So we have planted six different varieties of potato in the field: red duke of York, Charlotte, Maris peer, Maris piper, King Edward and Purple Majesty. We ended up planting them all at the same time as we were very late doing our lazy beds. But we have a mix of types (first early, second early, main crop and late main crop) so we were expecting to at least have some time lag between harvesting. But now four different varieties are starting to get flowers on. For those that aren’t potato growing savvy, once the flowers start to die back is generally when you begin to harvest. So this means that we now have potentially four different varieties looking at about the same stage of growth. Which means we are going to end up with a hell of a lot of potatoes all at once. And it only seems to be the odd one or two plants from the different varieties, which would suggest we could be harvesting bits and pieces of different varieties at once. Very confusing and it doesn’t really help with my planning and organisation! I guess now I need to start looking at ways to store potatoes as I don’t want my amazing crops (well I’m presuming they will be amazing) to go to waste. The flowers are really pretty though which is good as the potato plants themselves seem quite ugly!
So today we had the task of earthing up the potatoes. This basically means piling soil on top of the potato foliage and it serves two purposes. Firstly it ensures that there is no risk of potatoes being exposed to sunlight and hence going green if they are growing close to the surface. Secondly, it is supposed to encourage better yields. We have our lazy beds in the fields for our potatoes and the idea behind these is that you can dig up the soil between the rows to earth them up. Now J loves an excuse to buy a new boys toy and so he purchased a rotavator. We also will probably expand the area in the field which is dedicated to crops and so the rotavator will continue to be useful for this. Apparently.
The potatoes should have probably been earthed up before now but we’ve just had so much on that we haven’t got round to it. You’ll notice that I’m using the phrase “we” here a lot when in actual fact earthing up the potatoes is very much a J chore. Or rather should I say I want it doing but I want J to do it. So this is how we’re spending our evening, I am sitting and blogging on my iPad and J is working his backside off rotavating the potatoes. Bliss.
So for a while now, even before we had chickens, I’ve been saving egg shells. It all started when I read in a gardening magazine about how egg shells are good to sprinkle around your plants as a deterrent to slugs and snails. I had previously been putting them into the compost bin, but now I keep them in a Tupperware near to the bin. When the Tupperware reaches its capacity then I take them out and rinse clean under the tap then dry on a tea towel. Once they are dry then they are crushed up and squished into an old ice cream tub for storage. I’ve sprinkled them amongst the blueberries and raspberries and the turnip seeds so far and I plan to use them on all of our seedlings. The egg shells will eventually compost down into the soil and provide extra nutrients. Now I’m not sure how much good they actually do but there seems no harm in trying as otherwise the shells would just be going in the compost. After the torrential rain we had the other week we noticed some slugs on the potatoes so they too have now been sprinkled with shells. Fingers crossed they do something to protect our crops.
So out potatoes have finally started to sprout (or at least some of them have). I was really starting to worry that they wouldn’t and that all our efforts in creating the lazy beds would have been for nothing. However, finally today C and I managed to spot some greenery peeping up out of the soil. These are the start of our Red Duke of York first earlies which we thought had gone into the ground too late. They are supposed to be ready about 8 weeks after planting so should be ready by mid to late June. Fingers crossed we start to see more positive signs from the rest of them!
So we have decided to plant some lazy beds in the field. What are lazy beds I hear you ask? Well I didn’t know either until I saw an article in a magazine and learnt all about them. Lazy beds are an easy way to turn an area of turf into a useable bed for vegetables or flowers. Basically you work out where you want your length of bed to be. Divide it roughly into quarters length-wise. On the middle two quarters lay some well rotten manure and then place your potatoes as shown below.
Then using a spade (it is useful when doing this to have each quarter one spade width for ease of action) cut out the outside two quarters and fold them on top of your potatoes as in the first row of the picture above. We are using a turf stripper instead of a spade as we happen to have one here for the week but a spade serves the purpose just as well. We’ve then added some compost on top of each bed where the two outside quarters meet, although you could just top with some of the soil from between the beds, see picture below for our finished beds. Then water very well and ensure they are well watered as they grow and the folliage starts to show.
Then as your potatoes grow the foliage they produce should provide coverage to prevent too many weeds from growing. Also the potatoes growing should end up killing the grass in the allotted area and also help to churn up the soil so that it is ready for different crops the following year. As the potato folliage grows and you need to earth them up (basically put more soil on them to ensure potatoes remain covered and increase productivity) you can do this from beside the lazy bed and this further ensures well churned soil for the following year.
We had hoped to get the first of our lazy beds done earlier in the year so that we could get our first earlies in sooner but unfortunately time ran away from us, I hope that they still take alright. We are growing six different varieties this year and had ordered 1kg of seed potatoes for each. Our first earlier are Red Duke of York. Then we have Charlotte and Maris Peer as second earlies. Our main crop potatoes are Maris Piper, King Edward and Purple Majesty. I’m not a huge fan of the idea of purple potatoes but J was really keen on them, I just hope they taste fairly decent. Our potatoes were all chitted before they went into the ground. Chitting is basically where the potatoes are allowed and encouraged to sprout. In theory it should help speed up the development of your potato plants and also ensure that you achieve a maximum yield. It is most important for earlies but does not harm being done for main crop potatoes as well. It will be about 8 weeks until our first earlies should be ready and then we can look forward, hopefully, to a summer of potatoes.