Tuesday, June 12, 2012

You say potato and I say...

Growing potatoes in our temperate but high humidity climate during late Spring is a challenge we face every season in the veggie plot at La Pasera. The results of this challenge vary every year but in the main we are always pleased with the crop we get.

The potato growing season commences during Winter with the digging in of green manure (oats) we have sown several weeks earlier. This not only provides nutrients for the developing potatoes (a hungry crop) but also helps to improve the texture of the heavy clay we have here at La Pasera. If you remember, earlier on in the year we created some raised beds and we imported several tons of sandy soil to help improve our soil.

With the soil warming as the sun got hotter, we planted about 100 seed potatoes and this year we tried an early variety called Espunta we sourced from a local agricultural shop. We tend to bury the seed potatoes deep into the soil, about a spade's depth which slightly delays their sprouting but means we do not need to worry about earthing them up later on. This practice enables us to grow more potatoes when space is at a premium.

Our main challenge with potatoes is keeping the crop blight free. Blight comes quickly especially on the dull damp days of late spring when sea mists roll in from the coast. As we try to grow our vegetables in an organic way, we only spray the potatoes with copper sulphate prophylactic-ally and our own home made fungicide based on a horse tail infusion. In spite of this, it comes a point when the potatoes just succumbs to the blight and within a few days the plants just deteriorate rapidly by which time, according to some village people, you need to harvest the crop otherwise they will rot in the ground. This year we harvested about 75 kilos on total.

Over the few years we have been growing potatoes at La Pasera, we have found out that if we plant the potatoes early enough, by the time the humid sea mist season starts the potatoes have been growing close to three months and are developed enough for us to harvest them. We always seem forced to do the harvesting as the plants start blossoming. Some locals cannot understand our reluctance to apply a chemical fungicide on a weekly basis to guarantee a trouble free crop like theirs. For us, it is a question of choice and a desire to grow vegetables in a manner that would cause the least impact on the environment and for health reasons.

This year it was nice to notice a greater number than ever before of ladybirds, always a much welcomed ally in the garden. The orchid season continues with beautiful Bee Orchids punctuating the meadows and hedgerows.

After drying the potatoes for a few days in a dry and cool environment, we will store them in paper sacks  check them from time to time as there are always a couple that may need disposing of as they start deteriorating.

We would like to hear about your experiences growing and storing potatoes as well as any other tips regarding potato blight. Home-grown potatoes, I love to eat them, fresh out of the ground, cleaned, boiled with a sprig of mint and eaten with a blob of butter.


  1. Anonymous12:10 pm

    Hi Guys,
    enjoy the spuds.
    The Sarpo family of potatoes are blight resistant, they might not be the most flavoursome.
    Have youse tried seaweed to improve the soil and fertilise?

  2. Hi Josey. Thanks for the comment. We have considered using seaweed but in the end we decided against it on the grounds that it may be a source of heavy metals in some coastal parts, especially for arsenic when the seaweed comes into contact with the soil.
    Thanks for the tip on the Sarpo variety.


Click link to read more.