If you’re growing vegetables and you haven’t tried oca (also known as New Zealand yams), you’re missing out. They’re easy to grow, easy to cook and super tasty!
When we took on the Quest For Veg plot, one of our goals was to grow unusual produce. So when we spotted oca in the Thompson and Morgan catalogue last year, we didn’t hesitate – even though we knew nothing about how to grow them, how to cook them or what they would taste like.
A little bit of cheap and cheerful upcycling. Don’t throw away the bags your compost comes in; turn them into plant containers.
1. When you get your compost, open the bag by slicing it across the top.
In this video, Andrew demonstrates how to handle seedlings during pricking out.
Aim to prick out seedlings as soon as you can get hold of a seed leaf (called a cotyledon). That is the only part of the seedling you should handle. This is because the cotyledons are very hardy. Other parts of the seedling can be damaged easily which may at best put the plant under stress, and at worst damage or even kill the seedling.
Choose a container that is going to be big enough to allow them to grow to the size you want for planting out into their final position. We used a range of cells trays and pots depending on the size the plant is likely to grow to – pumpkins went in larger pots than alpine strawberries!
The compost used for pricking out can be potting or universal /multi purpose compost. We use peat free.
When you have potted up your seedlings, give them a good watering, and water regularly. When the plant shows signs of growth, such as developing more leaves, you should consider adding a fertiliser to encourage root growth.
The seedlings shown in the video are Zinnia Purple Prince that Andrew won from Mr Fothergill.
Here we go. Second week of April. Chitted potatoes ready to be planted. Lots of seeds that can be sown directly into the soil. Bring it on.
We started the day full of hope and ambition. What can I say? It was a lot harder than anticipated.
Part of the problem was, of course, the weeds. We uncovered the planting area only to see a host fresh weed shoots.
They all had to be dug out carefully because even the smallest amount of root can grow a new plant (or two!).
Bindweed generating a new plant from about an inch (2cm) of root
Green alkanet looking slightly alien
So, by the time it came to digging trenches to plant the potatoes I was pretty much exhausted.
Nevertheless, trenches were dug and potatoes planted. You can see how we got on in this video.
We’re also trying out planting potatoes in bags that Andrew is making. He is using the plastic fabric from some spare one ton builder’s bags. He cuts it to size and sews two seams up the side and attaches a base panel. Here is the prototype.
Andrew’s homemade potato planting bag
It will be interesting to compare the crop yield with those in the ground. He is also using the fabric to create other things such as this hanging bag.
You’ll notice that we didn’t plant any seeds. I’m afraid we exhausted ourselves dealing with the potatoes. The seeds will have to wait for another day!