Spuds, Murphys and Taters

 The humble potato has a long and rich history stretching back 7000 - 10,000 years to its origins in South America. In that time it has picked up a few nicknames: e.g. Spuds, Murphys and Taters. There seems to be some dispute regarding the etymology of the word 'spud' being variously described as the digging of a hole, or the tool used to dig the hole, to either sow the tuber or harvest it. Murphy is a reference to the popularity of the potato as a staple of the Irish diet. Taters is derived from Cockney rhyming slang where it means cold - as in taters in the mold - see here for an explanation.

All this potato waffle, or perhaps waffling about spuds/murphys/taters, leads me to the point of this blogpost - planting this year's potatoes. Trying a couple of different potatoes this year: I have grown Foremost before (a tasty and reliable first early potato) but not Nadine (second early). This year, I'm trialling a new (and quicker) way of planting the spuds.

Photo 1: This year's spud varieties

The first job was to remove the taters from their bags and put them in trays for chitting ...

Photo 2: Chitted Murphys

... which, fortunately, gave me another month to prepare the potato plot from last year's onion/garlic/carrot/ beetroot/parsnip plot (Photo 3) ...

Photo 3: Last Year's Onion/Garlic/Root Vegetable Plot

After transplanting the garlic that survived last year's harvest and clearing the various artefacts, the plot was lightly dug over (10-15 cm), to loosen compacted soil and get rid of any obvious weeds, before raking level (Photo 4). 

Photo 4: Prepared Murphy Plot

Each potato pack (Photo 2) had 10 potatoes that were laid out in their final planting positions ...

Photo 5: Allocation of Planting Positions (Foremost)
... giving a distance of about 26-28 cm (10-11 inches) between each potato (the raised bed is 3 metres long). Conical holes, about 20 cm (8 inches) deep, were created using an old hoe shaft and a circular hand motion ...

Photo 6: Potato Planting Holes

... sieved homemade compost was added to the bottom of the hole and the chitted spud (Foremost) inserted with the sprouted part pointing upwards. The holes were filled in with soil before repeating the process for the Nadine seed potatoes. Finally, a mound of unsieved compost was placed on top.

Photo 7: Job Done
The compost layer along each row attracted the local bird population who would root around looking for worms and other edibles. A few days later I added some recovered coir compost from the two Veg/Salad Planters (last year's celery and celeriac) you can see in the background (Photo 7).

This method of planting seed potatoes is very easy and quick. Apart from adding more soil/compost/recovered coir as the potato plants grow (earthing up) and the occasional watering, it is just a case of waiting until summer to start harvesting. Going early with the taters should avoid many of the pests that plague this tuber.


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