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why can't I grow potatoes?

(9 Posts)
MamaChocoholic Tue 19-Jul-11 21:01:54

for the second year running, our potatoes are unboilable! they go from too hard to consider eating to fallen apart in seconds. (and yes, honest, I do know how to boil a spud grin). last year we found we could make excellent chips/roast with our King Edwards but couldn't boil, this year it's Charlottes that fall apart (haven't tried lifting any maincrop yet).

I thought potatoes were simple - plant, cover repeatedly as they grow till frost is passed, harvest after flowering, but leave in the ground till ready to eat or store. what are we doing wrong?

Kladdkaka Fri 22-Jul-11 21:54:46

What do you mean 'harvest after flowering, but leave in the ground till ready to eat or store'? Do you mean that you don't dig them up soon after flowering? I don't know if that's the problem, but we dig ours up straight away and they're fine. (Only thing that is, I'm rubbish at everything else)

Beamur Fri 22-Jul-11 22:00:07

It's best to try and plant them at a time when they are less likely to be hit by frost as this can damage them and affect yield.
I think own grown potatoes take very careful timing to get right - my DP has a habit of cooking potatoes then turning off the heat while he faffs about cooking something else - which is a disaster as they keep absorbing water and then fall apart.
I dig them up as I intend to eat them.

Takver Fri 22-Jul-11 22:54:51

Maybe depends on the variety? For earlies we have Rocket (very early, but do take careful timing when cooking) and then Nicola & Vivaldi which aren't quite so productive but are tasty & don't do the falling apart thing.

For maincrop we have real blight problems, so we've grown Sarpo Mira & Sarpo Axona for the past couple of years. They bake really well but aren't so good boiled - this year we're also trying Setanta which is meant to be equally blight resistant (doing ok so far, fingers crossed) and a better all rounder. Hope we like it as we've got about 100 foot row of them!

Re. harvest time, it depends on variety - the first earlies really need to be harvested as soon as they've bulked up to be nice (Rocket in particular is going off its peak for us even now), whereas the maincrop will be better left in the ground to mature fully & for the skins to harden.

I think the trick probably is to find a first early, second early and then maincrop variety you like that suits your cooking style.

MamaChocoholic Sat 23-Jul-11 09:21:22

well we tried steaming, with slightly better results. I know it sounds like it must be my cooking style, but I never have this issue with shop bought potatoes, even of the same variety (eg Charlotte). and they do honestly turn from too hard to put a fork into to disintegrated in a few seconds. it happens one potato at a time, so there will be some completely disintegrated and some undercooked spuds in the same pan.

Kladdika I meant we dig up the earlies soon after flowering, but not immediately, and tend to leave them in the ground till we need them rather than store, particularly with maincrop. perhaps we are harvesting too late? I'm sure though I remember my grandad didn't used to dig the spuds for storing until the ground started getting wet/too hard to dig. I thought potatoes were supposed to be easy :wails:

but if we bother with them again next year, will try Nicola or Vivaldi, thanks Takver.

ragged Sat 23-Jul-11 09:30:47

We only grow new potatoes for summertime consumption (others are too cheap, not worth the bother to grow ourselves), which means we harvest typically July-September. We don't leave for skins to form, why would you? If you do want skins you have to kill off the tops (what the professionals do) and leave them in the ground about 2 weeks, and probably harvest in Sep-Oct.

Do you water the heck out of them? Must say they need no end of water. Seeing how they're grown professionally, the inputs are HUGE.

DH is the expert, really, but must say that he makes it look easy!

MamaChocoholic Wed 27-Jul-11 19:06:10

no, don't hardly water them blush. In mitigation I learnt the little I do know about growing spuds in the west of Ireland where it rains every day. guess I should have worked out things might be different in drier regions! is it too late to salvage what's left if I start watering now, do you think? :clutches straws:

ragged Wed 27-Jul-11 19:13:03

Yes do water now, the commercially grown ones are very heavily irrigated where we live (East Anglia). And sprayed every 10 days for blight.

Takver Wed 27-Jul-11 20:11:36

I've been thinking about this one, and I remember that the one time I grew Charlotte, I was very disappointed. I wonder if they are just not ideal as a dig-up-and-eat potato?

ragged - I have to say that I've grown potatoes on a dry soil in Cambridgeshire (very dry), in the midlands, and now in Pembrokeshire (wetter, but still not that wet a climate) and I have never watered them except in extreme drought!

Mind you, it does remind me of when I got my first allotment (in Cambridge) and all the plot holders around - back in the days when they were mostly elderly men and not 21 yr old women - took great delight in telling me at great length how the previous plot holder had died after spending a hot summers day watering his potatoes in an effort to get a better yield grin

Their take-home message was that you should never water potatoes, but since he was in his late 80s and had a heart attack & died riding his bike home afterwards, I can think of worse ways to go . . .

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