This year’s potato harvest was always going to be something of a mixed bag, as you can see from this pic of the main Plot #59 potato patch, taken a couple of weeks ago:
On the right: Solanum tuberosum ‘Swift’, a previously reliable first early variety, which this year doesn’t seem to have performed. The bald patches are where I’ve removed plants affected by potato leaf roll virus – which certainly didn’t help – but I think a quick sprinkling of potato fertiliser granules on planting wasn’t enough of a feed.
On the left: S. tuberosum ‘Saxon’, last year’s star performer, and growing strongly again this year, probably helped along by the generous measures of well-rotted horse manure that went into each trench.
On closer inspection though:
Yep, the dreaded Phytophthora infestans, a.k.a. potato late blight, a.k.a. “ah, crap!” – a rather nasty fungal infection which, if left unchecked, has the potential to run riot through a spud patch, destroying foliage and tubers alike. It’s especially prevalent in the wet but still warm and humid conditions we’ve been having of late.
Only one thing for it: clear the haulms, leave the tubers a couple of weeks before lifting – which should be long enough for any motile spores that fall from the foliage to the soil to die off before they can come into contact with the tubers – and then hope for the best.
Before I started, I thought I’d best check to make sure there were actually some tubers in there worth saving. The initial dig-and-lift was promising:
And the haul from the one plant that I dug was reassuringly ample: plenty of good-sized spuds, perfect for boiling, steaming, mashing, roasting or anything else; Saxon is a really good all-rounder variety, highly recommended if they will grow in your soil-type:
Here’s the spud patch before I started:
And here it is once I’d done clearing the haulms into a heap as far away from the – so far unaffected (knock on wood) – maincrop spuds across the path as I could:
The tubers will be happy enough under those ridges until I’m ready for them. The longer I leave them, of course, the greater the risk of slug damage, but they should be alright for a couple of months at least. Hopefully at some point we’ll have a dry spell and I can lift, dry and store a batch or two. Hopefully…