How to plant an insectary for spring and grow potatoes in a bag

Planting an insectary for spring
  • Insectaries are plantings of flowering perennials and annuals to attract beneficial insects that ward off damaging insects like aphids, mites and thrips . An insectary provides habitat, shelter and an alternative food source, such as pollen and nectar, for our beneficial insects. Beneficial insects are as much as ten times more abundant in insectary plantings and include ladybirds, bees, ground beetles, hoverflies and parasitic wasps.
  • Damaging bugs overwinter in weeds in your garden, and as temperatures warm up they’re on the lookout for fresh spring growth to feed on – all your lovely new leafy greens.
  • When planting an insectary at this time of the year, you’ll need to choose flowering plants that can withstand the cold and wind of late winter. Rob chooses peony poppies (Papaver paeoniflorum), snapdragon (Antirrhinum), viola, stock (Matthiola incana), calendula, Iceland poppy (Papaver nudicaule) and alyssum.
  • Insectaries attract bumblebees, one of the few insects that can pollinate tomatoes. Tomato blossoms require a slight movement for sufficient pollen from the stamens to fall onto the stigma of the flower. Bumble bees cause movement by hanging upside down on the flower, fastening their jaws onto the staminal tube, and then setting the flower into vibration by activating their flight muscles. This is called ‘buzz pollination’. Their jaw marks will soon appear as a brown discolouration on the blossom which indicates the flower has been visited and ‘set’.
  • Once planted, Rob gives the flowers a few handfuls of Natures Organic Fertiliser.
  • Then he hoops and nets the bed to keep his chickens out. See here for how to make hoops.
Growing potatoes in a bag
  • It’s about six weeks till Rob plants out potatoes for Christmas, so in the meantime he’s going to plant a few in bags. Planting in a bag means you can move it round to the warmest part of your property and give your potatoes a jump start.
  • Rob uses a PB40 bag which will fit 4-5 seed potatoes.
  • Roll the sides of the bag down to about 15cms high.
  • Put 5cms of compost into the bottom of the bag.
  • Rob puts 4-5 chitted Maori potatoes (Urenika) into one bag and 4-5 chitted Agria into another.
  • Then add another 5cms of compost on the top of the potatoes.
  • Add a spoonful of Natures Organic Fertiliser per bag and water it all in.
  • When the shoots start coming through, roll the sides of the bag up a bit more, and add more compost, almost covering all the new growth, until the sides of the bag are fully up.
  • The potatoes should be ready to eat in about 3 months.


Camera: Jarod Murray
Editor: Thomas Asche
Production equipment and post-production services provided by The Black Forest Breathes