Our International Kidneys arrived the other day. This is what we said when the postman delivered them to us:
When we planted potatoes last year during Lockdown 2019 we talked generally about what we did. You can read about that here:
This time though we thought we'd try and give some more detail for each stage of the process. Why we do it, how we do it, what to do and what not to do. Here goes............
Here are the seed potatoes. We always buy ours from a reputable supplier. Doing that means that the potatoes we grow are certified as being disease free and from a reliable source.
The first thing to do with them is to get them out and inspect them. Sometimes you might be unlucky and get one that has a bit of rot in it. With so many in the bag we tend to compost those.
Then we carefully lay them out in either a seed tray or an egg box. We make sure that they're laid out with their eyes pointing upwards. Here's ours:
When you look carefully at the potatoes you'll probably notice that the ends of the potato are slightly different - one end is usually slightly more rounded than the other. Unless of course you're lucky and have one that's heart shaped!
Potatoes are grown from tubers. And to get them going we need to encourage them to sprout - from those eyes. So to do that we put them in a seed tray or egg box, leave it in a frost free and light space - a warm window sill - and let them do their thing.
What we're aiming for is to have no more than 4 shoots on each tuber, each one about an inch long. If yours end up with more than 4 shoots - sometimes the case if you're growing an early variety - then you should gently remove the extra ones by rubbing them with your thumb.
When those eyes are about an inch long then we can start thinking about planting the tubers in the ground. Traditionally some people aim to plant theirs on St Patrick's Day, others on Good Friday. This year, and as we type this, we're about 9 weeks away from St Patrick's Day and 11 weeks away from Good Friday.
The thing is the time it takes for those tubers to be an inch long will depend largely upon the conditions and when we start to chit them! Nothing is certain or guaranteed so we simply aim to chit our seed potatoes within a day or so of them being delivered, and aim to get them planted up after about 10 weeks or so - provided the soil and weather is good. No point in being too hasty..............
But what about these?
Well first of all, what are they? Well have you ever gone to your fridge and found some potatoes that you forgot you had? The ones that have been lurking there, right at the back, for a few weeks? And noticed they'd started to sprout.....
That's what these are! And this shows what we're expecting of those seed potatoes we ordered. After a few weeks and as long as the conditions are right then those eyes will start to look like this. But they need to be slightly longer.
Now could we use these and not bother with seed potatoes? Well you could but we'd not recommend it. Remember that when we get our seed potatoes they come from specialists who know what they're doing. And the seed potatoes that they supply are certified to be disease free. Would you really want to go to all the effort of chitting, planting, watering and earthing up only to find that the yields were so bad you wished you hadn't bothered?
Well that's why we always only use certified seed potatoes. However..............
Ok. So we said we wouldn't. Ever. But in the potato basket in the kitchen we found this beauty! What is it?
It's one of the International Kidneys that we grew last year. Now although we grow them as a salad variety they can also be left in the ground and then harvested later in the season as a main crop.
By then the skins will have toughened up a bit and you'll no longer be able to boil them as easily as you would have been if you'd harvested them sooner - not only are the skins slightly tougher but they'll start to break up as you boil them.
The thing is, and although they came from a certified supplier, that was last year. Not this year. So we wondered if that "certification" point was something that suppliers say to encourage us to buy from them?
So a trial. What we're going to do is chit one of these and then plant it at exactly the same time as one of those from the seed potatoes that we received the other day. And as part of that trial we'll be growing both in sacks. The reason we're doing that is three-fold:
To demonstrate that you don't need a vegetable plot or allotment to grow potatoes - you can grow some in specialist sacks, sacks of compost or - like we did last year - in an old galvanised water tank,
To try and better control the growing conditions (it's a trial after all!) &
Just in case the certification point is correct what we don't want to do is introduce pests or diseases into our plot.
That's it. Seed potatoes and chitting them. We'll post updates as the journey of these International Kidneys progresses From Plot to Plate.