The potato planting season is not too far away, so now is a good time to give it thought and decide what varieties to grow and get them ordered, so there is time to chit the seed potatoes in advance of planting. Make sure land intended for potatoes has been dug and well manured or composted. Potatoes grow best in fertile well drained soil especially if it has had a green manure crop grown on it, but make sure this is dug in well ahead of
planting in March for earlies and April for maincrops.
|Planting Casablanca potatoes|
There is a very wide selection to choose from so individual taste determines whether you prefer a dry or wet potato. Blight is always a problem especially in a wet warm year like 2017, though every year is different so maybe 2018 will be just fine, but if you don’t want to take the risk go for
Sarpo Mira which has some resistance
to blight. It also produces huge tubers, perfect for roasting and peeling. There
are quite a few blight resistant varieties in the Sarpo range. Another potato
with large tubers is lady Christl, an early variety, but if you like an early
salad potato choose from Casablanca
or second early Charlotte, both with excellent flavour. Tuber size is a bit
lacking with the early salad varieties, but flavour more than makes up for this
and I was picking some decent spuds of Casablanca at the end of June last year.
A couple of years ago I tried Gemson, another salad early variety, but even as
a salad potato size was desperately not in its favour.
|Two favourite potatoes|
My heaviest cropping maincrop potatoes last year were the Sarpo Mira, Lady Christl and Amour which had massive tubers, but was not a good keeper as it started to sprout in store in December. Most others will keep a lot longer, especially if you can store them in a cold but frost free, dark place with good ventilation.
The practice of chitting the seed potatoes in a light, but cool location, to encourage formation of short sturdy green sprouts is often under debate. I have always been in favour of the practice and start mine upright (rose end up) in seed trays as soon as I receive them about mid February. Planting of first early begins about mid March, second early at the end of March, then maincrops by mid April, but all depending on weather. No rush to plant if you get a cold or wet period, but if some warm dry spell happens along, then get them in.
|Chitting seed potatoes|
Space rows about two feet apart for earlies and a wee bit wider for maincrops with the tubers getting spaced a foot apart. I take out a deep furrow and line the bottom with well rotted compost, placing the tubers onto this before filling in the furrow to leave just a small mound to mark the rows. Add some potato fertilizer along the rows. Once shoots appear they will need the first earthing up for protection, as late frosts are still likely. Then once the shoots are more than six inches tall give them a final earth up. Earthing up kills weeds, then once the canopy covers the soil weeds have no chance to grow. Water in any dry spells, and a few weeks before lifting sprinkle some slug pellets along the rows as slugs can be a real
menace with potatoes. Start lifting early varieties
a few shaws at a time to see if they have enough size for a meal. I start mine
at the end of June, and am happy to get one meal per plant at the beginning, as
they are at their most flavorsome while young. Otherwise lift on a dry sunny
day and leave the potatoes on the ground for an hour or so to dry off as they
need to be dry for storing. Hessian potato sacks are still favourite for
|Earthing up potatoes|
|Repotting a phalaenopsis orchid|
Wee jobs to do this week
Phalaenopsis orchids that flowered towards the end of last year may need repotting if the plant is getting too high for its pot and becomes unstable. Remove it from its pot and take away all the old orchid compost plus any dead roots. Shorten existing roots and pot up in fresh orchid compost. Do not remove the aerial roots and make sure some stay outside the pot as these absorb moisture from the atmosphere. Keep the plant warm, moist, but not wet and give it plenty light but not direct sunlight, though in Scotland our winter sun will not harm them.