Potato Problems: Saving a crop

Damp conditions has created problems for potato growers across the UK and we have not been spared at Pig Row. We haven't had potato blight but we have had potato blackleg, which has killed the top growth on our potatoes turning the foliage crispy. There's nothing that can be done to stop blackleg and it was a case of getting the spuds up out of the ground and eaten. They won't store well but they will still be good for eating.

potato blackleg


We have tried maincrop King Edwards this year, a favourite heritage potato with mixed reviews. We planted two varieties back in April and we knew that King Edwards did have poor reviews and that they are known for small crops. Even though these potatoes have come out of the ground four weeks early, the yield per plant is rather disappointing. They have not been short of water both in the form of rain and from the watering can but the potatoes per plant ranged from around four to ten. Most of them have been rather small, new potato size. I did note that a pan of clay had formed in some part beneath them and this may have led to a smaller yield.


king edwards

Normally, spuds dug up will be left to dry out in the sun and wind but the sun vanished mid afternoon on Pig Row, the wind rose and the rain came in. Rather than leave them out to rot, there was a mad dash to get them in. There was the promise of hot tea, a hot bath and cake if the crop was in the kitchen before the worst of the rains came.

digging up potatoes

I got them all in by using a large Victorian wooden trug we have but it just shows you how poorly King Edwards do crop. This may be just down to the fact they do not respond well to growing at a higher altitude or that as a heritage variety they do not have the stamina to go the whole distance as a maincrop potato for gardeners who are organic. I never spray my spuds other than with Bordeaux Mix but it may be a case in the future that I will use organic potato feed to get higher yields. However, in relation to the Shetland Blacks, another heritage potato that we grew last year, I have dug up less potatoes with more wire worm damage.

victorian trug, victorian gardening tools

However, being out in the rain meant I could also bring down some raspberries too. So, all was not lost and the first of raspberries have already been eaten by Little D in a milkshake.

raspberries

Once we got the potatoes under cover, we spread them out to dry on newspaper in the kitchen. When they are dry in 24 hours we will bag them up in a hessian sack and start eating them. 

drying out potatoes

Now, it's time for a bath, tea and cake.