We can smell it in the soil as we pull away the tyres. That smell of rotten potatoes. That blight which hit us in late July had taken hold by early August. The chance of harvesting maincrop in late September or early October dwindling with every soggy, stench hand full of soil, too many potatoes turned to mush to count, too many memories of how ancestors left for the new world because of it. For some reason we think of those Irish ancestors at each turn of the soil, we wonder how desperate they were riddling the earth to find just one potato they could feed to their families. It makes us want to weep. We have had two great years of spuds on Pig Row, last year confirmed what we knew from the year prior to that, that spuds in open ground for us always succumbed to blackleg or blight but in tyres they grew well, fed us right up to January of the following year. They stored well too. We have never shied from showing you the truth in our growing, sometimes things work and sometimes we're crying. It's been an awful growing year for open ground crops, the sad fact is that nothing much has got going, anything that requires heat and warmth has struggled. We doubt we'll get a bean crop, the marrows haven't set and the pumpkins have only just flowered and they all went in the soil at the right time. It is a story that has been repeated for many gardeners North of Birmingham, a summer that never was.
Looking at our #harvest16 or spuds, the four litre plant pot we picked up (knowing that whatever was there wasn't going to be much) isn't even quarter full. This isn't one stack of tyres, we could live with that, call them new potatoes and boil them. This is two stacks at 4 feet high (121cm), that's 4 seed potatoes, earthed up and fed, sprayed to keep blight at bay. They have been loved like no spud has been loved before. To give you an idea how bad the crop is, this is what it looks like when spread out drying on the kitchen floor.
We can't even store them. What is left, what can be eaten, after we scrape the soupy mess of rotten potatoes off our hands, has to be eaten soon or else they are in danger of turning to mush. We want to weep, a crop that we thought we'd got on top of is reduced to a pitiful harvest dug up eight weeks before they should be. We may have to look at blight resistant varieties for next year and see if they do work. Which is rather sad, because we love the taste of Isle of Jura, as we did Shetland Black and Red Duke of York and Rudolph but we can't have this happen again. Out of the six years on this hillside we have had two seasons of great spuds and three of utter desperation.