Tuesday, 5 April 2016



Lifting early International Kidney
Potatoes have always played a major role in feeding the nation, and we gardeners always allocated a big portion of our allotment space to the humble spud. It was our staple diet and used daily as boiled, baked, roasted, mashed or as chips or even fritters. Life moves on as we try to live a healthier life style and we now have access to a much wider variety of foods including rice, pizza and pasta and numerous healthy green vegetables, so our humble spud takes on a lesser role.
In my youth we grew a lot of the variety Majestic as it was a huge tuber that was perfect for chips. Today we (well, some of us) don’t eat so much chips so a variety that produces small potatoes is just as important as we can use them in salads. I practice a four year rotation on my plot so potatoes take up one of these sections each year. I grow a range to suit my own needs which is one really early variety, Casablanca, a second early salad type, Charlotte, with Sarpo Mira, a heavy cropper with good blight resistance, as my maincrop. I am also trying Genson and Amour as they get good reviews and it is always good to try something different.
Planting a row of potatoes
Other good potatoes to try include Lady Christl a very early variety, Desiree a maincrop and Maris Peer an excellent small salad type and its bigger brother Maris Piper a great spud for chips.
Purchase seed tubers only from Scottish or Irish sources where very strict hygiene conditions ensure the crop is clean and gets the highest certification. This information will be shown on labels on all bags purchased.
If you are tempted to retain seed potatoes from your own healthy crop, only do so for one year and only if the crop was very clean and free from blight and any other pest or disease. Never accept seed potatoes from a friend as the risks of potential infections are too great.
Potatoes are heavy feeders so grow best on land that has been well manured in autumn and left rough over winter.
It is a good practice to chit early varieties as it gives them a head start. Place the seed potatoes upright, (rose end upwards) in trays or egg boxes and leave in a light frost free position for a few weeks to get them to sprout.
Planting time is very much depending on weather, so in a mild period it could be early to mid March for the first early varieties, otherwise as soon as you feel there is some warmth in the ground.
Earlies are spaced about 12 inches apart along the rows which are 18 inches apart. For maincrops increase the spacing to 15 inches apart with rows 2 to 2.5 feet apart.
Take out a furrow six inches deep and run some well rotted compost along the bottom. Cover this with some soil and plant into this. Cover the rows but leave a slight ridge to mark the line, and then give a dusting of potato fertiliser high in phosphates and potassium.
Potato flowers
Once the foliage emerges keep an eye on the weather and if frost threatens earth over to protect them. Continue to earth over as this kills weeds and creates a friable structure.
Lifting can begin at the start of June with first earlies and continue till October for lates. Lift on a sunny day and leave the spuds to dry on the surface for an hour or so. Discard any tubers that show any greening as this contains poisons. Potatoes are best stored in the dark in hessian or paper bags in a frost free shed protected from mice.

Wee jobs to do this week

Continue with outdoor sowing of leeks and indoor sowing of sweet corn. I sow leeks thinly outdoors in a fertile well prepared seedbed, where they can grow strongly for a few weeks prior to lifting and transplanting.
Sweet corn is sown at the end of March indoors in cellular trays (40 cells/tray) and kept warm to germinate then transferred to my cold greenhouse to grow on. Once they are a decent size I pot them up into individual 7cms pots and grow on for a few more weeks before hardening off for transplanting at the beginning of June.


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