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Is nipping off potato flowers a good idea or not?


 
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PeterEnglish
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PostPosted: Tue Jun 01, 2010 10:57 am    Post subject: Is nipping off potato flowers a good idea or not? Reply with quote

I notice on p39 of a certain gardening magazine this week, that it's recommended to nip off potato flowers so as not to exhaust the plant.

I've never heard of this before, and have always left my flowers intact to give me some idea of when the crop may be ready. I'm always keen to try new ideas, but before I start nipping and pinching, won't this simply encourage the potato plants to produce more flowers?
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michael brenock
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PostPosted: Tue Jun 08, 2010 10:00 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

theoretically removing the flower conserves the energy of the plant and helps to produce bigger tubers however the percentage increase would be very small indeed. if the flowers are left on and pollinated then the plant produces potato fruit just like a tomato but in this case the fruit is poisonous.
michael brenock horticultural advisor (retired)
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Blowin
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PostPosted: Sun Jun 13, 2010 7:14 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Just out of interest, Michael, is it possible to save these and obtain seed from them?
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ian
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PostPosted: Sun Jun 13, 2010 4:36 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

if the seed was used would it not take another year to get seed tubers, that is if the plant is not an F1 variety in the first place? What about using smaller seeds from the crop this year for next year store them in a freezer perhaps.
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PeterEnglish
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PostPosted: Tue Jun 15, 2010 12:03 pm    Post subject: Potato flowers Reply with quote

Thanks, Mr Brenock.

Obviously, nipping off the pollinated flowers before they begin to "fruit" might be a good idea, but after reading your reply I looked up a couple of potato websites which suggest that the crop improvement is as small as 10% - which isn't really enough of a difference to matter to the average family gardener like myself.

Plant produces ten good sized spuds plus one extra?

On the other hand, I imagine the plant may produce its ten good sized spuds plus loads of those overlooked little beggars that insist on repopulating the ground next year. They can be a bit of a nuisance. I even have potatoes sprouting from not-quite-fully-composted potato peelings.

It's an interesting idea about harvesting the potato seeds, but I suspect it's not worth the bother. A bit like dahlias, really! It would be an interesting experiment for my three kids, though. I am prepared, in the interests of science and education, to sacrifice a couple of potato plants and "just see what happens".

I may not be the world's greatest expert on growing vegetables, but I'm a dab hand at growing interesting children.

Also, I picked my first Charlottes last Sunday. They were, ooh - well, just, seriously, oo-o-o-o-ooh! With lots of melted butter!
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Sive
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PostPosted: Tue Jun 15, 2010 2:08 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

What a lovely image...... a garden growing interesting children...........
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simonj
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PostPosted: Mon Jun 21, 2010 2:22 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

So just to be clear - de-flowering the spuds (no innuendo please) will not harm growth and give a slight increase in size/crop - is that the case
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PeterEnglish
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PostPosted: Mon Jun 21, 2010 3:45 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

From what I've been reading, it won't harm the potato plants and will increase yield by a "small amount".

To the average home gardener like myself, a "small amount" may be 10% or so. I found a few academic articles on de-flowering, which severely taxed my brain, including a study on Agria and Concord which noted significant increases in yield;

http://www.actahort.org/books/729/729_52.htm

and other sites suggesting an increase of over a ton per acre for commercial growers. On the other hand, I'm still as skeptical as I was two weeks ago, and have left my flowers intact, in the certain knowledge that anything flowering today will be dug up and eaten within a fortnight anyway, so what's the point!

Incidentally, I found an interesting article on the Teagasc site about potato flowers, seeds and breeding, but "organoleptic evaluation" sounds way too complicated for my eight year old...

http://www.teagasc.ie/topics/crops/potatoes.asp

At the moment he's having fun pollinating my tomatoes with his electric toothbrush. I'll let him toothbrush one designated potato plant (in an old bag on the patio) and even if nothing happens, he'll still have learned that there's always more to learn. Gardening is great for kids!
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monkeynic
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PostPosted: Mon Jun 21, 2010 5:05 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I have to ask Peter but why dug up and eaten within two weeks? Almost all of mine are flowering now and most are main crop. I thought they stay in ground until late summer?
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PeterEnglish
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PostPosted: Mon Jun 21, 2010 5:29 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

First Earlies which I began chitting in eggboxes in February.

I only have an average-sized garden so I have to be selective, and I don't bother with main crop as I live next door to a farm, and the farmer always has a couple of fields full.

Not that I creep out with a torch and fork in the middle of the night, of course - I buy them in his farm shop. Honest. Gardener's Honour.
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michael brenock
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PostPosted: Mon Jun 21, 2010 5:45 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

setting seeds of potatoes is always fascinating. Seed that is produced on the stalk this summer is saved and dried in the autumn. Store them in a dry place over the winter and sow them like tomato seed next Spring (march/april). The resulting plant will produce a few mini tubers after transplanting out or in flower pots next Summer. The following year these mini tubers will produce normal sized tubers. So it takes two full years to see what the progeny is like. The skin and flesh of the green seed is poisonous.
michael brenock horticultural advisor (retired)

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