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Out of our cells to plant potatoes

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Growing potatoes is the subject for our Out in the Garden column this week, written by Mark Cox, of Baytree Garden Centre in Weston...

I was sat typing away whilst looking out of the G-Team van with the sun gently warming my face on Saturday morning when from out of nowhere all hell broke loose.

Sirens were going off, policemen wearing dark ski goggles and wielding guns were everywhere shouting clear to each other every few seconds and cutting through all of the bedlam was the unmistakeable voice of Mr McKay bellowing out of his hand held loud speaker.

Potatoes (56421322)
Potatoes (56421322)

My time on the run was over. Within minutes, the G-Team was taken back into custody and whisked away to Shawshank for processing.

It was like we’d never been away. Upon arrival Mr McKay led me and the G-Team out to his prized vegetable garden where we were assigned the task of ensuring that his potatoes that he’d also be entering into the Wardens National Gardening Show alongside his onion were worthy of top spot.

Before we had absconded we’d already planted his first early crop of potatoes into the ground and they were now in need of earthing or banking up. Banking up does take a little effort but when done you’ll be well on the way to growing a great crop of potatoes.

Using a garden rake, or the back of a garden spade, you mound the earth up on either side of the potato plant so that from the side it looks like one long triangular tent of earth. The height of this tent will be around 20-30cm, depending upon the top growth of the plant.

What you are effectively doing by mounding the soil up is preventing any growing tubers from becoming exposed to sunlight. Prolonged exposure will cause the tuber/potato to turn green which is potentially poisonous. With the temperature generally rising, the soil will be drying out quickly and locking in moisture is key. A great way to keep moisture locked into the soil is to mulch around your plants. You’ll also find that the mulch will release nutrients into the soil which will also improve growing conditions for your plants and shrubs. When mulching you want to apply a good 5cm/2inch layer of product around the base of your chosen plant. Before doing so, carefully remove any weed or unwanted plant growth from the surrounding area. From now on the G-Team is on “Weed Watch” which T-Dog was quite excited about until I explained to him that it wasn’t the weed that he had in mind.

The weeds, if left unchecked, will compete for the nutrients that Mr McKay’s prized potatoes require. For me weeds are like that special person who always wants to reel off their medical conditions whilst sat next to you on the bus.

Usually they’ve brought a packed lunch with them. You feel elated when it’s their stop but you know tomorrow morning that they’ll be looking out for you again with a new and unusual skin condition that they can’t wait to show you.

Before we knew it, it was time to return to our cells and in a few minutes it would be lights out. I decided at that point that I would keep my head down and just finish out the remainder of my porridge which was yet to be decided. At least now though Billy could finally get the help he needs for his debilitating Pot Noodle addiction.

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