This year I have potatoes of 10 different varieties, aiming to be able to harvest over an extended period. I have 4 different First Early varieties, 4 Second Earlies, and 2 Maincrops. Not many of each of course - a maximum of four - but mostly just two pots of each (one seed tuber per pot).
As you know, I grow my potatoes in containers, for want of space elsewhere. Today I am going to write about harvesting them.
First, how do you tell when they are ready to harvest? Well the stock answer is "When the flowers fade", which is all well and good if the plants produce flowers. They don't always do so. Some varieties have very ornamental flowers, but others have flowers that are quite insignificant, like these:
Indeed, some varieties produce flowers one year and not another. Very strange! The other way to tell that potatoes are ready is to wait till the foliage (known as "haulm") begins to die down - like this:
|The ones on the right are ready - yellow, sagging foliage|
Here's my procedure for harvesting... First, lay out a big ex-Army groundsheet and have ready something to put the potatoes in, as well as something to put the discarded foliage in.
Then simply up-end the potato container onto the groundsheet, revealing the long-awaited "golden jewels"...
I pick out the potatoes and put them into a seed-tray or similar receptacle, and once I'm sure I have got them all, return the compost to its container, ready for re-use somewhere else.
This particular batch is the product of two pots of First Early "Leontine". Not a particularly impressive quantity (520g and about two thirds of the tubers came from one plant; the other was much less good), but the quality is excellent.
This year my potatoes seem to be almost perfect in skin texture - hardly any blemishes at all, and no scab. I attribute this to the good quality compost I used, which is composed entirely of composted stable manure, hence with lots of "organic matter". Dry compost with little organic matter often produces very scabby potatoes. It's definitely worth using a decent growing medium.
So here we are with the same batch of potatoes washed and ready for use in the kitchen:
Don't they look appealing?