Friday, March 4

Going potty

The potato is one of those crops where it is very difficult to recommend varieties. One variety will grow well for one grower and poorly for another. Type of soil and weather conditions can affect the flavour and texture of the potatoes as much as how the plants grow. We once grew International Kidney, (the same seed potatoes planted for Jersey Royals) but on our clay soil  and with our climate they didn't turn out anything like the same.
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.

Don't laugh too loudly at the video as it was made some time ago with an older camera but it gives some idea.

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


20 comments:

  1. Wow - 160 kg of potatoes is a huge harvest! Do you use all of those potatoes or do you end up giving some away? That was a great experiment with the weed control fabric. I would have thought the hilled potatoes would have resulted in a higher yield. Great post title, btw :)

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    1. We do give some away Margaret. On the other hand we only very rarely buy any potatoes. The only ones may be some really early new potatoes when ours start to grow a little. We thought the weed control fabric would attract slugs but it doesn't seem to do that.

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  2. It's good to see the different ways potatoes can be grown and know that they'll still grow if planted late. I always like to grow a few varieties just in case. Potatoes are always my first choice in term of essentials. Great as always to see your harvest.xxx

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    1. That was what year, Dina when our late planted potatoes produced the best crop of all the potatoes grown that year.

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  3. Interesting to have the comparison. I always use your planting method nowadays.

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    1. It's a contradiction of the term no pain no gain, Janet. :-)

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  4. We grow casablanca due to its resistance to eelworm which is present in the allotment soil. It is also, for us, an excellent potato for both holding together when cooked and flavour.

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    1. We are looking forward to seeing the new ones perform this year, Brian.

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  5. I stopped growing potatoes as they always seemed to attract pests but think I might do some in large flowerpots this year. I'm fascinated by your weed control method of planting and think this might be the way forward to at least slow down the rapid advance of couch grass across my garden without chemicals.

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    1. If the bed that you are planting the potatoes in is very weedy, Deborah some of the weeds will find their way through the planting hole.

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    2. Yes, I do believe I hold a National Collection of Weeds! I know the membrane isn't 100% but hope it will help knock the numbers back some.

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    3. It will certainly do that Deborah. Make sure you get the heavier duty weed control fabric and not the very flimsy type.

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  6. I'm intrigued by the weed control method too. I might give that a go on one section of the plot that I'm digging over at the moment - to get rid of as much perennial weed as I can, mostly bindweed and couch grass - and will be spudding up in a few weeks' time, all being well.

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    1. We grew one lot of potatoes with weed control in a bed similar to your problem bed Darren. Some bindweed escaped through the planting holes bit it was more under control and produced a decent harvest,

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  7. How many of each variety did you sow last year?

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    1. We had a 2.5kg bag of each variety, Anon

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  8. I have used weed fabric for many years around ornamental plants in new beds, but as I don’t eat much potatoes I have never grown them ether but the principle is the same I suppose. I used to use weed fabric around my strawberries, and as an experiment I have not used it here in my new garden in the raised beds. Might regret that decision sooner or later, but it is always possible to put it in next winter when the plants have little or no leaves. Your potato harvest is impressive!

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    1. We have used it on our strawberry beds, Helene. We don't use it in the garden. I think often it is the digging and cultivating the soil that encourages more weeds and this doesn't tend to be done in the garden as most plants are more or less permanent fixtures.

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  9. It is interesting to see how different the potato varieties are between England and North America. I have never seen for sale any of the ones you describe.

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    1. I wonder whether some are the same varieties, Alain but under a different name,

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