Beware the Victorian-style Potato Barrel


My suspicions should have been aroused by the catalogue. Describing itself as ‘A unique and brilliant Victorian style design in a decorative terrocotta finish.. made from durable polypropylene’ this faux terracotta pot was clearly not going to fool anyone.

But I closed my ears to my doubts and, seduced by talk of its ‘lift-up sides for ease of harvesting’, bought one of these hideous plastic tubs three years ago and have been trying to hide it from view ever since, while duly putting my five chitted potatoes near the bottom and then gradually adding a quantity of compost rarely seen outside a municipal heap.

Come ‘harvest time’ and, instead of a bounty of white hen’s egg-sized potatoes, I found five edible ones, a handful of teeny marbles and some slimy, rotted stems. It’s always a nice bonus when you poke your hand straight into the mushy original seed one too, isn’t it? Like Paul Burrell putting his hand into a hole. Meanwhile my bog-standard terracotta pots were full of 30 or so perfect specimens. This has happened three years in a row now so I think this counts as a scientific experiment.

All that compost just starves the poor little tubers of air as they try to develop. Potatoes like to be earthed up, yes, but they don’t want to have to claw their way endlessly up to the light like desperate pot holers lost at the bottom of a big, er, pot hole.

The nice gentlemen from the council took the useless thing away this morning in a big black bin bag. As a gardener, I know I should have turned it into a clever watering system or shredded it for squirrel bedding or something, but sometimes, you just want rid. Say no to faux-terracotta polypropylene, you know it makes sense.