Vegetable growing

Potato types: a review

So all of our Spring planted potatoes have now been harvested and we have sampled some of each variety so I thought it would be a good time to look back at the varieties we grew and see which ones we would grow again and which ones we wouldn’t. 


As a reminder for everyone our six varieties were: Red Duke of York, Charlotte, Maris Peer, Maris Piper, Purple Majesty and King Edward. The Purple Majesty were an individual pack of seed potatoes and the other five varieties were all together as a beginners potato growing pack. They were all planted in lazy beds in the field and ended up all being planted at the same time but were harvested at slightly different stages. Let’s look at each one in turn.

Red Duke of York:

These were my favourites I think. Our only first earlies they went in a little late and we left them in for about 11 or 12 weeks in the end and they were amazing. This variety produces red skinned potatoes that actually grew to an incredible size. We found they made great baked potatoes and also did well as roasties or mash. In fact there wasn’t anything we did with them that we didn’t enjoy. They also seemed to have been one of the varieties which were less damaged by slugs or other pests. These are a definite must for next year. 


Charlotte

These are second earlies and a very well known supermarket variety of new potatoes. These turned out pretty well as well, a good job as we have these as our Autumn planted (or Christmas) potatoes. They were a good size for Charlotte’s and had beautiful yellow flesh. There was some damage by pests but not too much thankfully. I think we will probably do these next summer as well. 


Maris Peer

Now these were one of our least successful varieties. Lots were attacked by slugs and we lost a significant amount of our crop to them. They have a more white flesh and just in general didn’t look as appetising as the others. The taste was okay but nothing special. These are not going to be repeated next year.


Maris Piper

Again this is a well known variety so I was expecting great things. This was another crop which was hit pretty bad by the slugs and other pests. The taste wasn’t bad, but nothing special and a bit disappointing for such a well known variety. I think we probably won’t be doing these again next year and will try something different.


Purple Majesty

Now J had really wanted to grow these as he had once had them served boiled at a posh restaurant and wanted repeat the experience at home. They turned out very well and gave us a good yield. However, some people were a bit put off by the colour. C wouldn’t try them and we served them a couple of times for Sunday Roast (in combination with other varieties) when we had guests over and a couple of people weren’t keen on sampling them. They were also remarkably difficult when it came to spotting any defects until they were peeled so they weren’t going to be great to store. So probably not a one for next year. 


King Edward

Again another well known potato variety and what should have been a reliable maincrop potato. However, we had quite low yields (although this may have been that they needed earthing up more) and they ended up being nibbled on by some kind of rodent (my money is on a vole). And actually taste-wise they weren’t as good as other varieties, we were very disappointed in the roasties we made with them. So probably not ones to repeat next year.


So we would grow the Charlottes, the Red Duke of York and would recommend the Purple Majesty but probably won’t grow ourselves next year. The Maris Peer, Maris Piper and King Edwards don’t have a place in our growing schedule for next year. Some interesting points to note here are that apparently it is a bad year in general for potatoes (according to smallholders we know) so we might have had less slug damage and better yields if the weather had been different. And we probably should have earthed up a bit more but actually the lazy beds weren’t as easy to keep weed free as we might have hoped. 

Next job on the agenda – work out what different varieties to try next year! Any recommendations? 

Lazy beds

There’s nothing lazy about lazy beds

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.

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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.

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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.