Guest blogger Jess has an old trick up his sleeve for growing the tastiest Jersey Royal new potatoes in containers.
Using Seaweed When Planting Potatoes
…taste the difference!!
You know, I can honestly say I don’t think there is any better vegetable than a “real” Jersey Royal new potato. Problem is we just don’t seem to get them these days. The Jersey Royals now, are available all year round pretty much, and to be frank they don’t taste anything like the “real thing.” Now the reason for this is all to do with seaweed. Seaweed you cry, has he finally lost the few marbles he had left? No just bear with me. In the good old days, the farmers on Jersey used to take their tractors down to the water’s edge, collect the bladderwrack seaweed, you know the one with all the little balloons in it, and spread it on the fields as fertiliser. It was this seaweed fertiliser that used to give the spuds their unique flavour, but alas no more. The more angry amongst you may prefer the story that the practice has been banned by the EU, however, I think the more mundane truth is, that as the industry has expanded, it’s become economically unviable to carry on the tradition.
Why, you might ask, am I blathering on about this, well truth is I’ve just got back in and thawed out from inspecting this year’s batch of potato containers to see how the seaweed, that I collected last autumn is rotting down. I got a lovely great batch of bladderwrack straight from the seawall next to where my boat is moored; the perfect thing to use when planting potatoes in containers. The thought then occurred to me that I probably ought to share my little secret of planting potatoes using seaweed with you lot. Believe me if you have a yearning for the taste of a true Jersey Royal you’ll want to follow this little potato planting tip. And the great thing is you don’t have to use Jersey Royal seed potatoes. To be fair Jersey Royals aren’t too bad in containers as far as yield is concerned but Swift are much much better; and believe it or not with this little tip planting potatoes of any variety will give you that Jersey Royal taste.
How do we use seaweed when planting potatoes?
So what do we do? Well as Mrs Beaton would say, “first catch your seaweed.” This is probably easier said than done for many, but believe me a day out to your nearest seaside location will be well worth it in the long run. Now don’t go to the beach. Your unlikely to find enough seaweed on a sandy beach; head either for a harbour with a seawall around it or a rocky coastline. Okay, so taking health and safety at the seaside as read, collect about half a carrier bags worth of bladderwrack per 60 litre bag of potting compost that you’re going to use for planting potatoes in your containers. So for example, if the container you’re planting potatoes in holds two 60 litre bags of compost you’ll need a carrier bag full of seaweed. One thing I have forgotten to mention is, this wants to be done in early autumn, so the seaweed has all winter to rot down.
Right then, having got our seaweed home we get it out of the bag and set about it with a pair of garden shears, Just put it in a pile and keep pushing the shears into the pile and chopping until the weed is all in little chopped up pieces of two or three inches long. It’s surprising how little time it takes with a bit of vigorous effort. The seaweed is then ready to just mix in with the potting compost. Mix it well in, about 2 litres of chopped seaweed to every 60 litre bag of compost; fill up your containers and leave to weather over winter. A good tip is to get them good and soaking wet, almost waterlogged, and then cover them in polythene. This will give the bacteria in the soil the best environment to break down the seaweed ready for the spring planting.
Come the very early spring; take off the polythene and give it all a really good turning over to get plenty of air in it and leave it open then until you plant your chitted seed potatoes in March. As I said I use Swift as they have been especially bred for container growing, but choose whatever takes your fancy and I guarantee you they will taste just like the Jersey Royals of old – brings a tear to your eye!