Sunday, April 02, 2006

The Great Potato Experiment

Mr Stuart might Dig his Tatties, but here in wet Welsh Wales, we have a different approach. After years of fighting off the slugs of doom, we're trying a variety of experimental growing techniques.*

First off, in the polytunnel, we have three stout black bins filled with nicely rotted compost. Each has in it three seed potatoes, either Charlotte, a good maincrop salad potato with a lovely waxy flesh; Red Duke of York, an early cropping salad variety with a red skin and yellow flesh; or Maris Peer, which is a second early, again good for salads if you don't let it grow too big, otherwise excellent as a baking potato. All three have been in their pots for a couple of weeks now, enjoying the benefit of the tunnel's extra warmth. Today, however, was time for phase two of the trial: outdoors.

This time we have planted five varieties: Sante, which is an early maincrop that can make a good new potato; Romano, which has a dry texture and nutty flavour excellent for baking; Ambo, an all-round maincrop variety; Desiree, which is a red-skinned maincrop suitable for almost anything; and Valor, which is an early maincrop good for mashing. All of these varieties were chosen for their alleged slug-resistance, as we have the world's largest population of the slimy bastards here and all attempts to eradicate them have so far failed.

The clever bit of the experiment is not the choice of varieties, however. It is the manner of growing. We have purloined several old car tyres from the farm (where they are used to hold down the tarpaulin over the silage), and padded the insides of them with the paper shreddings from the office. Into the centre of each tyre goes a generous serving of good sieved compost and three seed potatoes. This forms a neat, raised bed system, which will warm quicker and keep its heat better, thus getting our spuds off to a flying start.

And the clever bit comes later, when those first green shoots start to show in about a months time. Then we just get another set of tyres, load them on top of the first and fill them with more compost. Voila - earthed-up tatties.

It's possible to keep on doing this, building the plants taller and taller, so that at the bottom of the stack the first tubers will grow large and tasty, whereas at the top, smaller salad and boiling spuds abound. And better yet, it's easy to keep the slugs off the tyres - I favour the night time prowl with a torch and a sharp knife for this, damned slugs aren't getting my beer.

It's early days, of course, and the whole experiment could turn out to be an unmitigated disaster. But I'm quietly confident of having something to eat in a few months time. More updates in due course.

And now, having spent the afternoon digging and sifting compost, I'm off to read A Touch of Frost in the bath.

And so it begins

* well it is an experimental farm, after all


Blogger Sandra Ruttan said...

You know, usually when the gardening starts, you aren't hoping to see Frost...

April 02, 2006 6:06 pm  
Blogger Stuart MacBride said...

That's why he's off to the bath - to soak his spuds and keep them warm...

Oh, I can't believe I just typed that.


April 02, 2006 8:21 pm  

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