The Final Potato Diaries 2020: mid-August to October

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This is all the potatoes there were in the first green bag. A disappointing harvest but not perhaps unexpected as these were in the shady part of the patio and first to be hit by cold winds and wet weather. I didn’t weigh the first crop, but the second weighs just 160 grammes. But it’s enough to add to a stir-fry for tea.

I don’t know if they just didn’t grow or some had grown then rotted, though I can’t find evidence of that in the compost, just the two original seed potatoes. Desirée have been decent croppers in previous years.

I will harvest the other two green bags and those in the washing machine drum (with NO expectations there are all), before moving on to the three growing bags by the oil tank – the sunniest part of the patio, and hope for more luck.

18th August

Decided to see what was available – if anything – in the old washing machine drum and found these – weighing in at 470 grams.

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I picked the small white one from another green bag thinking they were also Desirée, but it appears that contains Swift instead.

23 August

I moved three bags of Desiree into the greenhouse to protect the potatoes from further wet/damp weather (and because it is no fun delving into a bag of cold and wet compost in search of something for tea).

I emptied the second green bag of Desiree and the final green bag of Swift.  The results were pathetic, very few Swift and what there was were small. The Desiree produced larger tubers, but again very few. All three green bags were on the shady part of the patio – battered by wind and rain – so they didn’t really have a chance. This was the total of both bags – neither of which had been touched previously.

When I emptied the bags out, the compost was very wet and sticky – more like clay. The potatoes harvested so far from the other bags – same varieties, same compost mix, but sunnier position on the patio – were more prolific.

The next day – after watching Beechgrove (a Scottish gardening programme), I cut off the haums (stems) from the Pink Fir Apple potatoes still on the patio step.

Apparently this aids drying and hardening the skins. These are one of the oldest potato varieties and will grow in any soil/compost. I planted mine in bags on 5th April and put them in the greenhouse; removing them a month later (on 4th May) before I topped up the compost.

They are supposed to take 22 weeks from planting to harvesting – which takes me to 6th September, but if I can get the bags undercover and keep them dry, I can extend the time required to harvest them. So, taking advantage of the first dry day in a week, we moved them into the greenhouse to begin drying them out.

30 August

I harvested the first of the Desiree potatoes grown in the brown bags, specifically the bag in the middle-left of the left-hand picture. I removed every single potato I could find and they weighed in at just over 1 kilo.

This is a disappointment. I don’t know if it’s because of the topsy-turvey weather, the bags, or problems with the seed potatoes. I have two more bags of Desiree, purchased, chitted and sown at the same time in the same compost.

I suppose we should remember that Desiree are maincrop potatoes, and while that shouldn’t stop anyone growing them in a growing bag, perhaps one potato per bag would have given the tubers more room to grow and expand. Circumstances, however, dictated that I had to plant two per bag as the allotment was out of bounds until well after planting time.

12 September

I have started harvesting Desiree from the second bag and was happy to find substantially more potatoes, and of a much larger size. The compost in the six remaining bags is drying out nicely so I’m not too worried that we’re not onto the Pink Fir Apples yet. Unless something nasty has got into the compost and they’ve been eaten, they should last for a while yet. Safer there than dug out; less chance of greening or sprouting.

This has been by far the best bag, with easily double the amount of any other bag harvested so far. One final bag of Desiree then it’s Pink Fir Apple time, though at this rate, we’ll still be eating them by Christmas.

And with a break in the rain on 7 October, we moved the potato bags into the Potting Shed for ease of access (and because it gets more sun).

I’ve started the last bag of Desiree. These are a good size and have kept well in the dried compost they were grown in. I’ve taken out just what I need for a couple of meals, and hopefully there are a few more to come.

16 October

Goodbye Desiree and hello Pink Fir Apple

1 November

We begin November with three bags of Pink Fir Apple still to be harvested. Hopefully they will last me until Christmas. With Autumn come the desire for baked jacket potatoes and creamy mash, and Pink Firs – while perfectly suitable for either way of cooking, are too small. So it’s back to boring white potatoes, saving the home-grown for special meals – steamed or boiled with butter.

If they last until Christmas Dinner, I’ll share a picture.

So, it’s time to wrap up this diary until next year. I’m not going to pre-order seed potatoes from a producer/distributor as it’s too early to say where we’ll be when I need to start chitting spuds.

If, as is looking more likely, we’ll be in a national lockdown, then I don’t want to have too many on hand if I can’t get to the allotment to plant them.

And I want to try different varieties too. Pink Fir Apple again. But Swift and Desriee weren’t prolific this year so I’ll be looking for alternatives. I’ll be checking out this site for the best varieties to try.

In the end, though, I might have to make do with what I can get.