Tag Archives: Potatoes

Potato prep

I mentioned in my last post that the potato bags had been moved under cover 10 days ago to allow them to dry out and the skins to harden. With so much to do this weekend I wanted to get them emptied and sorted today to see whether I had any sets or not.

I’ve entered two classes in the NVS side of the New Forest Show – white and coloured potatoes, five of each – and I’ve also entered the open side which is four of any variety. There is also a South of England Potato Championship but I don’t grow enough potatoes or enough varieties to attempt this section.

spud set up

The first thing to do was to empty the bags one by one. At this stage I’m keeping any between approx 5 and 8 ounces separate burying them in peat to keep them in the dark and fresh. Any under or over this size go into the eating box to be transferred to hessian sacks and the seed potato / plant material goes into the green recycling bin. Finally the used compost is bagged up for next year.

kestrel

Once all the bags are emptied the potatoes are lined up according to size and as I don’t grow many it’s relatively easy to put a set together. The group at the bottom is a possible open side of the show entry and the group above is the NVS entry. The Kestrel were a bit under sized in general whereas the Winston had been left too long – some of them were massive, with one weighing in at over a pound – good for jacket spuds but no good for show. That said I also managed to get a set for the NVS and a possible set for the open from the Winston as well.

winston

Arranging the Winston.

spuds in peat

Then the sets are marked up in boxes of fresh peat until Monday when they will be cleaned and wrapped in dry kitchen towel ahead of staging on Monday evening.

Potatoes aren’t really my speciality and with 20 bags grown in total it’s not many to select from but you never know we’ll see what happens on the day.

One week to go

The New Forest Show is just a week away now and I have a few potential entries coming along nicely.

carrots July 2015 (3)

My favourite show veg are the long carrots and parsnips which look good at the moment. Of course you never know what the quality is like below the surface until they are pulled but judging by the top growth they should be good enough to enter.

beans July 2015 (2)

The dwarf French beans are going crazy at the moment with loads for the kitchen and the best ones starting to be cut and saved for the show. I have 25 plants in a 6′ square area and any excess beans will go in the freezer for the Autumn.

peas July 2015 (1)

This year is the first time I’ve grown peas for show and have a lovely crop at the moment. The bottom ones will start to go over now but I will have plenty to select from on the day.

There’s two sides to the vegetable competition at the New Forest Show – the “Open” side which anyone can enter and the National Vegetable Society member’s side which is the NVS Southern Branch Championship. Classes are slightly different on each side. For example the Open side does not have long root classes but does have cherry tomatoes which the NVS side does not.

I’m entering potatoes, stump carrots, beetroot and cherry tomatoes on the Open side and long carrots, parnsips, white potatoes, coloured potatoes, peas, french beans and beetroot on the NVS side.

So this weekend will be a busy one. The potato haulms were cut back a week ago and the bags moved under cover. I wanted to leave them as long as possible to allow them to grow but also needed to give them enough time to dry out and the skins to harden. This allows cleaning without the skins breaking the day before the show. If they are lifted and then cleaned straight away the skins will break. This is the one thing that can give the edge at Village Show level as most entries will not be cleaned to the same extent as the bigger shows.

On Saturday I’ll take a look and see what the potatoes are like, hopefully I will be able to group them into sets and have the three entries I need. On Sunday I will pull and clean the roots and beetroot – keeping them wrapped in wet cloth (or dry cloth for the parsnips) right up to putting them on the show bench. This leaves the potatoes to be cleaned on Monday morning and wrapped in dry cloth with the cherry tomotoes and peas to be picked last thing. Hopefully by then I will have enough French beans cut to choose a set from.

Then on Monday evening its off down to the show to stage which takes place between 6pm and 8am on Tuesday with people travelling a fair distance to enter. Then it’s judging time with the anticipation of a possible card come lunchtime on Tuesday. We’ll see……….there’s a lot of work to do before then!!

Half way point

June is the half way point of my growing season between sowing the long parsnips & carrots back in February to harvesting the last of the chillies & peppers from the greenhouse in October.

Unlike last year it’s not been a great spring, relatively cool until recently and with high pressure currently there’s still chilly nights to contend with. This has meant the veg for the New Forest Show at the end of July is behind, particularly the long roots – disappointing as I had great carrots this time last year but was on holiday at the time of the show. Ah well you can’t predict the weather, and that’s one of the pleasures of growing your own you never know from one year to the next which keeps it interesting. Still there’s plenty on the plot that is growing well and loads of jobs to keep up with.

celery

I’m currently putting collars round my celery (Morning Star). This is thin corrugated cardboard 15 inches high which will make the celery draw up and also blanch the sticks. Not that popular these days but I do eat quite a bit during the summer and any left over will be chopped up and frozen to use in the base for stocks and stews over the winter.

broad beans

The broad beans (Longfellow) are doing well, I now need to wipe off the blackfly and pinch out the tops to encourage the pods to form. Next to them you can just see the dwarf french beans (Hawkesbury Wonder) which hit a set back after planting out affected by the cold nights they dropped some leaves but are starting to come back now. One of our favourite veg and great for freezing also. As it grows I’ll support with split canes and string to keep the pods off the ground.

potatoes

The potatoes are finally starting to get going. Next job here is to put up some canes and heavy duty string to keep the haulms upright. Lots of water and feed over the next few weeks.

calabrese

Another favourite of ours is calabrese and the plants are full size now with the heads between golf and cricket ball size. When they’re the right size the main head is cut encouraging side shoots to form. Then it’s just a matter of keeping up with the cutting not allowing any of the heads to flower as this gives them a bitter taste.

carrots etc

I also need to thin the parnsips (Panarama) and carrots (Sweet Candle) and then cover them to protect against carrot fly. Environmesh will do the job and I also spray with Garlic Wonder to put them off the scent. Behind the carrots is two types of beetroot, Pablo and Choggia with Savoy Cabbage at the back.

carrots

The long carrots look healthy but not as far along as I would like. The foliage is supported by onion clips and split canes. Watering from the top only at this stage, as they grow I will put a pipe into the middle of the sand box and then start watering through this. Other tasks is making sure none of the tops are exposed to sunlight and checking for sideshoots which need to removed.

parnsips

The parsnips are looking good as well but behind schedule like the carrots.

lettuce

Alongside the greenhouse I have a narrow bed with lettuce and mizuno growing. I grow various lettuce dotted around the plot wherever there is a gap. Here it’s Lollo Rosso, elsewhere is Salad Bowl and Little Gem.

tomatoes

Inside the greenhouse the biggest tomatoes are four foot tall. I’m growing Alicante and Gardener’s Delight this year. There’s also a couple of all-female cucumbers at the end of the bed.

apache

Regular readers will know chillies are a favourite of mine. This variety is Apache.

chillies

I’m growing quote a few chillies and peppers this year. The chillies are Apache, Cayenne, Jalapeno, Hungarian Wax, Hot Thai & But Jolokia. Peppers are Californian Wonder and Corno di Torro Rosso. Hopefully we’ll have a nice, warm summer to get a good crop from all these plants. There’s also a couple of Aubergines (Money Maker) which hopefully will produce a few fruits.

Hope you’re all having a good season so far. The plot is now full up and I’m just sowing some lettuce now and then to keep a supply going. Other than that it’s just a matter of watering, feeding, weeding, supporting/training where necessary and harvesting. Looking forward to a great summer!

Frostbite

The temptation at this time of year, with the greenhouse stuffed full of plants, is to get everything out into their final positions.  A word of warning though, a late frost can strike, even down here in the balmy south it can come calling up to the end of May.  It’s forecast for tonight so I’m on frost protection duty later covering any susceptible plants with fleece and newspapers – thankfully it’s only my potatoes and dahlias that I need to worry about!

DSCN2878

My father kindly built this potting shed for me whilst we were away on holiday last year. It comes off the north facing end of the garage and was a piece of unused land up until that point. During April and May it’s my main workstation where plants are sown, pricked out and potted on. An invaluable space that gives some protection from the weather whilst allowing me to be outside with the greenhouse door only a few feet away.

DSCN2879

As you can imagine the greenhouse is pretty full now. I’ve started to put the tomatoes – Alicante and Gardener’s Delight this year – into their final positions. There’ll be a couple of cucumbers at the end of the bed eventually. The tender crops – celery, beans, courgettes, pumpkins, squash – are all waiting to go out. There’s also some bedding plants to sort out as well. In a couple of weeks I’ll be left with the chillies, peppers and aubergines in pots on the staging with the tomatoes and cucumbers in the raised bed on the other side of the greenhouse. It’s amazing what you can fit into an 8′ by 6′ space.

DSCN2881

I have a few Savoy Cabbage that are starting to take off. Cabbage is a much maligned veg but I love them and will always eat plenty of cabbage and caulies through the year.

DSCN2882

You’ll remember I sowed parsnips and carrots in February. They’re starting to come on now and I’m hopeful they’ll be ready for the New Forest Show at the end of July.

DSCN2883

The parsnips are getting strong now.

DSCN2885

And finally my favourite veg for next month is broccoli and I’m looking forward to a good crop from this little lot. I plant quite close (9 inches) due to space limitations but I’ve found I still get a great crop. Cut the main head first then harvest the side shoots. Keep cutting before any of the heads flower to prevent a bitter taste developing. Can be frozen if you have too much!

That’s all for now, hope your growing season is going well with the promise of some fantastic harvests this summer.

Belated Easter update

We had some great weather during Easter week and I’ve been far to busy out in the garden to update the Two Chances blog so here’s a belated post and a quick catch up on how things are going.

Let’s start with where the season began with the prep for the long parsnips and carrots due to be entered in the New Forest Show at the end of July. How are they doing? Well they’ve germinated and are growing nicely (the pictures below are from 2/3 weeks ago).

DSCN2874

DSCN2875

I protect them with small plastic cups with the ends cut off as the nights can still be quite cold. They now have two to three true leaves on each plant and should really start to grow quickly now with the warmer and longer days over the next few weeks. There’s 16 of each, the parsnips are a variety called Panorama from Medwyn Williams and the carrots are New Red Intermediate re-selected by Bob Brown, previous National Champion and the same seed I did well with last year. Fingers crossed they will come good in time.

DSCN2877

I’ve also been busy sowing through March. The calabrese have now been planted out as they are between 6-9 inches tall. I have 14 plants and I’ve put them in the bed in a block spaced around 9-12 inches apart. These should crop through June and July. First remove the central head when it’s fully developed and this will encourage side shoots to sprout, keep cutting making sure none flower (as this will make the heads taste bitter) and you’ll have a good harvest of broccoli over a few weeks which will be finished before the cabbage whites get going. Also broccoli tends to bolt in hot weather so I grow in late spring / early summer and then sow an Autumn cropping variety.

To go with the calabrese will be some Savoy cabbage which are in the greenhouse along with the tomatoes (Fawoyrt & Alicante), chillies (apache), aubergines (moneymaker) and peppers (Californian Wonder). The tomatoes will be planted into the greenhouse bed in the next couple of weeks. Also sown in greenhouse are half a dozen types of lettuce at various stages, broad beans (Longfellow), runner beans (stenner), beetroot (Pablo & Choggia), sweetcorn (Earlibird) courgette (Venus), squash (butternut, autumn crown, winter dumpling) and pumpkin (rouge vif d’etamps). Next will be the French Beans (Hawkesbury Wonder). I also have some celery plants (Morning Star) from Darren growing on.

Out on the plot I’ve sown parsnips and carrots (sweet candle) direct. I also have onion sets (red baron and centurion) and some toughball plants again some spares from Darren. These are in alongside the potatoes. I have ten 17L polypots each of Kestrel & Winston and various containers with Charlotte, my favourite salad spud.

So it’s been a busy few weeks and the next month is the key time when the beds will fill up and the greenhouse will really start to take off. Lets hope the recent good weather continues and we have a great growing season!!

Potato Prep

If you haven’t already now’s the time to buy your seed potatoes and set them out to chit. I ordered mine from JBA Potatoes – you should always buy them from a reputable seed potato merchant.

DSCN2601

I’m growing 3 varieties this year – Winston a first early and Kestrel & Charlotte which are second earlies. This should mean they’re lifted before any chance of blight later in the summer. The Winston and Kestrel are dual-purpose – I’ll be entering them in the New Forest Show at the end of July all being well to cover the white and coloured potato categories and they’re both tried and tested good eaters that we enjoy. Some people don’t like Winston in particular but I think they’re fine. For a white potato they are the only one to consider for the show bench. With coloured potatoes there are a few good showing varieties – Kestrel, Bonnie, Blue Belle and Amour for example all of which are good eaters. Finally Charlotte are my favourite potato, the best salad spud in my opinion.

DSCN2602

The seed potatoes go into cold water mixed with Milton baby sterilising fluid. The idea here is to protect the new crop against any surface diseases that may be on the seed potato. I leave them in for 48 hours before drying off and setting them out to chit.

DSCN2604

Find an area with plenty of natural light that is free from frost. I use our conservatory which is cold in winter but always above freezing and there’s loads of windowsill space which fills up quickly in Spring. Set them out in egg boxes or seed trays so the bottom-end (the part that was attached to the old plant) is facing downwards – the potato will sprout from the top-end. By chitting before planting you’re getting a head start under protected conditions. I will plant out in mid-March.

Potatoes in

The recent warmer, dry weather has come at just the right time and has made the annual potato planting a very pleasant task.

001

I grow all of my potatoes in bags or containers now for a number of reasons. Mainly as it’s cleaner for showing certain varieties, doesn’t take any room up in the beds and I can fill in with the bags wherever I can, and lastly it saves my back when it comes to harvesting! The bags are 17 litre polypots from LBS garden warehouse with a couple of extra holes cut into the bottom of each one. This will allow the roots to grow out of the bag into the soil.

002

The bags are then filled with the compost mix and potato fertiliser and watered so the whole bag is damp but not wet through. The chitted seed potato is then plunged to almost the bottom of the bag and covered over. I’ll top up to completely fill the bags once they’ve come through.

003

The bags are then placed with a couple of inches between them on top of the soil – I usually scrape a shallow trench for them to sit in with a sprinkling of organic slug pellets and blood, fish and bone underneath each bag.

The varieties I’m growing this year are Winston & Sherine for the white potato classes, Kestrel, Amour & Bonnie for the coloured potato classes. I also have Pentland Javelin and Charlotte to go in – I’ll use potato planters and various old compost bags for these. There’ll be around 50 bags by the time I’m finished.

Once the haulms are up I’ll support them and then it’s just about the watering and feeding until the tubers mature. Once they’re ready I’ll cut off the haulms and move the bags under cover and leave for a couple of weeks to let the skins harden. Then they can be removed and checked over for showing keeping them in moist compost until the Show comes round. We eat all the potatoes even Winston which I quite like but many people say is not a great eating spud although it tends to win everytime in the white potato class.