Saturday, January 15

So many varieties to choose from

It's hard enough choosing which variety of potato to grow from those available in garden centres and nurseries but when you start to browse a specialist grower like Alan Romans where there are over 130 varieties to choose from the task becomes just that but more difficult. There is a bit of help on hand on the site as a description of each variety is given most with a photo. Alan Roman's prices are competitive too.

It's always a bit of a lottery choosing potato varieties as some do well one year and not another if the conditions change. What grows well in a wet year may be a flop if it is very dry. Flavour can also depend on soil, fertliser etc.

We will grow a few potatoes in potato bags to try and get some early as this was fairly successful last year when we had our first new potatoes in June.
The rest will be grown on the plot using our lazy method - involving a trowel rather than a spade -which has served us well now for several years. For more information click here

This year we have ordered International Kidney which would be called Jersey Royals if we were growing them on Jersey. We grew these last year for the first time and liked them. We'll also be growing Lady Christl again.

We bought some Maris Bard quite late from a garden centre last year after we had decided that we were going to try out growing potatoes in bags. To be honest the only reason we bought it was because the bag of seed potatoes was less wrinkled and not sprouting as the other varieties were. We liked the flavour so we will be growing it again this year but from better quality tubers (we hope). We will be growing Red Duke of York again. These have really attractive early foliage too - its very purple. 

We like to try something new each year and this year the new variety for us will be Winston.

All the ones already mentioned are classed as first earlies. We've grown Charlotte which is a second early for several years now and it has always done well so that is also back on the list as is another second early Nadine.

We will also be growing Nicola as a early maincrop and International Kidney can be grown as an early maincrop too.

We have dropped three varieties from last year's list one is Ulster Chieftain which didn't produce a good crop - in fact it was pathetic compared to other varieties - it isn't on Alan Roman's list this year so maybe it just didn't do well generally. We also found it disintegrated when boiling or steaming.

Juliette has been dropped too, although it is a good variety it is also absent from Alan Roman's list. We have also dropped Sarpo Mira  which we have grown as a banker against blight for the past couple of years but to be honest this year it is still in the ground as we hadn't got round to digging it up when the weather turned against us. That just goes to show that it isn't over impressive in the flavour stakes.

We don't grow any second maincrop as we like the potatoes to have matured before blight strikes and we also find that salad varieties seem to be less likely to be devastated by slugs.

By the way the flowers are attracive too if you take the time to get up closely and notice them.

One little tip that could come in useful - a while ago someone on our site suspected that his seed potatoes had been affected by herbicide poisoning - we tried to follow this up but couldn't progress as he hadn't kept the reference and batch numbers that are supposed to be on all certified seed potatoes. Who does? This is the only means of identifying where potatoes have come from and so it may be worth making a note just in case!

By the way if you are a visitor to Martyn's blog you will know that some of our stored potatoes are turning black after being hit hard by the frost. Let's hope enough survive to keep us going 'til the new potatoes arrive.


  1. They do look very nice! I hope you have the best luck growing them in the next season.
    Now I am curious about trying some too. Maybe next year

  2. You've got quite a selection there.

    It can be a real challenge choosing new varieties - not only of potatoes - especially without having tasted them first.

    I would love seed catalogues to have more information on flavour - even though I know that it can vary with weather , soil etc.

    Real Seeds are quite good for that, but most catalogues don't say much about taste.

    Anyway, its fun to try new things .. and find out what tastes best.

    Good luck with your new varieties and I hope that most of your stored potatoes stay healthy.

  3. They grow very successfully in containers Fer but do take quite a bit of space.

    Alan Romans do give some idea of flavour of potatoes FJ but you are right it is really difficult to recommend varieties.

  4. The purple foliage of that Red Duke of York is quite spectacular!
    Since I only have a small growing area available, I usually grow my spuds in pots. I have found this to be easy and productive. With pots it is easier to regulate the moistness of the soil/compost. I go for the "salad" varieties and early ones too, to lessen the chances of suffering from blight. My favourite is Mimi, which produces loads of marble-sized pink tubers (although I haven't been able to find this one on sale this year for some reason).

  5. There are so many varieties. I'm off to a potato day in a couple of weeks so hoping to find something unusual there. Have Charlotte and Anya on order which are tried and tested salad potatoes from previous years.

  6. Mark - Just after I took the potato of that foliage it was well and truly frosted - it looses some colour as it grows but the stems remain purplish. It's strange how some varieties seem hard to get this year maybe a crop failure!

    Charlotte is a good banker isn't it Damo. Lots of people seem to mention Anya too.

  7. Never heard of purple foliage potato plant before very interesting. You have many selection of potato there. We only have few variety here as even interstate potato is not allowed to be brought in South Australia. So I cannot even order it in catalog just from the nursery here. Opps...I did not realised that Nicola is an early variety. No wonder it died quick when I planted before. I also have to be alert to buy some potato to grow in autumn.

  8. The purple foliage was a surprise to me too Diana.

  9. As someone brand new to the allotment adventure I am finding the choices a little overwhelming! Not just for potatoes, but everything... I've limited myself to First Earlies and am sticking to just one this time around, only half a plot and lots of other things to grow. I went for 'Swift' because lots of people recommended it. But I love those red leaves...

  10. They do say, never give a toddler a choice! I usually grow a few first earlies in a very big tub in the green house, planted in February. This gives me my first spuds in mid May - but I do have to lag them in the cold spring weather. Bubblewrap is fantastic stuff!

  11. Hi Plantalicious - choices are bewildering aren't they as everything sounds as though you just must have it! We've been growing for ages and have some firm favourites but then like to try something new as well. Potaoes do take alot of room and lots of people with a small space don't grow them and like to grow vegetables that are either expensive to buy or tasteless when bought from the shops.

    We used to line our greenhouse with bubblewrap VH - when we tried to semi heat it. You have to resist the temptation to pop the bubbles though!

  12. I only get a few catalogs that sell potatoes here and one store (which really sells them too late to plant). I wish we had a variety here--NOT that I have had any luck with potato growing, sigh, I haven't. I believe I will try some in buckets this year and see what I get. Any, would be better than my usual none, lol.

  13. Hi, I really enjoyed your discussion of which potatoes to plant, and that purple foliage is lovely. I know that Nicola is widespread in Germany, but will have to check out the other varieties. Potato bags sound intriguing. Thanks for your comment on my blog: I, too, have suspected that birds are also creatures of habit and just need a while to become familiar with a new feeding station.

  14. I'm still trying to decide which varieties to grow. We had a trip to Swillington yesterday, they've got their selection in now, though we still came away without any. I'm growing my earlies in containers this year to free up more space for maincrop at the plot, but I still won't have that much space with me only having half a plot. They only sell 3kg bags at Swillington which would mean me only having one variety, but to buy smaller quantities somewhere else would cost more than double.

  15. Any chance to buy mail order Becky?

    Barbara - we have a bird count weekend run by the RSPB when you count the birds in your garden and for some reason the birds disappear during this weekend. It's as if they know!

    Jo - Alan Romans do 1kg bags for between £1.50 and £2.50 depending on variety but I don't know how that compares to Swillington

  16. Swillington are £3.30 for 3kg, and I also get 10% off as a Gardener's World subscriber. They don't do smaller quantities. The postage with mail order bumps the price up though.

  17. You're right Jo I didn't take into account postage but as we buy quite a few potatoes it isn't an issue. Can you find someone to share a potato order with you.

    I always forget about taking discount from Swillington as we subscribe to GW too.

  18. There is so many varieties, potatoes, lettuce, carrots, tomatoes... any vegetable!
    I ended up with 13 tomato varieties to grow this year. I am afraid to start my research on potatoes, as it might end up in a similar way.

  19. Tomato post coming up soon Vrtlarica

  20. I am sticking with my favourites again this year...over the last three years i have encountered different sorts of weathers but always had good crops with very little disease. I have tried a few different ones over the years but now I have picked out the four varieties that I will stick too as i know they crop well in my soil and that I like the taste and texture of them!!

    Good luck with your decisions!!

  21. It's always good to find the ones that suit you Tanya. We have tried and tested ones that we grow every year too


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