Hartley Magazine

All the latest news, hints, tips and advice from our experts

Deck the halls with boughs of holly in the greenhouse

Of course it’s depressing to start thinking about Christmas when you still have shiny tanned skin from your summer holidays. Think about it you must if you are to provide a superior feast for your family. This is the time to make way in the greenhouse for Christmas potatoes. What could be nicer than some home harvested spuds to toss in the goose fat?

I’m growing Red Duke of York (a great favourite), Beauty of Bute and Ulster Sovereign amongst others.

Potatoes that are planted in August or early September are ordinary seed potatoes that have been held back in cold storage so that you can harvest them later. Since the plant is not frost hardy, the greenhouse is the perfect place to provide protection – you can either grown them in border soil or in tubs.

Start by putting 6 — 10 inches of soil in the bottom of a bucket or tub that has drainage holes, then plant three or four spuds on top (depending on the size of container). All you have to do is to keep throwing more soil on top as the plant grows up to encourage more tubers to grow. The trick is to keep the plant well watered (don’t let it get really dry), but not to let it be water-logged or soggy either.

You can use fertilizer , though you’ll still get a reasonable crop without it.

At least if you’ve missed the boat with planting sprouts or parsnips, you’ll have something to put down on the table with pride.

If you have extra space in the greenhouse, carrots can also be planted in a tub about 18″ (45cms) deep. Choose an early variety like Nantes or Jeanette which will mature quickly. Fill your container with mixed compost (50% horticultural sand, 50% general purpose compost) for good drainage. Similarly, winter salads are also a good bet for Christmas when you’ve returned from summer holidays.

My last piece of planning concerns dessert: last year I longed to have a Christmas tree.

bundt cake pan (yes, yes, I admit, I was seduced by Nigella. ) You could not buy them for love or money as they’d sold out here and in the US. This year they may well go the same way. You have been warned.