Saturday, January 14, 2006

Potatoes 2006 pt1

At this time of year seed potatoes go on sale. Seed potatoes are selected potatoes from the crop that are teh best of your crop and thus should provide you with a good crop for this year. When you buy these, they are normally certified virus free and will give an optimal start to your crop.

Potatoes come in four forms, early, second early, maincrop and late. At this time of year the first three are available, lates are available later in year. All three of the first three are planted at the end of march, this ensures that the soil will be warm enough for the potatoes to grow and frost risk has past. In the UK you will need to take extra measures to protect from frost but should still plant at this time. For earlies the crop will be ready around June, for second earlies June to July and main crop August/September or October. Earlies have the thinest of skins of all potatoes and won't last at long as the others, they make great summer salad and new potatoes. Secondearlies and Maincrop do tend to last a lot longer and this year I have opted for a second early type rather than main crop. You can plant early types now, provided you have a heated green house. These will be ready in March/April time, however its imporant that these are kept away from any frost risk.

Before you plant your potatoes you should "chit", this allows the potatoes to start to sprout and gives them a head start in growing. The potatoes need to be kept in a light (but not direct sunlight), cool place. An old egg carton makes a great way of keeping the potatoes up right for this process.

After chitting you can plant your potatoes into the growing postion. If you have space you can sow in drills (rows), give them plenty of space to grow with lots of room for main crop potatoes. As they grow you must ensure that you earth the potatoes up, this involves mounding earth up around the stems to make sure that light does to reach the tubers (growing potatoes), too much light will cause the potatoes to turn green and unsuitable for use. The soil for growing potatoes needs to be rich with plenty of compost or manure dug in, if your planting stright into the ground you should have ideally have done this in the autum but you can do this now.

Like last year I will be using a potatoe barrel, made from plastic it allows the potatoes to grow deeply and should help make for a good crop yield. I will also be using two large plastic tubs this year. This year I also going to grow mine in a general compost mix however I will be adding plenty of grit and rotted manure. Make sure that you water potatoes often, they need water to swell and any drought can cause diease.

First earlies are ready to harvest when the flowers appear, second and maincrop when the tops die down. Last year my crop failed with bligh, however this year I am hoping to avoid that with a new growing site, virus free seed and fresh compost. Folks do get some success from planting supermarket potatoes, however I recommend using virus free certified potatoes. Other than that, its fingers crossed that this year the potatoe crop goes well.


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