I've just been given some top tips on growing potatoes by a smashing old gentleman called 'Taffy Tattie'. Now, with a nickname like that you just know he's not going to be someone you forget in a hurry! Taffy is a round, smiley, eccentric, potato expert. What he doesn't know about spuds isn't worth knowing and his enthusiasm for his subject hits you like a freight train.
You need to be prepared for Taffy Tattie. Last year my friend wasn't. She didn't realise he was going to be at the local garden centre on "Know your potatoes day" (all good GCs should have one?) and wasn't quite sure what to make of him. This time she took me and we were ready for the Welsh charmer with potatoes on his mind!
Neither us have a lot of space for spuds and plan to use a little bit of ground as well as some large grow bags. The wonderful thing about this garden centre is you pay by weight, which means you can buy as many or as few seed potatoes as you like and there are soooo many varieties to choose from.
Time to ask Taffy, but he wasn't going to make it easy, oh no. Instead of recommending varieties, we had cryptic clues, like, "Never in the field of human conflict....", "This famous artist had a blue period..." and "The lady's not for turning.."
EVENTUALLY we had our little brown paper bags of seed potatoes and a heap of seriously good advice that I thought might be worth sharing, if you're thinking about growing your own.
Pick your seed potatoes wisely, no holes, cracks or cuts. Wash and dry them, then before planting, leave them on a tray inside until they go green. Bugs aren't keen on green spuds.
Don't plant your first crop until you can sit on the soil without literally freezing your backside off. (Apparently it's how Percy Thrower did it in the Blue Peter garden!) Easier maybe to test the temperature of the soil with the back of your hand? The earth is usually warm enough sometime between mid March and the beginning of April.
And use a good fertiliser like calcified seaweed and not, according to Taffy, the opposite of 'grow less'....
When pushed on his first choice for a main crop, ready in september, he picked Cara, "You can't go wrong with her."
Hard for him though, because he loves them all - apart from the new varieties of small, nobbly salad potatoes, "You can't blooming well peel 'em!"
I wish I came across more people like Taffy; he's one of life's enthusiasts, so keen to pass on all he knows (if you like crosswords) with an irrepressible twinkle in his eye!