We are in an area which suffers yearly with potato blight (Phytophthora infestans) and once you have had this terrible potato disease in your allotment or garden then it seems like it is with you permanently! There are still some copper based products that haven’t been taken off the market yet that have some control with regular applications, but if you are against chemical control or want to try another method then this is a way I have found around the problem.
I did this as an experiment a couple of years ago and also successfully last year and have set my stall out to do so again this year. It is as simple as this. There are some very good quality first early potato sets available and T&M does a good range of varieties of these. They need no longer produce the small papery skinned types of years ago, which many of us remember from our younger days coming in to shops before the maincrops. Nowadays varieties such as Rocket, Pentland Javelin and Arran Pilot can produce large tubers comparable with the maincrops and the best bit of all is they mature and are ready for lifting before the dreaded blight strikes!
I prefer the variety ‘Rocket’ myself. I have found that, in our area and my type of soil, this grows perfectly – it shows some resistance to slugs and produces nice large tubers. I am also trying Pentland Javelin this year, as this has some resistance to eelworm, which we do get among the spuds sometimes down the allotment. Last year I tried Rocket and Arran Pilot, which both matured ready to lift before blight arrived and again produced some really nice sized spuds. The two varieties I have bought for this year are set out in trays to start the chitting process, there is debate over whether the process of chitting is really required and from new growers of what chitting exactly is. It is simply the process of letting shoots grow before planting out and this can happen naturally, like when you find a potato in your veg cupboard that has fallen to one side and been there a while and has a shoot appearing from it. This is what chitting describes, albeit gardeners make them produce these by placing the tubers in egg trays or similar as in the picture. I find it does help with earlies but is not really required for maincrops – potatoes grown commercially are not chitted.
I have also started off some onion seed in the greenhouse, Bedfordshire Champion & Ailsa Craig. I start these off early to try and produce some nice large onions to keep through the winter. Kelsae is one variety many choose to grow as large as possible and these are very good for size and showing, but I find possibly due to the large size, they are very poor keepers and what I grow usually lasts over winter until the following year. I do though as a back up and fail-safe alternative grow some from sets every year. I find Red Baron produces rock hard tennis ball sized onions that are excellent keepers.
The allotment has been winter dug to help kill pests and help break down the large clumps and is now ready for 2014.
I am 56 yrs young, and have been married to Joy for over 35 years, We have 2 children and 3 grandchildren,and have an allotment on the Notts/Derbys border. I am RHS trained to level 2 and have also passed a course in herbalism, I have had the allotment for about 20 years, that is mainly for the veg growing, whereas at home I grow fruit and have a love of anything big leaved, exoticy looking, jungly type plants. I also help run a gardening forum at www.garden-friends.co.uk.