Peter Cun­dall:

This year’s potato har­vest sur­prised even the most ex­per­inced of green thumbs with PETER CUN­DALL putting this year’s bumper crop down to his se­cret for­mula per­fected over many years of grow­ing the hum­ble spud

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - TASSIE LIVING -

On how to grow a bumper crop of su­per spuds

Many of us were un­usu­ally late when start­ing our veg­etable patch last spring be­cause of the cold, wet con­di­tions.

I al­most missed out when buy­ing my cer­ti­fied seed pota­toes be­cause only a few rem­nants were left.

I man­aged to plant a short row of pink-eyes for tasty waxy flesh and an­other row of white-fleshed, fluffy Pent­land Dell – a heavy crop­ping va­ri­ety.

The ground was so wet at plant­ing time that I never both­ered to ir­ri­gate, although the soil was dragged high up the stems a cou­ple of times as they grew.

De­spite my fail­ure to wa­ter the plants, yields were sur­pris­ing and I was able to be­gin har­vest­ing small tu­bers just as the first flow­ers ap­peared.

Last week I lifted the last three pink­eye plants which had com­pletely died back and the results were as­ton­ish­ing.

The yield was enor­mous – enough to fill three big buck­ets – but the big sur­prise was the size of some of the tu­bers.

Pink-eyes are usu­ally fairly small, kid­ney-shaped, but many of these were the size grape­fruits. All were in per­fect waxy con­di­tion and are fan­tas­tic eat­ing. This is a great les­son for any­one with lim­ited space. The se­cret of suc­cess was my use of biochar, soaked in fish emul­sion and sea­weed con­cen­trate and then worked deeply into the ground be­fore plant­ing.

I also added about three bar­row loads of sheep ma­nure and a gen­er­ous scat­ter­ing of pel­letised chook ma­nure so

The yield was enor­mous but the big sur­prise was the size of some of the tu­bers. Pink-eyes are usu­ally fairly small ... but many of these were the size grape­fruits

the ground was al­most vi­brat­ing with fer­til­ity when the seed tu­bers went in.

The har­vested crop will now be stored in card­board boxes in our garage and cov­ered with an old car­pet to keep out all light.

Later, those re­main­ing around Au­gust will shoot, so I’ll have to de-sprout them – which is no big deal.

I am also har­vest­ing some late-sown Bulls Blood beet­root, the seeds of which went in dur­ing Fe­bru­ary. They are best har­vested when about the size of cricket balls, so I was in­trigued to find many were much larger, de­spite hav­ing used no fer­tiliser – just a bed which had grown broad beans last winter and spring.

It is im­por­tant to im­me­di­ately screw off all beet­root fo­liage within a few min­utes of lift­ing, oth­er­wise the globes turn soft and rubbery. Cut­ting it off is a mis­take be­cause it causes waste­ful bleed­ing dur­ing cook­ing. Even the long tail-like root is best left in­tact.

I should add that the ideal way of cook­ing beet­root is to tightly wrap globes sep­a­rately in alu­minium foil and shove them into a hot oven for about 20 min­utes. This al­lows skins, roots and leaf-bases to be eas­ily slipped off af­ter cook­ing so that nour­ish­ing red juice is not lost.

The soil in the potato bed was thor­oughly forked and loos­ened as the spuds were har­vested and this means it’s ready for more crops, this time plants that thrive through winter.

Af­ter an ap­pli­ca­tion of lime and a week or so later, more en­riched biochar will be forked in be­fore lev­el­ling and rak­ing the sur­face.

I’ll then sow seeds of English spinach, Ja­panese turnips, spring onions and most im­por­tant of all, the to­tally re­li­able, lo­cally-grown gar­lic cloves for our main crop.

All these plants love sweet soil and once the spinach has started to de­velop small leaves I’ll be ap­ply­ing heav­ily-di­luted fish emul­sion every month to shove the plants along as spring ap­proaches.

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