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Plant potatoes with kids in Spring

Planting potatoes with children

The best thing to do in the Spring with Children

Planting potatoes with kids in Spring

Plant potatoes with kids in Spring for an enjoyable activity that kids of all ages 3-103 can get involved with! The act of burying the potatoes and then digging for treasure a few months later is always exciting. Mini competitions can be done – who has the best container who can draw the best picture, who can take the best photo – who has the best beastie on their potato! Perhaps you have family or friends that you can’t see just yet – you could challenge them to a virtual growing competition.

Without a doubt, one of the best things to do with children in the Spring time is planting vegetables and plants for them to grow. Children love to grow things! By creating their own space in your garden or allotment they will feel a sense of responsibility.

This amazing picture is the winning entry for a container from the Applecross Potato ChampionChips 2020 that Amy from Potato House was asked to judge. However supermarket bags for life also featured. As long as the pot is at least 30cm deep with good drainage they will get a good crop.

Potatoes are easy to grow and once April is here chitting becomes less important, although it is a useful exercise to show the children – they love the aliens coming from the potato. If you do chit you can leave them alone in the kitchen and tell them it is a very important job – they need to be put in size order going up then going down….labels need to be made, pictures drawn – this can take hours and shouldn’t be rushed! They have to shout “Chits Away” very loudly and often. (Following us for parental advice is optional – although the mess and the fun created is guaranteed !)

Earlies and second Earlies are best potatoes for Children to grow

Plant potatoes with kids in Spring

We have lots of advice if you have never grown before. We suggest that children grow earlies or second earlies – more commonly known as new potatoes. This is for two reasons – they are ready earlier and so hopefully the enthusiasm will last and also there is less chance of disease hitting and so more chance of the experiment being a success. Potatoes can be planted straight in the ground as well as containers – just watch out for the over enthusiastic toddler putting 4 in together!

Growing your own name in potatoes!

Plant potatoes with kids in Spring

As with all things if they are determined to grow something go with it! Perhaps we have a variety that is close to their name – last year a customer who bought some red Emmalie as his 8 year old wanted to grow some. There are no hard and fast rules for what to grow.

Easter Sunday was the traditional planting day, however Easter can vary so much each year. Potatoes can be planted all through April and well into May and so don’t fixate on the date so much. Earlies take around 100 days to mature and so potatoes planted in May will give a lovely late summer harvest. It is more important to make sure that the newly emerging shots aren’t frosted and as we all know the UK weather might not behave and send some hail stones and snow in April! The new shoots can be protected by a fleece or shredded newspaper.

We have 6 tuber nets and so if you have a few children they can all pick their own variety.

Plant potatoes with kids in Spring – You will need:

  • ‘Chitted’ potatoes or unsprouted tubers
  • Soil or compost
  • Spade
  • Rake
  • Plant label
  • Gardening gloves
  • Willing child

Plant potatoes – What to do:

  1. The ‘chitted’ potatoes are ready for planting when the sprouts are about 2cm long and they can be planted outside from the end of March, all through April and into May.
  2. Plant either in a drill or in individual holes in the soil, 7–15cm deep, with the sprouts pointing upwards and cover with at least 2.5cm of soil.
  3. Space early potatoes as close as 30–38cm between the tubers, and 38–50cm between the rows. However, a wider row spacing of 50–60cm makes ‘earthing up’ much easier and is recommended if you have the space.
  4. They can also be grown easily in pots, tubs and dustbins if there are drainage holes – see a great video for this
  5. If you have different varieties, you should label them
  6. Please wash hands after touching soil
  7. Above all have fun and let the children look after the potatoes – we would love to see your pictures on our facebook page.

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Free Potatoes for Schools

free potatoes for schools

Potato House is a proud sponsor of Grow Your Own Potatoes where all primary schools in the UK are invited to grow potatoes! What a fantastically simple idea – to give out free potatoes for schools to grow, but obviously there is a huge amount of admin behind the scenes and to take part each school needs to register each year. We would like to thank the wonderful people at AHDB for facilitating this initiative.

We really enjoy being part of this project and seeing how the children enjoy growing their own food and being outside. The pack arrives ready for the potatoes to chit on a window and there are detailed instructions along with competitions and recipe ideas. The dates are chosen to allow the children to harvest and cook their potatoes before the summer holidays. We are also very delighted to note that the biggest yield UK-wide in 2020 was from one of our potatoes! Read more about the competition winners here.

Listen to a podcast about GYOP – recordings from teachers, children and industry highlighting perfectly what a fantastic project GYOP is.

PS the variety was Colleen in case you are wondering!

Free Potatoes for Schools
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Reluctant to state no more sales to EU and Northern Ireland

SSeed Potatoes to EU & NI

We are reluctantly forced to close our online shop to customers in the EU and Northern Ireland. We have grown our business over the last 20 years and viewed all 500 million citizens as our domestic market.

Until our government and the EU agree dynamic alignment of seed potato certification and plant health standards we are not permitted to send seed potatoes or table potatoes to the EU or Northern Ireland.

Seed potatoes, like other plant, animal and food products are closely regulated for plant, animal and human health reasons. We require our the government and the EU to agree reciprocal, and probably dynamic, acceptance of seed certification and plant health standards. For potatoes we need something called Third Country Equivalence, but even with this there will be a huge increase in paperwork to supply our EU customers including phytosanitary and other documents required at customs (these are standard for other export markets).

Even once a deal is done, and our standards are recognised in the EU, it might still not be possible for us to open the shop again – the paperwork required to accompany orders and the tariffs might be prohibitive. While this extra paperwork might be viable with larger orders, if/when the border opens again, most of our customers are smaller and the cost of paperwork might be prohibitive. EU exports are currently vital to our business so please stick with us.

We have tried as hard as possible to dispatch all existing orders in time – we will be in contact if any do not get out of the UK before the border closes. We would like to thank our loyal EU and Northern Ireland customers large and small for your custom and words of support recently, it really does mean a lot to us.

To all our friends across the EU and Northern Ireland – Have a lovely Christmas!
From our family firm,
Potato House
Skea Family, staff, and colleagues

For background information on this please see:

EU to allow post-Brexit UK farm produce exports – BBC 24/12/2020
Brexit and trade: Tattie buy bye – BBC – 14/10/2020
Brexit: Seed potato sector on brink of EU and NI export ban – Potato News 22/10/20
EU rejects application to resume British seed potato exports Press and Journal 30/1/21

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Our Breeding plots – review of the “Tattie Holidays”

No half-term in Scotland

In Scotland, there was never a half term from school in October. We have always had the “tattie holidays” where the local kids would have the back-breaking task of picking potatoes in October for the local farmers. Farmers’ kids were especially lucky as their holiday could be officially extended if they were still needed to help out. Modern machinery has taken over and large fields can be completely harvested before the children from yester-year would have been been sitting down to their mid-morning “piece”. The school letters are slowly trying to change our terminology, but it will take a long time, especially in rural areas, for the words “half-term” to trip easily off our tongues.

Each year Skea Organics (our parent company), have trial plots where we have to go back to basics and use smaller machinery. The mesmerising video shows the basic lifting machine, hardly recognisable to the modern-day harvester, which runs on the same principle but is 100s of times the size. The nostalgic feeling is also helped by having children working by picking potatoes and bringing their own lunch – we think that our potato-lifting crew may be one of the very few working in fields this year. They really enjoyed it though – well they kept coming back for more which is hopefully the same thing.

Harvest 2020

Often we are asked about the tomato-looking thing that can grow on the potato plant after flowering. This is the true potato seed – and is the result of cross-pollination between two potato plants and if grown would be different from both parent plans. However in order to grow these, it would take several years of luck and you may not end up with an edible potato. Potatoes do not need to flower or to have their flower pollinated in order to grow the next generation (unlike most vegetables). The next generation comes from tuber growth and is identical to the parent.

Our on-going breeding programme is in conjunction with James Hutton Institute in Dundee where cross-pollination is done in a controlled way to ensure we know what has been crossed with what. The entire process takes years as the new potato will need to go through a variety of tests before being good enough to get it registered on the national database.

This year we had over 800 plots at various stages of selection, which includes control plots and these have to be carefully monitored, documented and of course kept separate. Each potentially could be the next best potato that you will be eating in a few years time! However, many will be discarded along the way. Our main aim is focused to blight resistant and tasty varieties – but the first cut will be how they look – and this can be a gut feeling from when they come out of the ground. We do not know what to expect, especially with the coloured varieties; will the colour be as we imagined. For example, is the result when we crossed a good blight resistant variety with a purple variety what we thought it would be.

The kids were all sent away with some potatoes to try – they will be eating something that no-one else has. Taste-testing is the perk of the job!

We are always after new varieties and within our breeding programme we try to find potatoes not only for the commercial market but also interesting for small gardeners and allotment growers. So far our only registered variety is Mary’s Rose, however we have a wave of new red and blue fleshed varieties in the pipeline as well as more disease-resistant white and cream fleshed varieties.

Our Potato Crew 2020

(back row) Byron, Finlay, Rowan, (front row) Adrian, Juliette, Angus, Calum (Morag missing) spent a few days hard at work lifting potatoes around the Auchterhouse area, returning mucky and happy. That’s something for the CV.

Background information about our breeding progrmame can be found

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Potato House talking tatties on Beechgrove Garden

Andrew having the best day ever! Talking tatties to a fellow potato enthusiast George Anderson from Beechgrove Garden. The team came to chat about our breeding programme, potatoes in general, coloured potatoes and enjoyed the homemade crisps on offer!

Beechgrove is a hardy annual TV gardening series which sets out to deal with, glory in and celebrate Scottish horticulture and growing conditions.

Beechgrove is and always has been a firmly practical, get-your-hands-dirty gardening programme which delights in success but also learns from failures in the garden and never takes itself too seriously.