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
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.