• Sunday, January 29th, 2012
This is the start of a new gardening year for me as I rummage through the 2012 garden seed catalogues and plan my sowings for the year ahead. Today I went to my local garden centre and I bought some first early potato seeds, which are a variety called Swift, as well as a salad potato variey called Ratte which is highly appreciated in France. I have never grown the Swift potato variety before and I hope to get better result with this type of early crop which is supposed to be good for boiling as well as new potato.
Ratte New Potatoes
Last year I gave the International Kidney variety a try – they are the equivalent of the Jersey Royal new potatoes. Unfortunately the yield was not so good last year and this could be due to the dry weather which was not so favourable to a healthy growth of the tubers.
Last Spring I also grew a first early potato variety called Epicure, which is a typical Ayrshire potato but again the crop was not particularly outstanding.
On the other hand the main crop variety which I grew last year was Kind Edward, and the yield was good except that they did not store so well in the shed compared to previous years. The reason for this could have been the exceptionally warm autumn and winter which we experienced and this goes to show that no two years are the same with gardening. Certain crops will perform differently given certain conditions.
For now I have stored my potato seeds in a cool dark place ready for chitting in a few weeks time.
By then I will need to have finished digging the vegetable plot in time for planting my seeds in March. Speaking to fellow gardeners in East Anglia it seems that many of us are not yet done with the digging which makes me feel better.
Half way there with my muddy wellington boots and my fork I paused to contemplate the barren soil in anticipation for an abundant forthcoming harvest season.
• Thursday, February 19th, 2009
My potato seeds have started to chit nicely as you can see in the picture below. You don’t have to chit potatoes, you could just simply plant them in the ground when the time is right but chitting potatoes usually helps get a quicker start (particularly for early varieties).
Chitting potatoes is basically encouraging the tubers to produce sprouts by placing them in a light and frost-free environment. I remember the TV presenter and experienced gardener Monty Don made a trial a couple of years ago which showed that early varieties of potatoes benefit from chitting, as it usually gives you earlier and bigger crops.
And ít’s so easy to do: place your tubers in a tray or individually place them in an egg carton ensuring that the rose end (where most of the eyes or indentations are) is facing upwards. Chitting can take up to 6 weeks and when the sprouts are short, shubby and about 3cm (1 in) long they are ready to be planted.
And it’s not too late to start – so get chitting now!
See my other posts on growing potatoes and my growing potatoes update.
• Saturday, January 31st, 2009
Potatoes are one of these vegetables which I never really saw any point in growing until 4 years ago. I used to be prejudiced against the good old potato because I considered that it was part of the staple diet and fairly cheap anyway. But then I read that growing potatoes could help with the structure of the soil and that the growth of the plant can cover an area quite tightly making it difficult for weeds to come through.
This was at a time when I still had a fair proportion of my garden covered in weeds and it needed digging anyway, so why not plant a few tatties?
I was pleasantly surprised by the generous growth from the potato seeds and indeed it did cover a large area for many months until I needed to harvest my first potatoes. The process was really easy: basically you just need to dig out a trench, follow the instructions with regards to depth and width for planting the seeds, add a bit of fertilizer (optional) and just make sure that they don’t suffer too much from drought.
Our first crop was not as plentiful as subsequent harvests because my soil is heavy clay and therefore I guess it is harder for the plant to develop big potatoes. The first crop was a potato variety called Maris Piper which is now not my favorite variety but I can vouch for the fact that home-grown potatoes taste better than supermarket grown ones. They are also better for you – I eat my new potatoes with the skin on, confident that they have been grown organically.
So if you have enough space for potatoes, I strongly recommend them even for beginners. You cannot go far wrong.
My top tip: early varieties of potatoes tend to be less prone to diseases such as blight and new potatoes are so delicious that it’s a good choice to grow early or first early varieties.
Was it tip-top for you? Please leave a comment – thank you!
See my follow up posts on chitting potatoes and my growing potatoes update.