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Plus pic of sweet peas for roundell

Undercover potatoes!

The traditional time to plant potatoes is late spring and by this time of the year you should be lifting and eating second early potatoes and the main crops varieties will still be growing in the ground. However, it is still possible to plant potatoes in order to get a small crop of new potatoes for Christmas. To grow potatoes for Christmas you need to find a supply of sprouted seed potatoes and nowadays many nurseries and garden centres get in stock or hold some back from spring by storing the tubers in a cool place, so you shouldn’t have too much trouble finding seed potatoes to plant.

The potato plants will need some protection when the weather turns cold, so the normal growing method is to plant in large pots using multipurpose compost. The plants can then be grown outside in a sheltered spot until the weather turns cooler when the pots can be lifted undercover into a greenhouse, cold frame or even a conservatory. The main thing is to keep the plants in good light where they can be protected from autumn frosts. Under normal growing conditions, early varieties of potatoes take between around 13 weeks from planting to harvest, but at this time of the year they will take a few weeks longer to mature because the days are now starting to draw in. Ideally you should allow around 15 -16 weeks, which means if planted now, they will be ready for Christmas.

Readers’ Questions

Heather from Knaresborough bought an agapanthus in flower last year to grow on a sunny patio. In spring the plant was potted into a large decorative terracotta pots and it is still growing in the same position, but this year no flowers?

Agapanthus make very good patio plants and they thrive in a sunny position so your plant should be fine. Many varieties are remarkably tough and can withstand being outside over the winter, but if we get a very cold winter, being in a pot means you can move it into a more sheltered position or undercover. It is always a little frustrating when you buy a plant in flower but it doesn’t flower the following year. However, in this case the reason is simply because the plant has been potted into a larger container. Agapanthus tend to flower best when the roots are restricted, which is why they are usually sold in fairly small pots. Now the plant is in a larger container and has lots of fresh compost around its roots it no longer pot bound. Instead of producing flowers, the plant will be making new root growth and foliage in a bid to fill the pot. Once it has done that, flowering will start again. In the meantime keep the plant watered and feed weekly from now until early winter with a high potash fertiliser. This encourages flowering next season and induced winter hardiness. Fingers crossed, you will get flowers again next year.

Jobs for the week.

Keep picking sweet peas to keep them flowering for as long as possible.

Pick early varieties of apple such as ‘Discovery’. This is a lovely sweet fapple, but it needs eating straight away as it doesn’t store well.

If you have container plants that are susceptible damage caused by vine weevil grubs, drench the compost now with nematodes or insecticide to kill hatching grubs.

If you have a gardening question for Martin Fish please email him at martin@flowershow.org.uk and we’ll print a selection of questions and answers for readers to share. Or, write to Ackrill Media Group, 1 Cardale Park, Harrogate and we’ll pass on your question