The Potato Diaries #1 2021

7th February

I find myself in the enviable position of still eating 2020’s Pink Fir Apple potatoes (2 bags left) while simultaneously trying to chit and plan for 2021. I ordered 1.5 kg each of Anya (second earlies) and Red Duke of York (first earlies) potatoes on 6th January and they arrived on 4th February. After a few days of quarantine, I got round to unpacking them.

I didn’t quite realise how many potatoes would make up 1.5 kg: I only have room for eight of each in the allotment bed, but I can manage a few pots at home too, along with some more Pink Fir Apples (I’ve saved some of the smaller potatoes to use as seed potatoes. I haven’t bought any first or second earlies this year, so will use those grown in pots as new potatoes, and dig the others as required later in the year.

23 February 2021

Pink Fir Apple potatoes – too much of a good thing perhaps? I’ve decided they are better steamed as, if boiled, they tend to turn to mush. However, they do very well in the slow cooker but take a long time to soften. I’ve also braised them in chicken stock with a selection of other root vegetables.

13th March

I haven’t yet started chitting my potatoes – still a little early for my liking, and we’ve had strong chilly winds and lowish night-time temperatures since the start of this month. BUT, I have peeked into the box (to check for any rot or mould) and there are tiny buds just starting to sprout, so I’ll have to get organised.

There were also more in the box than I remembered! I am planting sixteen in total in the allotment bed (square foot gardening, 1 potato per square), just eight of each variety, so some of the others will have to go into large pots at home; which leaves some to give away.

15th March

I decided I’d better organise the seed potatoes today. As potatoes generally all look the same, I’ve gone with my usual method of labelling – RDY = Red Duke or York, A = Anya.

Calculating on 8 of each for the allotment, I added an additional 5 each, to allow for any rotting and to plant some in tubs at home for ease of access. When I ordered them, I thought I’d ordered maincrop potatoes, but when I looked at the invoice today, they are first and second earlies.

I was left with 11 potatoes of each variety which I have no room for. My brother didn’t want them so I offered them – first – to my fellow allotmenteers, but no takers; then on my village Facebook group and all of them were collected within 2 hours.

The Pink Fir Apples are still going strong – these were for our evening meal a few days ago (the largest is the length of my hand) so a good haul.

I’m keeping some for seed potatoes for this year – no more than 6 (which I’ll grow in bags so I can overwinter them again).

Now it’s a waiting game. We are in Zone 4 which means not chitting potatoes until the first week of March at the earliest, so I’ve exposed mine to daylight at the perfect time – and well before the shoots grow too long and turn white.

POTATO GROWING CALENDAR FOR THE Wrexham AREA*

Start chitting /sprouting your potatoes in the first week of March

Plant out your sprouted potatoes in the second week of April

Fortnightly nitrogen feed (e.g. Growmore) from the fourth week of May to the second week of July

Fortnightly potash feed (e.g. tomato fertiliser) from the fourth week of June to mid August

Earth up your potatoes when the foliage is about 10cm / 4in above ground

Water as needed if the weather is very dry.

When I grew my first potatoes in 2018, I knew there were different varieties, ‘first earlies’, ‘second earlies’ etc meant nothing to me. I thought they had to be planted at different times, but NO, nothing so simple – we plant them all at the same time.

EARLY AND MAINCROP POTATOES*

Early (new) varieties of potato can be harvested earlier compared to maincrop potato varieties. There are three key types of potatoes, first early, second early and maincrop. 

First early seed potatoes take around 80 days after planting to mature and should be ready to start harvesting in late June in the Wrexham area. The Swift variety is the quickest of all to mature taking 70 days or slightly less.

Second earlies take around 100 days after planting to mature and will be harvestable around mid to late July.

Maincrops mature latest, taking around 130 days to mature in mid to late August.

The harvesting period from start to end is about six weeks and the start harvest date will vary according to weather conditions.

*Information courtesy of GardenFocused website which has plenty of information of a variety of subjects as well as the opportunity to pose questions of your own. It might not be as up to date with some newer varieties, but is still useful. There is also the option to enter your own post code to get the correct planting and growing times for your own area – including Ireland.

They also offer an independent assessment of most fruit and veg:

Red Duke of York first early potato

Anya second early potato

Pink Fir Apple potato – maincrop

9 thoughts on “The Potato Diaries #1 2021

    1. British Queens are the most loved of potatoes here in Ireland – the real taste of early summer: new potatoes and fried mackerel – couldn’t beat that!

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