This year I am going to see how early I can harvest potatoes and how late I can harvest them. The reason is that I found a bag of potatoes sprouting and rotting in the back of the garden shed that I had forgotten about and it started me off wondering whether I could harvest potatoes all year round.
I know harvesting potatoes late is a ‘thing’ because many people grow new potatoes to harvest for Christmas day or around that time. I wonder how long you could leave them in the ground and harvest them – end of January?
I have looked around to see what others are doing in this area and the answer is quite a lot.
The earliest potatoes are grown in Cornwall and Jersey on south facing slopes and so if I want early earlies, I need to see if I can mimic these conditions which I can in my greenhouse and polytunnel. I am going to grow them in pots so that I can move them in and out of the polytunnel but will grow 2 Charlotte and 2 Sarpo Mira in the polytunnel and greenhouse just to see whether pots or undercover is best. The green house is at home so those plants may well get more attention as they will be the ones nearest to me and that I will see most days.
Once they are ready, I will cut off the haulms and store the pots outside ready to harvest when I need them.
I also want to grow my own sweet potato slips so am going to give the following video a try.
I have grown sweet potatoes before in the polytunnel and will do so again this year. I have always had mixed results but if the year is like last year, there should be enough sunshine for a good crop. Which? recommend Beauregard, Beauregard Improved and Carolina Ruby.
The last Harvest Monday of the year. The next one will be the 1st of January 2018.
I recently moved over to a ‘no dig’ approach to allotmenteering and it has lead to some amazing vegetables, some of which I have harvested for our Christmas dinner.
First off are the parsnips. I generally have dreadful troubles with germination and this year was no different. However, an allotment neighbour had sown his and they had all germinated in the early warm weather we had this year. True to form, it took me 3 goes to get some germination. These are Countess and I will grow them again next year. They are enormous. In fact, I could sow some each month so that I have more of them but not all this size!
Another vegetable that was large this year for me was celariac and again I put this down to no-dig gardening. Where the slugs nibbled, the woodlice moved in so I need to prevent that next year but these are definitely the biggest celariac I have grown over the last few years.
It wouldn’t be Christmas day if we didn’t have sprouts! I love them and so don’t need chestnuts or pancetta with them, although that would be tasty. And leeks in cheese sauce. Plus there is spinach and some early white sprouting broccoli.
Christmas and Boxing day sorted!
The potatoes, which are not pictured here, are Sarpo Mira which I tried for the first time this year and will grow again next year. They didn’t need watering and only showed slight signs of blight at the end of September.
As I come towards the end of my no-dig year I realise that I am a convert. So many of the vegetables and fruit did better than I have grown for some time.
What I have learnt about compost/manure
Only use well-rotted manure. Mine was too fresh and sat in lumps that slugs and snails could hide in.
Seaweed works well and plants love it but it works even better with some compost on top.
It is a struggle to make enough. I have two allotments and probably only make enough for one plot.
Leaf mold is good on the sandy soil. It works even better with a topping of compost.
The squash have been fantastic. Only one of my Crown Prince squash plants survived but it provided five squash. Usually I have one plant, one squash although I did see that Charles Dowding managed six off his plants so still a little way to go.
Sarpo Mira potatoes were fantastic and I will definitely grow some of these next year. Thank you to John for sharing his surplus plants. I only had four seed potatoes but the crop will probably last us all winter.
The leeks are enormous!
The kale is big and healthy and I actually managed some red cabbages this year.
Flat leaf parsley is hard to keep up with and my lemon grass is doing really well in the polytunnel.
Things that didn’t work so well
These things are not because I used no-dig rather than the weather or my lack of knowledge.
My onion sets had rot but my seed-sown onions didn’t. Next year I will grow all my onions and shallots from seed. I planted the onion sets in lumpy manure and the slugs and snails dined on them.
The Celariac are much, much bigger than previous years but the wood lice have taken up residence in them. The compost was well-rotted so I will just have to try again.
My garlic was thrown by the cold spell in spring and thought it was winter again. This year I have planted half outside and half in the polytunnel. We shall see what the difference is.
I need to keep the grass a bit lower and remove the grass hanging over the edge of beds. Slugs and snails hide there!