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Potato Digging

Posted by Guy Barter on 09 Sep 2008 at 10:53 PM

The last of the second earlies were dug in the rain this weekend. You can do that on sandy soil. There are few days in the year when the soil is too wet to work. The damp tubers were left to dry in an open fronted shed beneath plenty of newspaper to exclude light.

After the ground was cleared it was levelled with landscaping rake, trod firm, raked again and sown with Italian ryegrass and raked again to cover the seed and trodden again to firm the seed in. The grass should germinate in a few days and by March will be a leafy sward ready to incorporate after protecting the soil all winter.

First out was ‘Bonnie’, white with pink eyes and big bold tubers with very little common scab, good yield and a high proportion of baking sized tubers. Then out came ‘Mozart’, disease-free, red skinned, very high yield and even more bakers than ‘Bonnie’. ‘Mozart’, assuming it passes the taste test, will be a strong contender for next year, although on agronomic grounds I don’t think ‘Bonnie’ will make it.

‘Franceline’ a French salad cultivar with perfect skin finish and bold tubers yielded quite well and was put aside for early use. Old salad potatoes are not very appetising.

Finally up came ‘Mayan Gold’ a new cultivar bred from South American parent lines with a melting texture and good flavour; disease free but only a moderate yield of yellow elongated small tubes – it took ages to lift. However the effort was worth it - they are delicious pan roast.

I could not resist a 'test dig' of the early maincrop ‘Ambo’ that is dying back fast now. The yield looks very good, maybe a tad more than the best two second-earlies, ‘Cosmos’ and ‘Mozart’ showing that little is lost by replacing maincrops with second-earlies in gardens and getting the benefit of early sowing of cover crops. Not to mention tubers safe in the shed well away from blight and slugs.

The maincrops, ‘Ambo’ ‘Robinta’ ‘Cara’ and ‘Pink Fir Apple’ are beginning to die back allowing weeds to break through. These weeds have had a hard life beneath the potato foliage canopy and although their sudden growth looked alarming they were easily pulled out leaving the potatoes to senesce gracefully while putting on a useful gain in yield, protected by a late application of fungicide. There is some blight in the crop and the foliage may have to be removed soon. With so many potatoes expected my storage arrangements will be strained and I have already distributed last week's  liftings to the family.

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