This week, I’m happy to report that my potatoes have all been planted.
You can get three types of potato: first earlies, second earlies and maincrops – which is also the order that they’re ready to come out of the ground. First and seconds are normally new potatoes, and maincrops are the bigger varieties used for jackets and the like. I understand all that, but for some reason get absolutely bamboozled by the sheer number of different varieties when I see them for sale.
The first year, I happily whizzed round the garden centre, with not a clue what I was after, but reasoned that one from each type would do the job just nicely. Just one problem with this – by the time I had got them home, I hadn’t the faintest idea what type or varieties I had. Nonetheless, they all went in, and it was a tense summer of guessing which order they should be dug up. I’m not convinced we got it right, but we ended up with some potatoes, which was a bonus at least.
The following year I paid extra care, selecting them in separate bags. This didn’t work either, as the woman on the checkout mixed the bags up for me!
This time, I decided on just two varieties to hopefully cut down any confusion, and a month or so ago eagerly took delivery of some International Kidney for the first crop and some Cara for the main crop. It would seem that International Kidney are tasty little new potatoes, but if they are left in, produce large, floury all-purpose potatoes – ideal if you have history like mine. Cara was picked as it’s a good all-rounder and is resistant to drought and blight. Both seemed like no-nonsense spuds that wouldn’t need a whole lot of looking after.
Determined not to mix them up, I split the two varieties into opposite ends of a cardboard box, and left them in a cool, light place, (ie the conservatory) to chit. Chitting is where the spuds throw up a couple of purply green shoots, and by doing this, they apparently get off to the best possible start. I guarded the box with the eye of a hawk. No-one was allowed within an inch of it, and most certainly, those potatoes were not touched by human hands. There was no way on earth they were getting muddled up this year!
The shoots were soon visible, showing they were ready to go off into the big wide garden, so I took on the task of planting them out at the weekend. I’d prepared the bed a while back, so it was just a case of carefully getting them in the ground without knocking off the new shoots.
I’m trying a new idea too this year. I have three old car tyres that have been lurking around in the garden for a while. I’ve planted some potatoes in the bottom tyre and covered them over. The theory is, that each time the new growth appears, you add more soil and another tyre, until you’re left with three tyres stacked up, full of soil and hopefully, gazillions of potatoes. It’s worth a try, just to see how they fare.
I’m looking forward to the day where I can saunter off down the patch and dig up a few for a salad.
This article appeared in The Hinckley Times on 5 April 2012: