Well this last week I dug up the last of the potatoes on my allotment - can't quite believe how wonderful they look and taste!
Potatoes 'For Christmas eating' is not a new thing and I was doubtful if it was possible here in Stroud - indeed several other folk on the allotment said we were wasting our time. Well we got a large bucket load of beauties - see photos from a small number of plants.
Potato plants produce good sized tubers in 65 to 100 days depending on variety. So it is a bit about what you choose. Some seed catalogues have seed potatoes specially held back for August planting.
Frost damage is the first concern in the early stages. If shoots emerge above the soil level and frost threatens, draw a little soil from the bed edges over them. I also used a fleece as frost threatened.
We planted the seed pots in the first days of September! We also had prepared the soil well with garden compost and rotted manure. Potatoes are hungry plants - but lay off too much Nitrogen (eg coffee grounds). Potato plants that receive too much nitrogen will have thick stalks and healthy green leaves, but will produce small potatoes. I think we had a bit too much as pots were small but then growing season wasn't so long....
After the potatoes plants have grown to about 20cm / 8in pull up the soil in between the rows around the plants leaving a few centimetres still showing. Repeat the exercise in two to three weeks time. In fact I was able to build up a good lot of soil around the plant which I am sure helped protect from frost.
As always during the growing season, ensure that weeds are removed. A month or so after planting, the dense foliage of the plant should then block out sufficient light to deter all but the most vigorous weeds.
As the potato plant grows, do not remove or 'stop' the foliage, it is supplying food to the tubers. However, remove any flower heads or buds which appear because these will produce potato seeds which will divert energy from the potato tubers.
Anyway we had the first lot steamed with butter.....of course with the Stroud Potato Recipe book we now have many choices for our remaining potatoes.