It’s hot, it’s humid, and I am longing for the shorter, cooler and damper days of autumn. My forays into the garden are brief; I am grateful that it has rained enough recently for me to avoid having to water. I am still waiting for the courgettes to produce edible fruit, but the climbing French beans (‘Helda‘) are producing a handful every few days, and they are delicious.

Last weekend we popped into a garden centre, and the ‘second cropping’ potatoes caught my eye. Also known as ‘late’ or ‘autumn cropping’ potatoes, these are seed potatoes that have been stored at low temperatures to keep them dormant so that can be started into growth in summer rather than spring. The selling point for them is often that they should enable you to have new potatoes for Christmas dinner. There is a caveat – you need to be able to keep them frost-free, so it’s usual to grow them in containers so that they can be moved under cover when winter arrives.

New potatoes for Christmas

We chose ‘Sharpe’s Express’, because the label said it was ideal for containers, and my initial plan was to replant the three potato crates that I planted up with ‘Blue Danube’ in the spring. We’ve harvested one and it’s time to empty the other two. The garden isn’t usually very frosty (although it’s not frost-free), and I thought I would move the crates into the nook where the worm composter lives. It’s surrounded on two sides by the house walls, and stays above freezing all year round, although it’s pretty shady.

Second-cropping potatoes, Sharpe's Express

But there has been a change of plan. I have been struggling to grow garlic successfully in this garden, and this year I tried a new technique – planting it deeply. The plants suffered badly from rust, and the tops have died back. I pulled a plant up a few days ago, and although it has formed a small bulb it was distinctly underwhelming. So I have taken the decision not to grow garlic again this year, but to use the space for something more productive.

This morning I harvested all of the garlic (some bulbs were too small to bother taking them into the kitchen), cleared the bed and replanted it with my second-cropping potatoes. I can protect them from light frosts with one of my plastic tunnels. My current fear is that their leaves will start appearing before this blight-spreading humid weather is over and that they will get infected, but we will have to wait and see. I don’t want to put them under a tunnel now – they could overheat and I would have to water them.

(A better choice might have been Charlotte*, which has some blight-resistance.)

Will we have new potatoes for Christmas? It might be all we have! According to an article in the Huffington Post, all of the chilled and frozen warehouse space in the country has been reserved for Christmas food. If a No Deal Brexit does go ahead and there are disruptions to food supplies, we may have to break out the Christmas grub early to cope with ‘random shortages’. It doesn’t suggest what we might then eat for Christmas dinner. Probably Easter Eggs!

Potato harvest

(* This post is not sponsored. I have provided links to seeds that you can buy online, in case you can’t get to a garden centre. I may earn a small commission if you click the links and make a purchase.)