The variability of cropping being dependent on the prevailing weather conditions leads us to plant several varieties in the hope that if one variety fails then another may thrive.
We gave up on the labour intensive method of growing potatoes a long time ago. No trench digging. We plant with a trowel. We describe our method here.
We have grown potatoes through weed control fabric for a year or two now and last year we planted some to make a direct comparison.
The two beds above were the earliest, each planted with Casablanca and Foremost on 5 April. The ones planted through weed control fabric were protected with straw and the other bed was earthed up at planting time. The potatoes were harvested at a similar time although the ones in the bed without the fabric made for easier harvesting of a few early roots. The cropping from each bed was similar in terms of yield and the fabric did not lead to more nibbling. If anything the weed control bed was slightly higher but as I said some on the other bed was harvested earlier.
At the end of April and on 1 May two more beds were planted up with Charlotte, Winston, Nadine and Nicola.
Again one bed (above) was planted through weed control fabric and the other (below) wasn't. This time the weed control bed needed no straw for frost protection but the other bed still needed earthing up to cut out light.
Again there was little difference between the yields from each bed. In both beds Winston proved to be more attractive to pests than the potatoes growing alongside it. The conclusion that we made was that the less labour intensive method of planting through weed control produces just as good results as the more usual earthing up method. However, it is worth having some potatoes for early harvesting without fabric.
We had some seed potatoes left and so these were planted as late as 30 May. They are the ones shown as mixed on the chart and as you can see they produced a decent harvest. This shows that there is no need to fret if you are a bit late planting.
This year's seed potatoes are now busy chitting in the greenhouse. They are covered with fleece to give a bit of protection.
This year we will be growing some old favourites and some new varieties. The new ones were bought at a local garden centre's potato day when seed potatoes could be bought individually which is a good way to acquire some new varieties to try. The varieties that we will be growing are:
Casablanca, Winston, Kestrel, Nadine, Amour, Blue Belle, Orla, Setanta, Valour and Vivialdi. Not as many as it seems as we only have five tubers of each on the last six varieties.
Martyn described the varieties in his blog post here