Growing potatoes with kids has to be one of my favourite things to grow. Not only are potatoes really simple they are also great fun to harvest. Like anything that grows underground it’s like buried treasure when it comes to digging it up. You never know how many you are going to find or what funny shapes and sizes they are going to be.
In the past we have grown potatoes in bags and in the ground. Bags are definitely the way to go if you are growing potatoes with small children. They are also great if you are short on space as you can get a great harvest from just one bag.
Here’s a list of what you are going to need to start growing potatoes with your little ones…
- a strong bag, you can use old compost bags or potato growing bags that you will find at your local garden centre.
- Compost – a bag of compost brought from your local garden centre is fine, you could also add soil out of the garden to it aswell.
- Seed potatoes/tubers – these look exactly like the potatoes you buy in the supermarket. The difference is they are free from any viruses and you can choose from lots of different varieties.
We are growing a variety called Rocket. I’ve chosen this potato because it gives a good early harvest and as the name suggests it is really fast growing. It should be ready to harvest in June having been planted in March. It is also a good variety to grow in bags.
Now if you are not familiar with growing potatoes there is a process known as ‘chitting’. It’s not at all technical. You know when you don’t use your potatoes in time and they start sprouting, well that is chitting. The difference is you keep your seed potatoes in a light, cool position to do this and this means instead of growing really long pale shoots they grow nice stubby little shoots. This process gets them off to a quicker start and in most cases gives you a slightly better harvest.
If you are planting a little late or you haven’t had a chance to chit your potatoes don’t worry they will still grow.
- Fill your bag with around 6″ of compost, rolling down the sides of your compost bag will make it easier.
- Carefully place 3 potatoes on the the compost and space them out evenly.
- Next cover over the potatoes with more compost until they are well hidden.
- If your bag doesn’t have holes in the bottom just use a fork to punch a few so that it doesn’t fill with water and rot the potatoes.
- Finally give them a little water and pop them in a sunny spot
- Continue to water the bag especially when the potatoes are growing strongly and also during dry periods when you may have to water daily.
- Once the shoots have started to grow above ground you need to cover them with compost so that they are completely hidden from the light. This process is called ‘earthing up’ and you will probably have to do this 2-3 times.
- By the time you have done the earthing up a few times the bag will be full and you can leave the plants to grow.
- The timing of the harvest really depends on what variety of potato you use and when you planted them. As a guide with the variety we are growing – Rocket, which is a first early you can expect to harvest around 10-12 weeks after planting. Normally a sign that early potatoes are ready is if they are flowering.
- Harvest time. This is one of the reasons I grow potatoes in old compost bags because when it comes to harvest time it’s simply a case of cutting the bag open and letting the kids rummage around in the compost on a potato treasure hunt. If you have planted potatoes into the ground little children (2-4 years) may struggle to dig the soil, they don’t have the strength or balance. This is where growing in bags filled with compost are perfect, as they can be fully involved in the best part of growing potatoes…..the harvest!