Potato Harvest Time

 Gardening Diary 5th August 2014

On a hot and sunny afternoon I spent a most pleasurable couple of hours lifting more of this year's crop of potatoes. This is one of the most rewarding tasks in the gardening year, and it is always a wonder to raise a forkful of good-sized tubers. As in previous years, around ten percent had been nibbled from the outside by those rather unpleasant red-headed grubs, but the joy of finding the rest with perfect size and shape far outweighs any slight concerns about any losses. This year I planted two types of potato – a few King Edwards for the first time, and the red skinned “Rosabella” that I harvested today,

The Rosabella yield was good with many good and even-sized tubers, having shallow eyes and smooth skin. Our first boiling of these was a little disappointing, since they fell apart at the point of being ready. Reading the literature suggests that these are recommended more for frying, salads and purée, so we will be trying that next time.

The gardening literature frequently recommends planting potatoes in newly created beds as a way of improving the soil. I'm not convinced that has anything to do with the plants, but a real benefit results from the thorough digging that usually happens in the quest to retrieve the whole harvest. If the rain holds off, I will be lifting more potatoes tomorrow.

Pas de Potager

Gardening Diary 3rd April 2013

We have at last come to the end of our stored potatoes, which were still in reasonable condition and certainly good enough for eating. I had lifted last summer's crop at the end of July, so that's a record (for us) eight month's supply. Normally I would have been planting the new tubers by now in the potager, but this year I've made a rather momentous decision. Since I still have a long list of DIY tasks to complete indoors, and there's lots of work required remodelling the “jardin d'agrément”, I have reluctantly chosen to lay fallow the potager this season. I might well sneak in a few tomato plants however, and perhaps some brassicas later in the year, but in general I'll keep the beds covered. We also have a few perennials such as strawberries, artichoke and lovage that should therefore get more attention that usual, and I'll try to continue adding compost to improve the beds for next year.

A Slimming Carrot

Gardening Diary 14th November 2012

I wondered why my carrots are not fattening up this year. Ever seen a gastric band on a vegetable ? I lifted this bad boy today, along with a dozen or so good-sized and better-shaped roots. It seems that this carrot grew up through a metal ring or washer buried in the soil. Developing roots generally avoid any foreign bodies that they encounter, often branching in the process. This gives rise to all those “rude” shapes once beloved by BBC light entertainment programmes – I'll refrain from photographing the examples that we regularly unearth – this is a grown-up site !

My other gardening activity involved another root crop, this time not in the potager but in the garage. It's now some 17 weeks since I lifted this season's crop of potatoes and put them into storage trays and boxes in the garage. Since then we have enjoyed them on a regular basis, and as ever it's the Charlotte variety that seem to be the best tasting for us. I noticed that most of the tubers were sporting one shoot around 10 mm long, so set about rubbing these off to give them a better chance to see us through to the New Year. We still have two boxes of good quality potatoes that are keeping somewhat better than last year. The autumn of 2011 was unusually mild here, and that encouraged more sprouting than usual. Already this year we've had many frosty mornings and generally cooler days, which is not great news for sitting outdoors but does have benefits when storing the harvest.

Warm New Potatoes

Gardening Diary 21st July 2012

A week or so ago I dug up one potato plant to check the condition of the tubers. They looked fine though not too large, and provided enough for a meal. For some reason crops growing at the end of a row, as were these, never seem to be as good as those further along. On today's glorious sunny afternoon I decided to lift one of the four rows of Charlotte where the foliage had died back about ten days ago.

This year, I repeated a planting technique that had been quite successful ten years ago. In March I planted the seed potatoes at the usual 30 cm spacing with 70 cm between rows, initially in a flat bed. The difference was that I buried them much deeper than usual, around 25 cm below the surface. Having marked the lines of the planting, I then dug trenches between and used the earth to create ridges over the planting lines. I also created "dams" at the end of each row so that the resulting valleys would hold water. By doing this I was able to skip the earthing-up process that is typically recommended and usually done up to three times in early summer. The pre-formed ridges held their shape remarkably well despite quite high rainfall during the growing season. I actually only watered the bed twice, but when I did the troughs filled as planned allowing water to seep horizontally to the roots where it's needed.

Although the planting took longer than usual, on balance I won time by not having to do more to the bed during the growing season. Lifting the first row today, I was pleased with the potatoes though it wasn't the most spectacular crop that I've achieved. From 17 seed potatoes, I harvested 145 tubers (total 8 kg) that were mostly the size of a hen's egg. Of these 14% had been nibbled by the chaffer grubs that I've also suffered from in previous years. My attempts to eradicate this nuisance look to be working since last year's losses were higher. I simply squash any grubs that I find. It's not a job for the squeamish, but does give a certain feeling of revenge when I find them still eating the potato. Since this grub just eats from the outside inwards, any potato that's only been lightly nibbled is still usable after a good wash. I now need to lift the rest of the crop before the grubs can do further damage.

Following a couple of hours drying off in the sunshine, I moved the spuds to trays and enjoyed the look and feel of this warm and clean harvest that should keep us well-few for several weeks.

Leek and Potato Soup

A great winer lunch using easily-grown vegetables.

Published in Recipes

Large courgette, potato and sage soup

Large courgette, potato and sage soup

This is a recipe for anyone who has turned their back on a courgette plant and before you know what has happened there is a mini marrow in your garden !!!!

Published in Recipes