Potato Harvest (Part 1)

Growing Potatoes in Raised Beds and Potato Bags

After hearing good recommendations for the Sarpo potato variety, I managed to get hold of some seed potatoes for this season (2019/20) from Marshalls. The previous year (2018/19), I was far too late ordering in the autumn and every supplier had run out. This year I bought Sarpo Una (second early) and Sarpo Axona (maincrop).

Sarpo Una Potatoes

A dual-purpose potato with pink skin, white waxy flesh, delicate flavour and good blight-resistance can be harvested in June as salad potatoes or left to mature for a bigger crop of baking potatoes.

Seed potatoes were ordered in autumn 2019, arrived sometime in February 2020 and laid out in egg cartons to chit. Planted out in late March, when the weather was warm, by dibbing a hole about 8 inches deep (20 cm) before popping the chitted potato in the hole. Soil was then drawn up and over the potatoes to form a ridge, partly for frost protection and partly to increase soil depth for a bigger crop. In mid-April, the ridge was reinforced with a topping of garden compost to a depth of about 2 inches (5 cm).

Apart from watering twice during the very dry Spring of 2020, there were no other interventions apart from removing the odd weed before the plant foliage had chance to cover the soil surface and suppress them. Some frost damage occurred in May which is unusual in this part of the world.

Around about the first week of July, the foliage started to die back. Salad potatoes could have been harvested in June but I decided to wait and see what sort of yields were possible. In the second week of July, I trimmed off all the remaining foliage and recycled it to the compost bin.

On the 15th July, Mary dug the first plant which yielded 1.15 kg (see photo).

Potato Yield Crop

This is sufficient for our immediate needs so we will leave the other potatoes in the ground and dig up as required. See comments below for further yield data as we dig them up over the next month or so.

Sarpo Axona Potatoes

A maincrop potato with pink skin, great flavour and best-in-class disease resistance. These are still growing so I will report on them later. They were ordered, delivered and chitted along with the Sarpo Una potatoes but planted out about 3 weeks later (mid-April) because the chitting process was much slower. They suffered a little frost damage in May as did the Sarpo Una.

Potatoes, growing, seed potatoes, planting, raised bed, potato bags, potato sacks

growing potatoes, Sarpo Axona, maincrop

I planted two rows in the raised bed and split the six 'spare' potatoes between 2 potato bags (filled with a mixture of coir and homegrown garden compost). Plants in the raised bed have been left to their own devices to a large extent whereas the potato bags have been regularly watered and fed with diluted comfrey tea (200:1 dilution). I will report on the yield and quality of these potatoes in a later post.


Growing Loofahs and Sunburnt Raspberries

Growing Loofah (Luffa) Plants 

In everyday parlance, loofahs are the dried fruits of a tropical/subtropical luffa vine, a member of the cucumber family. When harvested young, it is a popular vegetable especially in India, China and Vietnam. If the fruit is allowed to fully ripen on the vine, it becomes very fibrous and takes on a new life as the well-known scrubbing sponge in bathrooms and kitchens.

On a visit to the 2019 Malvern Autumn Show, we bought a packet of seeds to see if we could grow them in our polytunnel using the Quadgrow system. Two seeds were germinated in an unheated greenhouse using Dalefoot seed compost then transplanted out into the polytunnel in late April/mid-May in Quadgrow pots filled with Fertile Fibre coir (reconstituted from a 5kg block). Two out of three seeds germinated. The seedling transplanted in late April was very slow to develop and is now way behind the seedling planted out in mid-May. The photo below, taken on 1st July 2020, shows the luffa vine's vigorous growth along the polytunnel frame. A small yellow flower can be seen on the luffa; the first one to open. In the left foreground is a cucumber plant with its own yellow flowers.

Loofah (luffa) plant in polytunnel grown with Quadgrow system

Our four cucumber plants have already produced over 60 edible cucumbers by the time the first luffa flower opened! Close-ups of the luffa flower below.

We are hopeful the vigorous growing luffa will produce some fruits; less hopeful the rather weedier-looking specimen has enough time left to be productive though it is still growing. The plan is to use the dried loofah sponges as pan scrubs to replace for the ones we bought last year. 

Sunburnt Raspberries

Can raspberries get sunburn. The answer is yes!

The high UV levels and sunshine during April and May caused some fruit to get sunburnt (sunscald). It is known as White Drupelet Syndrome or Disorder. It affects those drupelets most exposed to the sun, usually on the top of the fruit or on the sunny side. Although unsightly, the fruits are still edible. 

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