The Cottage Smallholder

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The long awaited Digging up Danny’s Potatoes Day

Photo: Potato portrait

Photo: Potato portrait

Within a month it was clear who was going to win the Grand Potato Challenge.

The challenge wasn’t really a fair test – in the end as we realised that the earth in John’s border was far inferior to the friable soil in Danny’s newly dug potato domain.

In fact by doubling the size of our kitchen garden this year we were forced to see how poor the soil is in the original borders. The runner beans have flourished but only because they were planted over a deep trench of semi rotted fruit and vegetables and the water butt watering system favours them.

After John retired we harvested his potatoes. Small, hard, scabby spuds. I was so pleased that he wasn’t there. Danny made a small foray into his luxuriant potato border. He dug up two heads and was disappointed with the results.
“There are not many spuds per head. I expected much more than this.”
He did have some reasonable sized potatoes but had expected 10 per plant.
“I’m going to leave them in the ground for another six weeks or so.”

Last week the tops yellowed and gradually keeled over. He couldn’t hang on any longer. It was time to dig them up.

He lifted the earth gingerly, loathe to spear a precious spud. Three plants yielded 27 potatoes ranging from dolls sized to several whoppers for baking.

He weighed them carefully. They averaged 700g per plant. So with 50 plants, 35 kilos of spuds are a good return on our investment of £3.99 for the Maris Piper seed potatoes. Ok we spend a few quid on sulphate of potash and a bit on water when our 1500 litre butts ran dry but we are delighted with the harvest. We have saved some money and have delicious home grown organic potatoes to put into the new hessian sacks and store in the shed.

To celebrate we scrubbed some clean and made herby melt in the mouth, crispy topped Boulanger potatoes this evening. Perfect.

“Where will my potato border be next year?” Danny ventured as he helped himself to more.
“In the new kitchen garden, of course.”
He looked so relieved.

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  1. Allotment blogger

    Congratulations to Danny!

    Our maincrops were disappointing this year – we grew Desiree but in soil we’d had little chance to work on. Our earlies went into a better patch: well dug and manured, and were four times as productive. Next year we’re growing Cara and putting in some organic chicken pellets now to feed the soil.

  2. Fiona Nevile

    Hi George

    What a shame.

    We did coddle D’s spuds. Dug a lot of good well rotted organic stuff from the composter into the soil and avoided any feed including nitrogen (spuds hate nitrogen apparently). We also watered them regularly with our drip water butt system.

    Hi Sebbie

    How disappointing. John’s spuds were like that. But the soil in his bed was not nearly as good as the soil in D’s bed and I reckon that makes all the difference.

    I dug some of D’s spuds up and even though I was gentle I managed to spike quite a few with the fork 🙁 We also had a bit of wire worm damage – yuk.

  3. I dug up our potatoes on Sunday and was wondering about yours so this was a timely post. Ours were mainly disappointing, small and lots of slug damage. (And typically I put the fork through the ones that weren’t). They have however done the job of breaking up the soil.

    We were also lucky enough to be given some of our neighbours which were quite the biggest potatoes I’ve ever seen 🙂

  4. They look splendid. I don’t know what went wrong with my spuds this year, I didn’t get a single one 🙁

  5. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Joanna

    Bad luck with your potatoes.

    Next year we have decided to overhaul our large (28′) pond and drain the detritus down to the old kitchen garden to spread on the beds. I discovered that chicken pellets were a good addition to the soil. Yrs we will be spreading most of our compost and chicken poo on these four beds too!

    Hi Veronica

    We’re delighted. Next year we’re going to experiment more with new potatoes as well as main crop.

    Hi Chris

    They were yummy 🙂

    Hi Leslie

    Yes, gradually we are learning what to do.

    Hi S.o.L

    What a shame about your veggies. You get some years like that. I hate blight and have been battling with it on the greenhouse toms for weeks now.

    We are going to get grapes too this year!

  6. wow well done. Mine have been awful. But then my whole veg state this year has been horrendous. The worst year I have ever had.

    Blight on the blight. I am just hoping for a bumper crop of grapes. That might make up for it!

    Carrots and I are not friends either. yet any ttype of legume, I can grow like crazy. Go figure!

  7. Lovely! And with your well aged hen manure added in the spring, Danny’s spuds will be even more fruitful.

  8. Yum! And that smell of fresh earth as you dig them up…

  9. They look splendid! And what a bargain 🙂

  10. We have only got half of our potatoes in so far, the rain is stopping us. So far ours are a bit small but maybe higher up the garden they’ll be better. Should have taken the cue from our neighbours and dug them up earlier. Oh well! Live and learn!

    So what are your plans for next year with your soil? Plenty of compost from your lovely hens?

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