In my Blog on the 30th March I mentioned how I had received two new potatoes, one was a white oval called Libertie with excellent potential for showing whilst the other had a bright red skin named Red Cheftain that would be ideal on my display stand. It is of course very difficult to ascertain from just one potato what the general quality of any future harvested potatoes would be. For exhibition purposes one of the criteria of any dish is that the potatoes should have ‘Shallow Eyes’. Of the two I was given the white variety seemed to have the shallowest eyes but until I lift them I won’t know for certain.
One potato of each variety was no good at all for this year so I explained how I went about cutting the potato into pieces with each piece having an ‘eye’ and a shoot starting to emerge from them. Each piece was left on a tray close to my central heating boiler in order to try and get the flesh of the potato to completely dry out prior to planting them.
The one small mistake I did was to leave them near the heater for 48 hours, on reflection 24 hours, would have been sufficient. The reason was that the cut surfaces had certainly formed a protective skin on them so they wouldn’t rot on contact with moist compost but the emerging shoots had started to shrivel or dry out as well.
I managed to get 13 slices of the White variety and 16 of the Red with all the pieces having an eye with an emerging shoot on them. Some of the shoots were much more prominent than others, particularly around the rose end. In that case, with the thin bladed knife that I used, I was able to slice through the central shoot. The pieces were all planted up in some F2S compost in a full sized seed tray making sure that all the eyes and shoots were covered over with the compost. The trays were left on a bench in my cold glass house and I have to say that I’m very pleased with the results.
Not all the potato slices rooted from the emerging shoots and some were obviously smaller than others but I shall plant them all up as I still have plenty of time for the Malvern show which is on the last weekend in September. Initialy the growth rate was quite slow but once the roots were foraging around in the compost the haulms very quickly grew away. On the 2nd of May both seed trays were emptied out and the compost was a mass of young hairy roots. Each piece was teased out with as much roots as possible and they were potted up singly into 5 inch diameter plastic pots using my own special organic potato growing medium.
From the 13 white pieces of the original potato 11 came through and developed foliage and from the 16 pieces of the red skinned potato 13 came through. This was quite a good success rate as I ended up with a total of 24 plants from two seed potatoes. In a weeks time, after they have rooted into the 5 inch pots the largest specimens will be planted up into my 20 litre exhibition black polythene bags with the few smaller ones allowed to develop further before they will also be planted. Differently to planting seed potatoes, these will be planted on top of three inches of growing medium and then as the haulms develop upwards the bag will be filled in stages with more compost to within an inch of the rim.
Undoubtedly this has been a very successful experiment and it will be interesting to note later on what sort of crop and quality of potatoes I shall have. As there is only one shoot on each potato I’m not envisaging a heavy crop however I am expecting larger potatoes but possibly fewer of them. This will naturally suit exhibitors well as it is good sized potatoes that we are after – time will tell.