Potato varieties and tips for 2021

Yet again, I am so excited! That seems to be my favourite phrase these days. Don’t laugh when I tell you why though! I’ve chosen the potato varieties that will give us a year’s worth of potatoes from 2021 until the 2022 growing season!! I can’t even imagine what that will physically look like.

I hear you asking, how do you even decide how many you will need? I can only hazard a guess and go from there.

If we buy a 2.5kg bag of potatoes from the supermarket, they will last us 7 to 10 days so that’s maximum of 130kg. Not that much really if you think it’s 6 farm size bags of spuds?

The plan…

In 2021 I will be planting potatoes (and plenty of other things) where the 2020 pigs were, as that land has been well manured and turned over.

Rodney with the young pigs.

The varieties I have chosen are as follows in order of harvest months. The number of tubers ordered are in (brackets).

Everything has been ordered from Thompson and Morgan. Ordering off their website was super easy as always and I love their track and trace system for impatient customers like me 😉

Early – Swift (10). This is fast maturing and heavy cropping which means we get to eat sooner and in abundance! These babies will be grown in bags, started in the greenhouse to protect from frosts for harvest in May. The Swift will probably be our first to eat 2021 potatoes! Happy dance!!

First Early – Arran Pilot (10). Closely followed for harvest in May and June, this is a traditional first early which we will eat from plot to plate. As for all first earlies, I’ll make sure we have plenty of salad items to have with these for the first of the year.

Second Early – Charlotte (12). Typical supermarket variety, nice tasting salad potato. In a year where reliability is everything, this is very important for us. We aim to harvest in July and August.

Early Maincrop – Maris Piper (34). This is a reliable all round potato which is purple flowered and has eelworm resistance (not sure if we have that problem, but glad we don’t need to worry now!). This will mostly be blanched and frozen as we will hopefully still be eating second earlies until the Sarpo Mira come through. This will be the main preserving potato. Harvesting for preserving (freezing) in one batch July, August or September and not for fresh eating. These will then hopefully fill in the gap between the last of the freshly stored potatoes and the following season’s first earlies.

“Did you know…. for a successful storing harvest you should not water for 2 weeks pre harvest (not likely in England!) wait for the foliage to die back, cut it down and wait another 10 days for the skins to dry before lifting, drying briefly in the sun and storing.”

Source – Tracy’s useless bits of info 🙂

Maincrop – Cara (22). This is a good baking potato which I’ve always worried about growing. There’s nothing worse than throwing a whole potato in the Aga, to cut in to it with your baked beans (very British?) and cheddar cheese and discover a hollow heart or similar! I’m going to take the plunge next year though, just call me a dare devil. Harvesting for fresh use in August and September.

Late maincrop – Sarpo Mira (20). Best blight and slug resistance. As we move to later in the season, I start to worry about blight, so a resistance to it is welcome. Combined with large yields and storing potential, this is one that will be eaten fresh and hopefully stored in burlap bags/hessian sacks rather than frozen or dehydrated. Harvesting for use in August and September hopefully once the second earlies run out to store for October.

Late maincrop – King Edward (24). Used for roast potatoes, who could resist the traditional King Edward? As we move in to the cooler months, this will hopefully stay in the ground and/or store until Christmas. We will plant this variety as late as possible in May, spreading the harvest through the year, hopefully September and October to store November and December onwards in burlap bags/hessian sacks.

First earlies take 10-12 weeks to mature

Second earlies – 14 to 16

Early Main – 15 weeks

Maincrop (and late) 22 weeks

Source – Tracy’s useless bits of info 🙂

A few points to note.

  • Our ground has been manured by pigs through 2020 and left to rest over the winter.
  • We will be planting our potatoes in 2 x 75 foot rows.
  • For us, the ideal ph for potatoes and to help deter disease is 4.8 to 5.5.
  • Chitting potatoes early in the year (to apx 3cm) is important to help bring them from their winter slumber and to encourage strong, quick growth.
  • Don’t bother chitting potatoes you get in April time, I recommend getting them straight in to the ground.
  • Your soil needs to be around 10c before planting and will hopefully coincide with 2 weeks before your last frost.
  • It’s best to plant with a helping hand of general purpose fertiliser.
  • Planting potatoes can be done in a variety of ways, however I will be using my tried and tested method of using a bulb planter to plant fairly deeply and then earth them up a few times as they come through.
  • Earthing potatoes helps prevent frost nipping the first shoots and gives the tubers, which grown near the surface, more space (more food!).
  • Earthing up also prevents light turning your much tended potatoes green. We can’t waste all of that time and effort.
  • Watering 2 weeks before flowering and during the tuber bulking stages will help with size and yield. I’ll post on knowing when this is next year, with pics.
  • Harvest as quoted above.
  • Stored potatoes should be in hessian sacks to exclude light and allow the potatoes to breath (they release moisture when in storage and plastic bags will make them rot). Light will turn the potatoes green which could give you a nasty stomach upset.
  • Stored spuds will be kept between 5 and 10c and away from anywhere that mice (or worse) could get to them.
  • At least monthly, stored potatoes should be checked for spoiling. If one crept in to your stores that had blight, it will spread very easily. Smell the potato if you are unsure, blight does not smell appealing, you will know!
  • Keep an eye out for flies being attracted to potatoes (or any veg) as they will know before you what is starting to turn.

So that’s my potato plan for 2021! If anyone knows if you can store your potatoes safely to use as seed potatoes the following year, I’d love to hear from you.

Thanks for reading and stay safe everyone, Tracy x

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Why do we raise pigs? It’s almost time…

 Let’s talk pigs!

When we got our first pigs in 2017 it started us along the path of dabbling in being self sufficient in meat.  We thoroughly enjoyed it and the pork lasted us over a year!  Since then we have raised lots of our own poultry and haven’t looked back.  This strange old year has seen us acquire our second lot of pigs, something we plan on doing every year now.  They really are lovely to have on the smallholding and (so far) have been no hassle at all.  

Since April 4th, we have raised 2 Gloucestershire Old Spots cross’ which were12 weeks old when we got them.

They are truly a fantastic breed of pig to raise based on temperament alone.  They are going to be with us until early October and then heading to the butchers as ultimately that is what we raise them for.  However there is a dual purpose to having pigs on a smallholding, especially if you need ground turning over!  

Below left is the land we started with in 2017 and then after we left it lay fallow through until 2020, shown on the right (or bottom if on mobile).  We didn’t want to run pigs on the same ground too close together in case the area became “pig sick”.  Not only did we want perfect pork, from free range, outdoor raised pigs but we also wanted the land to be used to grown on for 2021.  Manured from 2020 pigs and not a nettle in sight as they had them for their supper.

                 

As is always the case here on the smallholding, it was all fin and games deciding how to bring them home as we don’t own a trailer.  It seemed silly to use a favour (where we normally get our trailers) for 2 small piglets (weaners) so we set about adapting the car, smallholding style.

We, Ste, made a pig shelter out of an old IBC tank which we filled with straw and saw them lovely and snug.  As they got bigger he cut their entrance bigger and eventually gave them an extension.  It was so funny watching him try to convince them to use it!!  Incidentally, it’s made out of internal house doors that we got free off Facebook Marketplace.

The pigs had 2/3 of the land we have planned to grow on and during Spring and Summer 2020 we didn’t leave the other 1/3 of the land go to waste.  I spent what felt like an eternity covering it with rotted horse muck until you couldn’t see the grass any longer.

Eventually it was ready for the potatoes I’d decided to grow there.  I literally pushed the potatoes in to the muck and covered them with grass clippings and spent straw from the duck house (ok to use straight from the house unlike chicken manure).  The potatoes were fantastic and we are eating our way through them now.  
Once they were done with, we opened the, now HUGE, pigs up to work through the area, clearing any remaining potatoes we’d missed and eating any nettle roots that hadn’t died off.  As Ste took the pallets down to open the are up, the pigs naturally helped.
                         

They have done a fantastic job or turning the whole area over and I can’t wait to get growing in it for 2021!  We were thinking of putting a commercial size polytunnel there but I think on reflection we should grow in the space and see if we can manage it, before committing to such a big spend.  There’s still a little section of the ground, shown below, with some fruit trees in it.  We are taking those out once they are dormant over Winter as it’s not the right place for them.

So I hope this post has shown you why we raise pigs and in one of the next posts I will show you what meat we have filled our freezers with and how we plan to use it.  I’ll keep them separate to this one, so those of you who prefer not to know, don’t have to look.

Take care, talk to you soon, Tracy.

Polytunnel success

This weekend we were very busy with family joining us on Saturday evening and friends on Sunday.  We had to fit in all of the usual jobs plus put the polytunnel up too.  So Saturday we set to work.  I did the usual horses and house jobs then joined Ste with the polytunnel.  He started putting the frame together in the barn.  The weather wasn’t very kind on Saturday but he soldiered on.  I was asked to hold this, lift that and straighten the other.  In no time at all we had the frame up.

 
 

Buddy helped out where he could making sure he checked the bucket’s didn’t have anything worth eating in them and having the odd drink or 2.

Ryan supervised the whole situation.

Day 2 saw the cover go on.  This is where it started to get tricky.  It was very tight and I can see the zips ripping in no time.  We managed it though and as it has a 12 month guarantee I’ll be sure to keep that in case I need to get a new one.

Then being amazing, Ste knocked up a couple of raised beds and attached them to the frame that’s there (this is how we put the PT up, this is not what’s in the manual).  The weight of that wood will not let that frame go anywhere.  We also dug a trench around the polytunnel and buried the cover in it. 

He then laid the slabs we had stored and they dictated the width of the path.  Lots of rotted muck went in and it was finished. 

All in all I am really pleased.  I think it looks great and it’s ready to provide us some food in the coming year.

In between holding and lifting, I sowed some seeds, clipped off some of the strawberries that I’d taken from runners and forgotten about and gave some of the veg plot a tidy up, giving the chickens their treats too.

I also finally got my potatoes chitting. 

A little catch up, birthdays, snow, polytunnel thoughts and 2017 potatoes!

I have broken my phone and have an old spare which doesn’t do photo’s as well but bear with me.  It also means I have to boot the laptop up to see blogs and updates (first world problems, I know).  Wednesday saw us with snow on the ground.  It was short lived and didn’t affect the roads.  It was so pretty to see everywhere white and the smallholding animals all looking around wondering what it was.  I know some people don’t like the snow, but I do and I do hope we have a white Christmas.
The kids played in it, all be it briefly, and I took what photos I could.  We call one of our chicken areas “Chickenville” and the kids wrote it out in the snow (when they were supposed to be doing their jobs 😉 ).  It’s so nice to see them enjoying it all.

Goose foot print


It was Steven’s birthday on Tuesday and despite being at work all day and needing to remove a radiator in the dining room for decorating, he seemed to enjoy it.  He sent me this photo the next day when he had time to enjoy a nice cup of coffee in his gadget that he received.

I’ve been doing more thinking ahead and keeping more notes in my notebook.  This time I have been writing down everything we have as packed lunches, with a view to ensuring I have the contents covered in our GYO plan for 2017.  For example the salads we have contain mixed leaves, spring onion/red/white, radish, cucumber, tomatoes, lots of peppers, sweetcorn, coleslaw and when we’re feeling adventurous, cous cous.  I think we can have this covered in 2017.  Also soups and quiche.
That led me on to thinking about the polytunnel again.  If I can afford one, it’ll be March/April time so we will have missed the early start, but that doesn’t mean we can’t start things elsewhere in the house and heat the greenhouse too, before moving them to the polytunnel when it’s ready.  The purpose of the polytunnel will be to extend the growing season and give me more space to allow us to be self-sufficient in vegetables throughout the year.
The salad items listed above will be mostly grown in the polytunnel although I think the sweetcorn will be half and half for pollination reasons.  In anticipation of next year, I’ve pre ordered my potatoes going for the following options (which will be delivered February):
First Earlies:  Swift (general purpose) and red duke of York (good for roasting).  These will be ready 10 weeks after planting.
Second Earlies:  British Queen (GP but excellent roasting) and Athlete which are lovely cold in salads.  These will be ready 13 weeks after planting.
Maincrop made up of early maincrop:  Carolus (GP),  Maincrop:  Blue salad (I fancy these for something different), Cara for baking and chipping and late maincrop of Sarpo Mire which can be stored until Christmas and King Edward which I think are the same.  These will be ready 20 weeks after planting.
The idea here is they all get planted at the same time and are ready to eat at different stages.  I will grow some in containers and bags but most in the ground.  We’re making a few new beds outside, 1 of which will be for the potatoes.  Having no idea how many potatoes we use and how much each plant will produce, we could be rolling in them or short for demand.  This really is an experiment.  Each order supplies apx 15 tubers (1kg).  It cost me £37 inc P&P so I will see how much we get for our money and make a note of it as next year progresses.

A new week

As much as I still get the Sunday night, work the next day feeling, I do enjoy the start of a new week. New plans, fresh ideas and a full week to fit it all in.
Tonight I have planted a few earlies in the ground after they have been chitting for a few weeks. I will do some more next week.
The tomatoes that were leggy are now planted up to their first true leaves. I hope this works. I am super pleased with how everything is doing so far. It’s really exciting!!
Still no goose eggs but we’re heading into March so fingers crossed for some soon. I near people saying they have had their first of the year already so we remain very hopeful.
The chicks are getting huge and already showing individual personalities. They make me laugh daily.
Food wise I have under ordered potatoes, that much I know already. I also forgot ripe banana and only ordered ‘keep me’ ones! All learning for the next order.
Happy days on our smallholding.