The great potato debate

29 Aug

On 9th May (I know because I checked back here in my handy garden diary!!) I planted out the main crop potatoes. It was the day before Hector the puppy was born (not that I knew that then of course) and that makes it 16 weeks tomorrow.  The weather hasn’t been great in July and August, far too much rain, and I’ve been worrying for a couple of weeks in a non-specific way whether I’ll get hit by blight (which hasn’t happened in 10 years but it was such a depressing experience that I swore off planting potatoes for about 5 years after it) My  worrying didn’t actually extend to my CHECKING the plants of course. That’s the lesson I should learn maybe.

Well, yesterday I decided that I really had to take some action. Went to look at the plants

 which don’t look too bad from here of course, but get closer and the leaves were all brown and blotchy and the stems getting sort of squishy. (Forgot to take a picture of that stage of course) so I decided I’d best take the haulms off (after copious internet research – no book I has gives you the kind of detail you need – they all seem to make out like you just grow the things and then harvest, job done, they don’t deal with what happens if something goes wrong!)   So, still not totally convinced it’s blight, but hoping against hope it just meant that the potatoes were ready (16 weeks to the day, seems a little bit unlikely… I like to keep them in for 20 weeks)  I got hacking.

Result. Then a fair amount of time spent removing the debris, especially all those highly toxic little apple type things which would just be heaven(literally) for a puppy who likes to eat ANYTHING including concrete.. but favouring rosehips and raspberries at the moment.

I dug up a couple of test plants with this result. THE GOOD THE BAD AND THE UGLY

 Let’s focus on the bad and ugly….

 Admittedly the worst of these is the one the spade (inevitably) went through.  Is this blight? If I leave the rest in the ground for a fortnight will they all go squishy? Should I lift them NOW or leave a week or am I alright to leave for a fortnight….. should I contact Beechgrove Potting Shed?  Should I just stop worrying about potatoes.

 After all, these ugly ones were okay under the surface, we ate them as chips with some steak last night and very good they were too.  I want to be able to store them for as long as possible so I don’t want to dig them up too early, but I don’t want to leave them to rot in the ground if they are okay now but won’t be in a couple of weeks time. WHY DIDN”T THEY TEACH US ABOUT THIS IN SCHOOL. And why do we have 2 weeks off in October of Tatty howking when I’m going to have to howk mine a month earlier??????   I am very glad that after achieving a degree in moral philosophy in the 80’s I’ve managed to raise myself to the spiritual level where the greatest questions left to answer are those about potato harvesting! That’s something at least.

But any help gratefully received on this topic.

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