The best-value vegetables to grow are those that taste so much better freshly picked than what you can buy in the shops. Potatoes are definitely on the list. And they are not only delicious, but they are also good for you too, packed full of gut-healthy resistant starch.
Potatoes are easy to grow. If you already know this, you will be harvesting your summer crop now and rejoicing in the flavor of fresh-picked spuds. If you haven’t grown potatoes before, now is the time to plan. Order now and plant in spring for delicious potatoes in late summer, and a second harvest next autumn and winter.
To avoid inherent disease only buy certified virus-free potatoes. You will find Mr Fothergill’s at your garden centre. Mail order from The Digger’s Club or Greenpatch Seeds. Don’t use greengrocer bought potato tubers as they will have a smaller harvest or may be infected – safe to eat but not to grow.
There are a few options for planting. To grow potatoes in the ground, work some compost into the soil, dig a trench about 20cm deep, place seed spuds in the bottom and backfill. Water deeply, then wait until shoots (called haulms) appear before watering again. You can also grow potatoes in a pot filled with quality potting mix. The third option is no-dig potatoes. To do it, place seed spuds on the soil surface or a 20cm bed of compost, and cover with straw. When haulms appear, add another layer of straw and repeat the process until you’re ready to harvest.
Baby tubers can be dug from the soil at any time. Full-sized spuds are ready for harvest once the plants have finished flowering and begin to die back. Dig them out carefully with a fork. Set them in the sun for a day to dry the skins, then inspect for damage. Any with broken skins should go to the kitchen for quick use, while the others can be stored in a cool, dark, dry place for use over winter. They’ll stay in good condition for months.
A potential issue with summer-grown potatoes, especially in areas with wet summer, is fungal disease. Keep late blight and other diseases at bay by ensuring your soil drains well and has a thriving population of microbes and earthworms. Watch for the 28-spotted lady beetle, which strips leaves back to the veins. Pick and squash, if sighted.
‘Desiree’: high-yielding variety with soft pink skin and creamy flesh. Great for everything but chips. 130 days to maturity.
‘Nicola’: rich, sweet, yellow flesh ideal for mashing and baking. Matures in 120 days.
‘Ruby Lou’: High-yield, cream white-fleshed potato, ideal for roasting and chips.
‘Dutch Cream’: good for boiling, mashing and roasting.
‘Pontiac’: popular, good all-rounder. ‘Kipfler’: waxy, cigar shaped, perfect for potato sala