New Potato Seed
18th Nov 1999
New Potato Seeds
Every two years or so, I buy in new potato seed just to make sure that the potatoes I grow remain virus free and true to type. As soon as the new varieties arrive, I dip them in a weak solution of Armillatox just to make sure that there are no bugs lurking around. After all, they have been grown in soil and small amounts of soil can still remain in the eyes, so it's just as well to be safe rather than sorry. Once they have dried, they are placed in some seed trays, rose end upwards( that's the end with the eyes from where the shoots will eventually sprout). They must then be kept in a frost free location and periodically checked over to make sure that they are still in good condition. If you intend keeping them in an outside shed do make sure that the mice can't get at them as they can soon devour a tray of potatoes.
Method used last year
Many of you have asked me how I fared with the method I used to grow them last year. The crop was probably the best ever but there were slight marks on some of them which reduced my selection for staging.
Kestrel was once again the best performer, producing beautiful shaped potatoes that were relatively easy to match. The second variety I grew was Winston and this also performed well and will be grown again next year. I only grew two varieties but next year I intend to add a few more new varieties with Maxine being one of them.
Last year, I grew them in open trenches which were roughly a spade deep and a spades width, nothing elaborate or special. However the bottom of the trench was forked over adding 3 ounces of potato fertiliser to the yard run of trench and a similar quantity of calcified seaweed. The whole trench was then covered over with thin black porous polythene of the type that commercial growers use on greenhouse benches to cover their capillary matting. It has fine pin holes in it which allows both moisture and the potato roots to get through. At the end of the season the polythene was removed and I was pleasantly surprised to see the mass of white roots underneath that proved to me that the roots really can get through the tiny holes and sustain the plant throughout. Indeed when I was removing the potatoes from the peat mixture in which they were growing, I found that a couple of potatoes here and there had actually developed underneath the polythene as the tiny roots must have got through it.
The mixture I used last year was peat from gro-bags with some added potato fertiliser scattered on top and worked in using a rake. This extra fertiliser must have been the prime reason for the skin marks on some of the potatoes as they had been burnt through direct contact with the fertiliser. Next year I shall not be adding any extra fertiliser to the peat in the trenches and I shall use Levington F1 compost in some trenches, the reason being that the haulms were so strong that I don"t feel the plant will require any added nutrients to that forked in below the polythene. Levington F1 is formulated for seed sowing so it doesn't contain any slow release nutrients and therefore shouldn't burn or mark the potato skins. Other trenches will be filled with nothing more than plain sieved moss peat with no nutrients whatsoever being added. After four weeks or so when the shoots are just emerging through the peat, an extra layer of peat or compost will be added as the trench really does settle. The last thing you want went growing potatoes for exhibition is the developing tuber being exposed to sunlight on top of the rows as this gives them a green hue and renders them useless for the show bench.