Posted on Leave a comment

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.

Posted on Leave a comment

Add colour to your plate with heritage spuds

Sine Robertson wrote an article about our Heritage Spuds for the Scottish Farmer

With Covid-19 advice and regulations urging people to stay at home since March, last year, there’s been a growing interest in gardening.

One agricultural supplier who benefitted from this and has worked to encourage it, is Potato House, based at Auchterhouse, just outside Dundee. This is a brand created some years ago by the firmly established, Skea Organics, to distinguish its trade in heritage and specialist spud varieties which, although certified free of disease, may not be grown under strictly organic conditions.

Spuds that we like – the Skea children with their chosen varieties. Calum Skea (left) opted for Dunbar Standard as his top pick (his mother has Dunbar family ancestry); Catriona features her own name, Catriona; while Morag preferred Edzell Blue

Amy Skea explained the unexpected benefit of lockdown: “In spring, 2020, we saw a boom in small scale orders, so we have revamped our website to be more user friendly and accessible to people who are not experienced commercial growers.

“It is dedicated to the gardeners and passionate, small growers who are looking for high quality seed potatoes with a unique taste and specific characteristics. Local buyers can collect their orders direct from the farm.”

Amy’s husband, Andrew, runs the sales side of the business while his brother, John, produces the crop. Andrew pointed out: “As a company, most of our harvest is organic seed for commercial growers, but we grow more than 80 varieties in total. As well as specialist varieties, our range includes ware potatoes for shops, box schemes and restaurants.”

Add colour to your plate with heritage potatoes
Field of dreams! Amy Skea and her family are at the forefront of keeping heritage and specialist potato varieties alive as well as supplying mainstream organic spud growers

In November, 2020, the Skea family celebrated 50 years of farming and growing potatoes at Auchterhouse. Andrew and John’s parents, John and Mary, moved to East Mains Farm, having previously farmed at Kilry, in Angus.

East Mains was converted to organic in 1999 and has been one of the leading producers of organic seed potatoes since then. The family produce a mix of gluten-free oats, vegetables, beef and sheep, which together created a sustainable crop rotation for the farm.

Making the most of their new niche market, in addition to the website, Amy has a lively and attractive Facebook page where she does more than just promote the brand. The company publicised a national Grow Your Own project and participated by donating seed to local primary schools.

On the page, Amy runs competitions and shares links to customers’ social media, magazines and other groups to build a community of interest for enthusiastic growers. She acknowledged the honesty of one horticultural blogger, mentioning her disappointment that her seed potatoes arrived unwashed, not matching the shiny versions advertised!

The images of pink and purple fleshed tubers, bowls of colourful mash and tonally ringed crisps catch the eye while the more definitive array of stock, displaying characteristic tuber shapes and skin colours alongside the cut section of each variety, attracts the attention of the serious grower and the adventurous cook.

A Facebook confession that the next generation of young Skeas share their names – Catriona, Morag and Calum – with spud varieties, attests to the family’s obsession with the crop and the open, friendly nature of their internet presence.

Meanwhile, following a boom year for Potato House, Brexit has pulled the rug from under the feet of our national seed potato market. Scottish seed producers traditionally supply both UK and European ware growers, who benefit from Scotland’s high health status, which in turn is a benefit from our cold Northern climate, which is generally too harsh for the diseases which devastate crops grown in milder climes.

Add colour to your plate with heritage spuds
Andrew Skea has seen a lucrative trade in heritage potatoes to overseas buyers drop to zero because of Brexit, but hope the home market will pick up the shortfall for his business, the Potato House

Since leaving EU, the UK is forbidden to export seed or ware to EU and it has also hit the Potato House’s trade in heritage-style potatoes. Amy added: “France, Holland and Germany love yellow potatoes, which people in the UK would turn their nose up at. We have built a market supplying EU growers with the seed varieties they need, but we have had to close our online shop to customers in the EU and Northern Ireland.

“Until our government and the EU can agree a dynamic alignment of seed potato certification and plant health standard, we cannot predict what markets will be available to us at harvest, but we need to plan this year’s planting for the season ahead.”

While it seemed likely that pressure on both sides of the Channel would bring about agreements to enable export, hope is now fading that exports to EU and Northern Ireland will be possible for next season.

Add colour to your plate with heritage spuds
All the colours of the rainbow – a mixture of heritage potatoes and some tasty delights they can provide

Even if there is last minute intervention, it will probably be too costly to continue the increased number of smaller scale orders to the EU that Potato House has developed.

Certification, phytosanitary and other logistical issues may be borne on large orders to commercial growers, but sadly, they will make smaller parcel and single pallet orders unviable.

But, on the bright side, there are also those legions of new gardeners out there in lockdown looking to grow something really different, colourful and tasty for the table. And now you know where to get them.

Heritage Spuds the Skeas are growing this year

The Scottish Farmer – informing, entertaining and fighting for Scotland’s farmers since 1893

Posted on 4 Comments

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
Posted on Leave a comment

Alyth Tattie Champion Chips!

In 2020 we supplied 200 local children with nets with 3 tubers, one each of Arran Victory, Colleen and Pink Gypsy. The dedicated Facebook page was buzzing with pictures of children planting, taking care of, harvesting and eating their crop. With 9 prizes up for grabs such as best yield for each crop, best overall yield, funniest looking potato and best photo of a flower, donated by the local chippie, The Alyth Fish And Chip Shop the kids really had a good project for lockdown. This article is from the Blairgowrie Advertiser

Posted on Leave a comment

Alyth Tattie Champion Chips Update

In May, Potato House handed out over 200 nets to children in two local villages for the inaugural Alyth Tattie ChampionChips! The nets contained 1 each of Colleen, Arran Victory and Pink Gypsy. There was a huge buzz around the facebook page as the youngsters planted, grew and ate their crop. Prizes were donated by the local Chippie for the best yield for each variety, the best overall yield, the biggest tattie, the best up-cycled container, the weirdest looking tattie, the best pic of beastie or flower and the best-cooked dish (judging was done virtually).

We had some fabulous entries for the container – from an old pair of boots to “bags for life ” from supermarkets. Some people had made their own containers. The pictures of the flowers and beasties were really amazing – the judge had a hard job there and the cooked dishes all looked so tasty.

We really enjoyed this fun competition! Arm could well be twisted to do it in 2021! We do enjoy seeing kids outside getting grubby and learning about growing. This year has been tough for all but especially tough on youngsters – we hope that this long-term project gave them something to focus on.

Congratulations to all the winners and also a huge thank you to all who took part as well as the Alyth judges, Marian Bruce from Highland Boundary and Marcello Franceschi from Alyth Fish and Chip Shop who also donated the prizes and George Annan from Alyth Youth Partnership and Coupar Angus Market Garden who helped with the distribution.

Some of the winners

Other entries in the various competitions