A big day in my gardening year with the arrival of the seed potatoes. I’ve really gone for it this year, looking for variety and self sufficiency.
Normally I get the bulk of my seed potatoes from the garden centre and only get hard to find varieties from mail order suppliers. With the virus situation things are different this year and I’ve had everything delivered. OK, a few pounds more but no petrol cost helps to offset that. Basically, why take a risk with the virus when you don’t have too?
I ordered from Potato House who have a good range including many organic varieties. They also supply the Sarpo blight resistant range and blight is a big problem here. I don’t quite understand why blight is so prevalent with us . We’re distant from other growers and get a lot of wind but the blight spores still find us. Usually we’re OK with the early crops but have to watch it with the main crops. If it wasn’t for the Sarpo types, I’m not sure if I’d grow main crops at all.
Having unpacked and laid out the tubers, I’m very pleased with the quality overall although a few tubers are a bit larger than ideal. I can always cut those to make two or even three if they sprout well. As I always do I’m chitting them in the potting shed which I keep frost free. It’s light but doesn’t get too much direct sun at this time of year – ideal.
My Potato Growing Choices for 2021
The first variety is my favourite, Arran Pilot. It was introduced in 1930 and swiftly became a popular variety with commercial growers as well as gardeners. It produces a range of sizes of tubers, which is not a problem for home growers but is for the modern commercial market.
I’ll plant up some a raised bed in the polytunnel soon, unless we have extremely cold weather. That should mean we’re eating fresh potatoes before the end of April, with a little luck. The rest will be planted in the new potato bed in the field garden. I’m hoping for a good result as it was taken out of pasture over a year ago which should avoid wireworm problems and it has had a lot of manure.
This is a modern early main crop said to have good blight resistance. It’s a waxy all-rounder and supposed to have a really good flavour. New to me, but well spoken of. Not one of the Sarpo blight resistant family but worth a go if its blight resistance is good enough.
British Queen is a real heritage variety (1894) of second early that has stood the test of time thanks to its flavour. It’s a bit rare now in the UK but still popular in Ireland. Since our conditions here in the wet Welsh west are quite similar to Ireland, I thought it might do well for me.
Last year I had a fantastic crop of Charlotte. A good yield of waxy salad potatoes that stored well. It’s a second early so beats the blight, with a little luck.
Duke of York
Since they’ll be planted in the new plot up the hill, Duke of York seems a very appropriate choice. Not heavily yielding, but since this first early has kept on the books for 130 years it must have something special going for it.
Red Duke of York
According to Mr Romans in his go-to reference, The Potato Book, these appeared in a crop of Duke of York in wartime Holland. He describes them as being more vigorous, better yielding and having larger tubers than white Duke of York.
Another first early from the late 1800s, that was bred for Suttons. This is a high-yielding, floury first early. It’s the traditional Ayrshire early and still popular north of the border. Since Ayrshire is on the western side of Scotland and has a similar climate to us, it should do well.
This second early is a very new introduction bred by Skea Organics who are the company behind Potato House. They say “Pink skin and white flesh, high yielding with good taste, it holds its shape very well, great for boiling, mashing and roasting.” Got to be worth a try and if it performs as advertised in our situation, I’ll be well pleased.
I’m a big fan of Sarpo potatoes and usually grow Sarpo Mira but the last couple of years I’ve had problems with Hollow Heart in them. I think this is down to our variable weather, when it’s wet it’s very very wet. The Mira reacts to the sudden increase in available water by growing too quickly.
I spoke with Dr David Shaw from Sarpo who reckoned part of the problem is that Mira doesn’t naturally stop like most varieties so the tubers just get too big.
Anyway, this year I’m growing Sarpo Axona. It’s not quite the thug that Mira is but still very high yielding and very good disease resistance. Val prefers Axona to Mira and that’s the deciding factor.
- Arran Pilot
- Duke of York
- Red Duke of York
- British Queen
- Mary’s Rose
- Sarpo Axona