-----In 2004 we bought a falling-down house and 30 acres. This blog documents our progress-----

Sunday, February 27, 2005

RHS advice about growing potatoes

We were in a panic this weekend thinking we had to get some of the potatoes in the ground right away as they were sprouting (or chitting as it is apparently properly known. That was why we attempted to work yesterday even though it was so cold. But, great news... as I was researching how far apart we needed to plant them I found this: "Keep the trays of tubers in a cool but frost-free place with at least moderate light, such as in an unheated room. Direct sunlight is best avoided. Sprouts will form within a few weeks. The tuber is therefore ready to grow away as soon as planted. Tubers can be laid out to chit from January onwards, but planting should be delayed until March in sheltered and southern areas or April in less favoured districts. Earlier plantings can rot in the ground or the shoots can be frosted off on sharp nights. By this time the sprouts should be about 5cm (2in) long and dark coloured. Longer thinner sprouts are caused by excess heat or too little light or both, and tiny sprouts suggest conditions are too cold. If the weather is unsuitable for planting, tubers can be left to chit further, even into May, without too much loss of crop.
Although unsprouted tubers can be planted, the chitted ones benefit from their flying start. Early cultivars will crop earlier and more heavily if chitted. You can help the process by rubbing off all but the four strongest sprouts so that the tuber's energy is diverted into a few really strong shoots that form new potatoes as early as possible. Second early and maincrop potatoes also benefit from chitting but they don't need thinning of sprouts. Chitting later cultivars results in earlier foliage before blight or drought strike and they mature earlier and can be gathered before slugs damage the tubers."

Brilliant, means that we don't have to fret about planting them yet as it is still way too cold and also they only have sprouts which are about 1cm long.

We have 3 varieties we're going to try and grow:

ORLA: this is an Early kind which means they mature in 100-110 days from planting and you eat them right away as new potatoes. So if we planted at end March they'd be ready in late June or early July. Apparently we are supposed to plant these 300mm apart in rows 600cm apart. Their description from the Organic gardening catalogue site: "Has the highest blight resistance ever seen in a first early, plus resistance to scab and blackleg. The appearance and flavour are pretty good as well".

SANTE: an early maincrop, which I think means we can use it for either? Maincrop potatoes mature in 125-140 days and you plant them a little later I think. e.g., plant end April, ready mid-August. I guess if we plant it early they will be littler but we can eat them sooner, and if we plant it later and leave longer they will be bigger and better for storing. The description: "The most commonly grown variety on organic farms. A strong growing early maincrop with a reasonable yield. Resistant to white and golden eelworm and blight. Oval/round tubers with creamy yellow flesh."

CARA: a late maincrop, so I guess that means we plant early/mid May? These would be the ones that we store for winter use. "A well known household name. Stores very well and has good blight resistance. Expect a large yield of red eyed tubers with creamy flesh ideal for roasting and baking".

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