, no screws and no holes to dig, they can be positioned on soil or hard-standing, making them so easy to use and very flexible in the school grounds.

childrens_garden_plot

Children's Garden Plot

If you are embarking on gardening activities for the first time and need some advice don’t forget to Ask The Expert and we will do our best to help!  Love Your Environment and Happy Gardening!

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