March 2017 VII: My 2017 potato plan….

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 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.


Author: Rhys

Rhys trained as a research biologist, working for a decade in the cancer research charity sector, before completing an MBA and working in management consultancy, technology transfer and early technology investment spaces, mostly working with UK academics to turn their scientific discoveries into value for society. AS a younger man, he was fascinated with mountains, both climbing them and ski-ing down them. Whilst living in Scotland, he completed a round of (then) all 277 Munros, the independent mountains over 3000ft originally complied as a list by Munro. He also spent his holidays representing the Ski Club of GB, as a Representative and Party Leader between 1990 and 1997. During that time, he found to his bemusement that he was able to predict, without understanding fully why, to a remarkable degree of accuracy, when good snow conditions would occur in the Alps, gaining an unworthy reputation for predictive genius in 1990 when predicting the evolution of the 1989/90 winter in Wengen, Switzerland for his CEO boss. He used this skill for the next seven years to ensure that he enjoyed powder snow pretty much every time he went ski-ing. An MD student he was training in Oxford also impressed his wife by taking Rhys' advice about when to take her to Italy in the mid 1990s! In recent years, Rhys has turned his mind toward how to grow prize tomatoes, winning several prizes in local and London shows and has, in the past 3 years, moved toward taking over a 50 square metre urban vegetable patch, which he has turned into a no-dig area since autumn 2014.

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