Time to chit: this year's seed potatoes

I accidentally fell into a garden centre yesterday. I mean, it was 45 minutes away, and we went there deliberately, but it was an accident, all the same 😉 And I bought some seed potatoes.

My original 2017 garden plan didn’t include potatoes, but then it didn’t include a plan for the Sunset Strip either, because when I wrote it I hadn’t come up with a firm direction for that strip of land that is outside the main garden. I still haven’t, although I suspect it will become the home of all the larger perennials that won’t fit in the main garden.

There are four raised beds in the Sunset strip, and they’re slightly smaller (and much lower) than the posh ones in the main garden. I need to measure them exactly, because apparently I didn’t keep a record of how big they are*! Last year one of them grew a giant Shark’s Fin Melon that took over most of the Sunset Strip (and which, for my sins, I want to watch growing in the main garden this year!) and two beds of potatoes – Sárpo Kiflo and Sárpo Axona. We’re still eating the last of the stored potatoes (they’re in a hessian sack in the shed) and I have a large container that was home to the leftover seed potatoes that I haven’t even dug up yet.

(The fourth bed failed to grow a Georgia Candy Roaster squash, despite my strenuous efforts.)

So it seems reasonable to grow potatoes again this year, and they can be allocated space in the Sunset Strip without affecting the overall garden plan. I chose three varieties (mostly because it was 3 for £10 on the smaller bags):

I picked up Blue Danube first because, well, who could resist blue spuds? And it says they have good blight resistance. It was only once I looked them up this morning that I realised they are a Sárpo variety. This early maincrop variety has dark foliage and purple flowers. It’s unclear how blue the flesh is; the Sárpo website says that the colour ‘tones down when cooked’. Apparently Blue Danube has low resistance to foliage blight, which means it may succumb as it reaches maturity. However, the tubers have high blight resistance, so the harvest should be unaffected.

Like all Sárpo varieties, Blue Danube has the inbuilt dormancy that makes the tubers great for storage – they won’t start sprouting unless you chit them. This variety is high in dry matter, which makes it good for roasting, although it seems to be a good all-rounder.

The second variety I chose was Sárpo Mira, which I have grown before. It was the first Sárpo variety, launched in 2002, and has very strong blight resistance. It’s a pink skinned maincrop that produces big tubers – they don’t stop growing until they’re cut down by frost, so they can (apparently) get pretty big. It’s another good multipurpose spud, with pink flowers. And it is deep-rooted, so it will be more drought tolerant.

And my third choice is Pink Fir Apple, which is a bit of a wildcard since it has no blight resistance to speak of. This old maincrop dates back to 1850, and it produces elongated, knobbly pink tubers with yellow, waxy flesh. It’s the one to grow for flavour, it makes a wonderful salad potato, and it has an RHS AGM (award of garden merit).

I have to do the maths now, and work out how many tubers I’ve bought and what space they’ll need, and whether some of them have to go into containers. And they need arranging in egg boxes on the windowsills to chit. Sounds like a job for a rainy day…


Mr Fothergill's Parsley: Giant of Italy

I sowed some parsley seeds last month, and they haven’t germinated – they were past their sow-by date, in an opened packet, so it was a bit of a long shot. So whilst I was out I bought some new ones – Mr Fothergill’s ‘Giant of Italy’. They caught my eye because the back of the packet says they are a ‘hardy perennial’, and I thought perhaps there had been a breeding breakthrough and this was an exciting perennial variety. It isn’t. Mr Fothergill’s different parsley varieties all say they are hardy perennials, which isn’t true. Parsley is a hardy biennial. It won’t live past its second season. A quick Google suggests they’re not the first seed company to make this mistake.

Anyway, have you bought/ordered your seed potatoes yet? Which varieties have you chosen this year?

*confirmed as 1.2m by 1.0m, external dimensions.




This blog post was written by Emma Cooper and was published on The Unconventional Gardener website. If you're reading it elsewhere you may want to navigate away from plagiarised content.

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