WIth the spring equinox having passed yesterday, thoughts turn toward planting the potato crop in my 7.5 sqm bed.
Having experimented a bit over the past 5 years, I have now settled on a formula that seems to work OK.
It goes something like this:
1. Ultra early potatoes are planted in pots with airholes at the bottom. The feature image shows my 2017 Foremost 1st early plants having just broken through, with a crop planned for June. They live indoors from planting in late February until now, when they will live outdoors. The target yield is 5-8lb from four 15 litre pots.
2. 3 rows of 6 first early tubers positioned 10cm, 35cm and 60cm from the end of the bed. The aim is a harvest of 20lb in total, for harvesting in late June and July. I am growing one row of Foremost and two rows of Dunluce.
Pentland Javelin and Arran Pilot have both proven reliable in the past.
3. 4 rows of 5 second early tubers positioned in a 30cm equilateral triangle lattice with the rows at 85cm, 110cm, 135cm and 160cm from the end of the bed. This year I am growing Kestrel, in the past Charlotte and Estima have both worked well. I harvest these around 31st July for eating in August and September. The target yield is 40lbs from 20 tubers.
4. 8 rows of four maincrop tubers positioned at 200cm, 240cm, 280cm, 320cm, 360cm, 400cm, 440cm and 480cm from the end of the bed. I have settled on 4 rows of Desiree (which tolerate dry SE England summers well) and 4 rows of Sarpo Mira, which are blight resistant. The target yield is 100lb from 32 tubers.
5. 8 bags of exhibition potatoes planted elsewhere. This year I am just sowing Kestrel, in previous years I have also grown Casablanca. The target is for quality potatoes, not yield, but usually 16-20lb of tubers emerge from the bags.
I have tried growing maincrop potatoes in 35 litre pots, as achieved superbly by Dan of www.allotment-diary.co.uk fame, however I wonder if the temperature within pots in the SE sometimes gets too hot for optimal tuber production? Dan gardens at 1000ft above sea level in the Yorkshire Dales, so it may be that what works in a cooler area does not always transpose to a hotter one? I have achieved 9lb in one pot in the past, so it is certainly possible down here. Daily watering is often necessary for success….
This year, I will plant all my potatoes, except those in pots and those for exhibition, on 9th April. This is two days before full moon, a root day (ideal for potatoes) and a descending moon. Everything a planting day is supposed to be.
Let us see whether such a perfect planting date will yield the 160lb of potatoes I am hoping for….
Exhibition potatoes will be planted on 29th April or May 6th, depending on how long I dare keep the seed potatoes in the shed.