Thursday 3 October 2019

The accidental potato grower

As the main growing season slowly winds down it is as well to reflect on what grew well and what was less successful. Compared to last year’s extended drought, this year produced overall more favourable weather conditions. The early summer rain was a big help even though it was quite dry for the second half of the summer.

A notable success for us this year has been potatoes. Last year aside, we usually get a reasonable crop given our dry sandy soil. This year, however, has seen our best yields by far. Not only that, the potatoes have been of a decent size with far fewer small or marble-sized tubers that will cause a nuisance in the plot next year if you don't spot them. The potatoes have also been coming up clean with very little scab, usually associated with dry conditions. Thankfully, no sign of any blight either.

The weather conditions were probably influential for the potato harvest this year. But I also think that the annual application of large quantities of compost each year has been gradually improving this virtually clayless soil and its moisture holding ability.

We have grown more potatoes than usual this year. This is partly in compensation for last year’s poor crop. But it is also because when I went to the garden centre seeking a particular variety of seed potatoes (Kestrel needed for a growing comparison exercise with some vegetable growing friends) I inadvertently picked up the wrong ones. Twice! On two successive visits. To be fair it was before I had a cataract treated. They were the two Maris varieties. In the end I grew the following potatoes:- 

• Red Duke of York (First early)
• Charlotte (Second early)
• Kestrel (Second early)
• Picasso (Main crop)
• King Edward (Main crop)
• Pink Fir Apple (Heritage salad variety)
• Maris Bard (First early)
• Maris Piper (Main crop)

That’s thirteen 20’ rows of potatoes in total, four more than originally intended.

All of the varieties have grown well. One of the accidentally purchased varieties, Maris Bard, which I had not previously grown, did particularly well. It turns out it reputedly has drought-resistant properties which suits my conditions well. I'm going to include this on the list next year.

The potatoes I grew are all established varieties and several of them are often recommended. But if I was constrained to grow just one variety then it would have to be Charlotte. For me this is a singularly outstanding potato.

All the potatoes, once harvested, have had a period of drying off and are now stored in paper sacks (re-cycled sheep feed bags) in the workshop. They should see us through until next year’s earlies are ready.

Pink Fir Apple. Many are put off by the typical knobbly
growth of this heritage variety but it is not necessary to
peel them. There is a recent trendiness for Pink Fir Apple,
but they are not just for readers of broadsheet newspapers
and colour supplements.


  1. I used to wonder why so many potatoes had "Pentland” in their name, till I discovered it's the home of the potato research labs!

  2. Similar to raspberries with the prefix 'Malling' after the research station at East Malling in Kent.

  3. Our potatoes are definitely a better size than last year and a better crop. All now stored in the potato shed. The price of them though has inevitably dropped!

  4. Good to get a farmer’s perspective Maggie.

  5. I was very happy with the earlies potatoes we grew in the polytunnel. The bad mixed summer made it a great year for slugs. You can't beat homemade compost.

  6. Yes, I was impressed with the look of your earlies. Slugs have not been much of a problem for me here.