Newest Review: ... Sounds simple? It is! But I have used these before and wouldn't recommend them purely because the potatoes that grew from the seed wer... more
There's nothing so sweet as a freshly dug and lightly boiled new potato
Member Name: mrsyardbroom
Advantages: Delicious when freshly dug
Disadvantages: A lot of hard work
I've been growing potatoes for a long time now and I always put a few seed potatoes in the allotment whatever the weather. I first started growing my own when I was in my mid twenties and I haven't looked back since. There's no doubt about it, a freshly dug potato tastes nothing like the things you buy in a plastic bag in Tesco.
As a child and as a young woman I used to pick potatoes on various farms. I was brought up in Surrey and although it wasn't ideal potato country because the soil can be a bit sandy, there were still some farmers who grew them commercially. When I moved to Cornwall a lot of the farmers were growing potatoes as an additional crop. I used to go potato picking every summer, sometimes picking potatoes off the harvester as they were dug and sometimes driving the tractor. The sun always seemed to be shining and there was always a motley gang of workers who entertained everyone all day long with their cheerful banter.
We never bought potatoes. Sometimes the farmer would give each of us a bag to take home and sometimes I would go gleaning. After the harvester had been through there were always lots of small potatoes left on the ground to pick up. These were the sweetest, loveliest potatoes and the skins literally fell off them. I used to lightly boil them and serve them up dripping with butter. They were delicious.
Nowadays I always grow a few rows of new "teddies" and second earlies in the garden. There are so many varieties to choose from it would be impossible to say which one is best. Aran Pilot, Pentland Dell, Rocket, Charlotte, these are all good ones. If you go into a garden centre you may be able to pick up a guide to the seed potatoes they're selling. They should at least describe the seed potatoes so that you know what to expect. One second early potato that I really liked and cropped very heavily was called Lady Balfour. I grew it a couple of years ago but I haven't been able to buy the seed since. The potatoes were very large and there was a very high yield.
It isn't always worth growing maincrop potatoes. They need a lot of room and I never seem to get a very high yield. Some good varieties though are Maris Piper, Desiree and King Edward.
If you want to have a go at growing your own you will need to dig the ground thoroughly in February or March. The seed ptoatoes will need to be chitted for a few weeks so that a bit of a shoot is showing. The traditional planting day is Good Friday. Don't dig in any fresh manure. Potatoes don't like it. I give plenty of room between the rows, at least 18 inches and about 15 inches between plants. I put the tubers in about 6 inches deep and cover them up so that you can see a bit of a ridge all along the row. When they start to come through you need to earth them up. Just pull some earth over them and do this two or three times. I use a general purpose organic fertiliser sprinkled on the ground to give them a helping hand with nutrients. I usually harvest the first potatoes sometime in June. I gently scrape a bit of earth away to see if the "teddies" are ready to dig. If you've got some fair sized tubers then get them up while the price is still high in the shops. Only dig enough for one day. They are so delicious freshly dug that you won't want them hanging around for days on end. Make sure you get all of the tubers out of the ground.
Some people grow potatoes in buckets or sacks. I tried it once but I couldn't seem to give them enough water and I didn't get a very good crop. If you go for this method I would look for some reviews of potato growing kits to see what other people say and then choose the one that others have found successful.
All things considered I would always grow a few potatoes in the vegetable garden. They are a reliable crop and when everything else is being munched by slugs and snails your spuds will still be growing and will still give you a good crop. You can boil them, roast them, or cook them in their jackets. You can mash them or make them into chips or wedges. You can mix the mash with egg and flour and mould them into balls to fry. You can top all sorts of things with mash such as minced meat, vegetables or fish. You can put cheese on top or mince up some onion to make onion potato. There are whole books written about potatoes. They are a staple food in the British diet and long may they reign.
Good luck with your crop.
Summary: A good reliable crop for the vegetable garden