How To Vegetables

How to Grow Potatoes

A staple of my ancestors for generations, the humble spud should be on most people’s list of easy crops to grow. It’s also one of the most productive plants, yielding many potatoes from just one original ‘seed’ sown.

Random gap down the side of my house used for growing potatoes!

Potatoes are so easy and productive, it’d almost be a crime not to plant some for yourself. We tend to plant lots of ‘earlies’, which are the small, new potatoes you eat in salads or just on their own with butter. They are delicious enough to serve quite simply, especially if you can get your hands on some Jersey Royals – some of the earliest and most delicious spuds you could ever hope to lay your hands on. I have no idea what the equivalent of Jersey Royals are in other countries, so do feel free to comment and tell me!

To get started with growing potatoes, you can just grab an old bucket and put a few holes in the bottom for drainage. Put an inch or two of compost in the bottom, and lay some seed potatoes on it. In a 5 gallon bucket (20L) you could put five potatoes in like the 5 pattern on dice, then throw a layer of compost on top until you can’t see the potatoes anymore.

This was how I first grew potatoes when I was a student. We kept a cargo bag in our bathroom and used this method. When you see them poking through the soil, cover them with more soil, until you hit the top of the bucket. The potatoes we did back in the student days grew at the fastest rate I’ve ever seen, because they were getting all the moisture from the atmosphere of 4 showers being taken daily. After a few months, we tipped out the bag and it was FULL of potatoes, so we had an enormous meal together to celebrate, and many many new potatoes left for weeks to come.

In the allotment, we grow our spuds the traditional way, in ridges and furrows. To the left of the photo, you can see some homemade compost in the furrows.

Now that we have an allotment, we grow them in the traditional way – by making ridges and furrows. It is good to make them deep. You throw some compost or pelleted manure in the bottom of the furrows, and lay your potatoes there, around 1′ apart from each other for early potatoes, or 15″ for maincrop potatoes. Then you gather some of the ridge soil and pull it over the potatoes to cover them.

So basically you do this until your furrows become your ridges and your ridges become your furrows so to speak!

There are alternative ways of growing, if you have access to old straw or lots of mulch like grass clippings, etc. If you do, you can just lay the potatoes down on the soil or compost and cover them with straw in the same manner as you would with soil. The benefit of the straw method, is you can lift a bit up and grab a few potatoes, then put the straw back. Your potatoes are also very clean as well, no extensive washing will be needed to get the soil off.

I would be interested to know what everyone’s favourite varieties are for growing? Do comment below!

How To Vegetables

How to Grow Broad Beans (Fava)

I don’t remember eating these beans as a child, in fact the only beans I knew of were runner beans or baked beans (canned navy beans). I came across them in my late 20s or early 30s and they seemed familiar, but I had no memory of ever buying or eating them.

This is a shame, because once I got to know the humble broad bean, I fell in love with its flavour and versatility. What’s more, when I started gardening, I also fell in love with the ease of growing this productive, yet compact plant.

It’s one of those special plants that are very cool for this one reason: you can overwinter them. This is awesome, because when you come to harvesting the last of your beans, pumpkins, and so on at the end of Autumn, it can often feel a bit depressing that there’ll be no new growth happening for a very long time. And there’s not much you can plant right before Winter. So putting in the broad beans in November is quite an exciting thing, because it means, come Spring, there will (fingers crossed) be a few tall plants that actually look like you’ll be able to get some food out of them soon!

Of course, there are lots of other plants that can be overwintered, or that you would harvest in Winter, such as purple sprouting broccoli, but you can’t really live off broccoli for that long, and let’s face it, unless you’ve covered anything even remotely brassica-related with copious amounts of mesh/netting, then most of it will have been eaten by cabbage whites anyway.

So, stick your broad bean seeds in the ground, down 2″, 6″ apart, and with about 9″ gap between rows. Make a double row and sow some extras in the middle in case not all of the beans germinate, then you can transplant them to any gaps.

I forgot to that this year and now I have a few weird gaps in the double row I made… So I just planted another seed in the gap! Hopefully they’ll come up, but obviously if they do, they’ll be quite far behind in terms of growth/size. But they’ll probably catch up quickly with the warmer weather and higher levels of sunlight hours.

See? They’re simple. You may need to support broad beans slightly when they get to 6″ or so tall. Just poke a stake at either end of the rows and tie string around the outside of your double rows, so the plants can’t fall out. The double row will support itself in the middle as the plants will be near to each other.

Have you tried growing these? Do you even know what they are? Or did you not have a memory of them at all, like me? Let me know in the comments below:


Welcome (back)

Welcome (back) to 🙂

I am thoroughly excited to get back to blogging again, after a few years’ absence due to illness in the family. I decided to start the website again, entirely from scratch.

I will be covering what I was before – easy organic gardening on a budget. Let’s just say, I am the womble of organic gardening, like many an allotmenteer is in the UK.

What is a ‘womble’ you say? A character from my childhood – the wombles were a group of furry creatures who lived under Wimbledon Common. They were famous for ‘making good use of the things that we find’ i.e. creatively recycling random junk into useful things.

BBC children’s television characters from Wimbledon Common, ‘The Wombles’, 1974. (Photo by Tony Evans/Getty Images)

Gardening at home or on a small scale such as an allotment is the perfect environment for re-using and recycling things into productive and useful gardening items. It’s a great way to reduce waste, especially as most plastic items are extremely useful in the gardening environment.

I will also be covering gardening and technology, like I was before. This was one of my most popular sections on the old website and covers small (usually) tech items such as automatic watering systems, soil moisture detectors, etc.

Non-chemical weeding with the help of this robot called ‘Dick’ (part of the Tom, Dick, and Harry trio of SRC’s inventions )

Tech has moved on a lot since I last wrote about it, especially in farming where the Small Robot Company is making excellent progress in non-chemical methods of weeding etc. with their small robot tests ongoing at present (2020). Who knows, maybe there will be a consumer product coming from them in the near future?

I look forward to your comments, hints, tips, questions, and suggestions in the near future.

Happy Gardening!