Hoppo Bumpo (n): A children's game. Played by folding one's arms and hopping on one leg. Aim is to bump opponents, so that they lose their balance. Last person standing wins.

November 15, 2008

Veg around - potatoes

I recently realised my dream of turning vegetable gardening into a spectator sport. When Bellgirl announced her Veg Around, I saw my chance: an opportunity to see what other folk are tending to in their herb and vegie gardens. All without the aid of gardening gloves, a hoe or the Yates Garden Guide. The virtual stroll through the garden after dinner, if you will. Something I could do from the comfort of my arm chair.

I had contemplated joining Veg Around, but kept shying away. Its not that I'm lazy, but to be frank I'm not particularly blessed in the green thumb department. There have been past accusations of vegetable overcrowding and neglect, which have been difficult to shake off. As they say, throw enough mud (or potting mix) and some will stick. Even I have to confess that arriving in the gardens of Chez Hoppo Bumpo is generally a one way ticket to that big plant-pot in the sky.

However last weekend past I was given some Nicola potatoes. Not the eating kind, but the sort of shrivelly, sprouty variety that one puts into a bit of earth. Argy and Bargy seemed excited about the prospect of growing something. I have never eaten freshly dug new potatoes and I'm fearful that the boys think potatoes come from a red freezer packet, ready stamped with a smiley face. So I have decided to turn over a new leaf (.... or sod). Time to shake off the past; to make amends for transgressions against flora. Time to grow vegies.

So my plan is to fill some trugs with potting mix and plant out the potatoes. (I saw this great idea for tub gardening, over at Sparkly Green Knickers' blog). In a daring move I might even try out some companion planting.

Firstly, though, I must address the small matter of how one grows potatoes. Everything I know about tater gardening could be written on the back of a postage stamp.

By contrast I know a little more about these tubers once they have been harvested. For example, did you know that potatoes are a little bit like gremlins? They really aren't that fond of being exposed to light for too long - sends 'em green, it does (though I think it might have polished off the gremlins .... bright light, bright light ...). Yes sirree, potatoes go off on a chlorophyll bender and then start producing chemical substances called solanine and chaconine, which can make you sick. These two chemical substances are a defence mechanism and can also be produced when a potato is cut, bruised or damaged. Who ever knew the humble potato might be so dangerous?

So I'm off to cover up those potatoes and make sure they don't see the light of day for a bit. In the meantime do you have any hot tips for growing the perfect spud?


  1. This is not exactly a hot tip, but... my aunt, a rather fine cook, used to fill a bucket of earth, pop in some potatoes, and leave them in the cool, dim darkness of the front hall for a couple of months - just so they could have freshly-dug new potatoes for Christmas dinner in the middle of winter! (this is the UK).

    I'm not advocating that, but I'm saying that you can ignore them in a bucket occasionally being covered by a heap of coats, and they'll still somehow struggle through. Coolness, a little water, and nice quiet deep bucket to play in: that's all they want.

    Good luck!

  2. Excellent timing we just moved the patach and preped the soil and today planted the seedlings and seeds! I need to draw a vegie map so I know what is growing where!!!!

  3. Oooh I am excited to watch this potato growing - can't wait to see what becomes of it. Alas, I have no tips.

  4. Um, sorry, no tips from me. I am probably the worse person to ask about planting anything. Looking forward to some progress pics.

  5. You know, you can cut up your potatoes into individual "eyes", and plant each one separately, to make a new plant with each one.

    It doesn't take much to grow potatoes...I have heard of growing them in layers of straw and stuff (should look that up for the finer details), and then they just shake them out and bob's yer uncle. :p

  6. I'll hunt down a tip for you, Muralimanohar's method it a good one, although in the trugs you might not have enough space just to use straw. I think if you put potting mix into your trug, put the potatoes on top, cover with a little potting mix and a little peastraw mulch, then when the shoots come up, keep covering them up with layers of potting mix/straw. Do that until you reach the top of the trug, then wait for the tops to die back and empty the trug. You can also 'noodle' around for new potatoes, just taking them out of the soil without harvesting the lot.

    V. Important- before you start, make plently of drainage holes in the bottom of the trug. BTW my Bug has his bath in a blue trug just like that!

  7. N.B. The Yates Garden Guide is a good read, in fact it's one of my two desert island books, along with the Iliad. I'll see what they say about potatoes. You could probably find a copy in your local newsagent, look up the potato page, read it, then put it back on the shelf. Tip: Wash the potting mix off you hands before attempting this.


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