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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What are we doing now?

I’m still figuring out what day of the week works best for blog updates.  I think Monday’s are a good starting place as we can wrap up what we’ve done over the weekend and previous week.  Let’s trial it and see.  At the moment I’m also finding our what structure I might have, so until then, it’s a bit of everything 🙂

What are we up to right now?

Well, it is well and truly back to work and school this week, so all routine’s are resumed (some in an improved fashion) and we can all go back to knowing what day of the week it is.  I remember many years ago when Steven and I were very happy to have no routine.  How things have changed!  In a good way that is.  The fact that living on a smallholding demands routine, and more so planning, is something that is all to obvious the longer you live on one.  I bet many other people and places can relate to that too, not just smallholdings.  Running a family, working full time, being a stay at home mum, caring for people, looking after animals – it’s all so much easier if you have a routine and a plan. 

Sunday night saw me updating my files with the design of the main veg plot, and using RHS’ 4 year veg crop rotation (legumes, brassicas, potatoes, onion/roots then back to start) to plan what can go in the beds this year.  Inevitably we have beds that it doesn’t make sense to grow “that many” of something, so these will become the beds where the crops that don’t need to follow rotation will go.  Squash, the prolific and much loved (a’hem hated) courgettes, cucumbers, French and runner beans, sweetcorn and salad).

Veg plot planning

We haven’t bought any seed potatoes, spring planting onions or garlic yet.  We will probably look to do it at the end of January.  Ideally this year, we will have early, salad, main crops & lates so that we have as much coverage through the year as possible.  To be fair, our main crop from last year are still going well, despite the mice’s best attempts.
Something that has become obvious over Christmas is that Jack too needs a plan.  We give our kids jobs to do around the smallholding.  Be it looking after animals (feed and water) or clearing the table to making your own packed lunch (as much as possible) and so on.  Annie, our bullmastiff, very much appreciates all we do for her and gives us lots of cuddles in return!

This weekend we decided to cut back the apple trees in what we call the orchard.  It’s not a huge orchard, a handful of old, established fruit trees which we have rather cautiously taken one or two branches off in the winter before.  However, last year they took over but bore no fruit, so we promised ourselves we would be ruthless when it came to cutting them back for 2020 fruit.  Below is one of the cooking apple trees that has been prolific in previous years.  Fingers crossed it comes back well this year. The photo is before and I don’t have an after shot, I daren’t show you! 😉

The mice I mentioned before, the ones who ate the potatoes in the shed.  Well, Steven built that shed and we knew there wasn’t a single crack or hole in it and we couldn’t figure out how they were getting in!  Well I think the mice are rats, as we found the hole when giving the shed a clean out this weekend.  You’d think it had been done by machine looking at it, but you can see the teeth mark on it.  Bloody things.  Rat trap going down and the hole will get covered.  They get everywhere!

Speaking of shed’s, this one we bought a while ago to house poultry.  I can’t remember what it was at the time, however now it’s for chickens.  It’s getting too small though, as we had a shift around this weekend after processing 10 cockerels.  That left us 4 hens from that hatch that could go in with the other hens.  More room was needed so Steven ingeniously cut some nest box size holes out of the wall of the shed and moved the nest box from inside to outside, giving them extra space.  They roam during the day and just us this space for laying eggs and perching at night.  A great idea!  We’re going to do the same on the other side too as there’s a fair few in there now and no doubt they will all want to lay glorious eggs at the same time come spring!
Adding the nest box
From the inside, we will see if they need bigger holes
Some hens couldn’t resist having a sneak preview
Happily perching on the night 🙂
Another job that got done was the cleaning out of the goose pond and IBC tank that feeds it.  Both in dire need.  Unfortunately, the pond water has since dropped, so there’s a hole in the liner.  We will have to get another one as the water will be used by the geese and ducks when we set up our new area.  This is on the jobs list but not an immediate issue as the geese have alternative options and we don’t have the ducks yet. 

A long pipe connected to the IBC tank, held on by yours truly, helps the water make its way to the pond
A fine specimen 😉
This post is turning in to “what has Ste done”  – I do more than just take photos honestly!  For Christmas, Ste got lots of tools that he’s now having a play about with to see what he can use them for, making lots of little things like this in the process!

So what have I been doing.  I managed to get a freezer inventory done of the big chest freezer and of course we had loads of things that I’d forgotten about and will shortly be making an appearance on the menu plan.  I’ve also draft menu planned a good few weeks ahead, easily once you get in to it as for example we had lasagne the other day and I won’t be adding it to the plan for another 4-6 weeks ish, as we will have other pasta dishes on “pasta day” in between, plus with it being SO calorific, it’s a once in a month or so treat.  We’re both cutting back, as is everyone no doubt, after Christmas, so this kind of rule setting helps with that too.
I’ve decided on a framework for the menu plans, which helped dramatically.  For example Monday’s is a curry night, Tuesday’s will be fish or stir fry (Sunday left overs?), Wednesday’s is pasta or rice based, Thursday’s casserole/stew, Friday is a bit of a free for all such as gammon, chops, steak (yeh right), burgers etc.  Saturday is always a fry up at lunch then family teas on knees, easy meal & Sunday for the most part it is roast at noon and soup/farmhouse bread for tea.
Thanks to my dear friend Lou (visit here), I’ve got myself a household notebook together and am getting myself in order with writing everything down.  The freezer inventory, menu plans, shopping lists, outgoings and expenses, to do lists, jobs lists, daily routine lists, veg plot planning and so on.  Just talking these things through helps.  So although there isn’t a lot to show outwardly, I’m busy busy.
This week, we have managed to save some extra pennies unexpectedly, only small amounts but every little helps, so they will be put to one side instead of being consumed in to the wider pot.  We have set ourselves a financial target of what we would like to save this year, starting from zero.  I won’t be sharing figures in that respect as it’s all relative.  %’s would be better I think.  So we are at, 0.01% 🙂 
I wanted to share with you the below picture which I stopped to take when I came in the other night, I’m so proud of the space we have created outside (Steven again!).  It looks cosy, is very practical and hopefully will add value to the smallholding if we ever move in to another chapter 😉