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Potatoes in winter - Reasons to be Cheerful.


 
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James Kilkelly
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Joined: 30 May 2006
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Location: West of Ireland

PostPosted: Sat Jan 22, 2011 2:46 pm    Post subject: Potatoes in winter - Reasons to be Cheerful. Reply with quote

Potatoes in winter - Reasons to be Cheerful.
by GPI

The juice of the carrot, the smile of a parrot
A little drop of claret - anything that rocks

Reasons to be Cheerful (Part 3) by Ian Dury and the Blockheads

We are at that time of the year when a lot of people are on a downer after all the Christmas festivities. Credit card bills are on the way, radio talk shows are filled with national economic doom, and on top of all that the weather is cold and damp. It's the weather being cold and damp that's my biggest concern as I look to the garden for a bit of levity at these times.

It's too cold for any proper vegetable seed sowing yet so I took a walk around the veg area to carry out some assessment of the growing year past, and to mull over some plans for the New Year. It was there that I discovered my new years tonic, a pick-me-up that left me smiling for the rest of the week.

Summertime potato sowing.
Do you remember back to the summer when I wrote about sowing a batch of "blight-proof" seed potatoes, ones that were originally developed in Hungary? These were the Sarpo potato breed, a name which came from the first three letters of the breeders surname Dr. Istavaán Sárvári and the first two letters of the word potato. Dr. Sárvári used wild South American and Mexican stock to create his "super spud" which claimed resistance to blight, viruses, and other pests such as wireworms and slugs.

So I gave these red skinned and white-fleshed specimens a whirl in my own garden. I had visions of myself frolicking through the potato stalks, unladen by the straps of a chemical filled knapsack. Then at harvest time I imagined myself heaving big lumps of blight-free spuds from the ground, boiling them up until they split into balls of flour.

Some of these hopes came true and some didn't. As promised the Sarpo's were "blight-proof" even though not a drop of Dithane or bluestone mixture touched the plants. In fact the closest they got to spray was when my dog tried to cock his leg next to them, yet they emerged from the soil un-blackened by blight. Laughing

The particular Sarpo variety I grew was called Mira, one that its distributor recommended for mashing, baking, and roasting. My hopes for floury potatoes were in vain unfortunately, the Sarpo Mira making for quite a waxy mashed potato mix. I have to say though I found them to be found them to be great chippers and roasters, with roasting in goose fat really improving the taste.


Sarpo potatoes in peat, photo / picture / image.

An experiment with peat and potatoes.
Now sowing the Sarpo's was an experiment in itself, but I carried out another one in a hidden corner of the garden for a bit of a laugh. This was the one that delighted me as I came across it on my New Years ramble. I had sown three Sarpo's into nothing but bog peat and then forgot to harvest them when fit.

I planted them into the slightly shaded pile in mid June allowing a 15cm (6in) covering of peat over the seed. They were watered directly after sowing, with any further irrigation or spraying left to the passing rain clouds. Stalks and leaves grew, the plants flowered, and between one thing and another I forgot to lift what grew when harvesting the main potato crop.

So last week when I dug into the soft peat with my bare hands I was expecting one or two rotten potatoes to be my prize. Imagine my delight when from the three seed sown I harvested twenty-four average-sized and blight free specimens.

Having refused them spray, fertiliser, weeding, and even adequate growing soil (plain bog peat remember) they still impressed. After the extended cold period we have just experienced I expected them to be frost damaged, but only four showed elements of this. The wrinkly frost damaged specimens can be seen on the left of the attached image, with the rest of the healthy crop on the right, and the peat growing area directly above.

Considering I should have harvested them in September/October, I have to say I was mightily impressed. The hardiness of the Sarpo's made my New Year. I could not recommend them highly enough for the beginner gardener. Just don't expect balls of flour. Wink

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Associated content.
Increasing your stock of seed pototoes, How-to Video.

Grow your own potatoes.

How to grow new potatoes for Christmas.

How to manage the top two potato pests, Wireworm and Slugs.

Common potato Scab, Management of the problem.

Potato blight, how to treat Phytophthora infestans.

Planning a Vegetable Garden? How to Make a Vegetable Garden.

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kindredspirit
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PostPosted: Sat Jan 22, 2011 6:37 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Don't like floury potatoes so they'll do fine.

You can believe Hungarian doctors then! Very impressive. And no chemicals.
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Robert Boccaccio
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Joined: 15 Jan 2011
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Location: BALLINA CO.MAYO

PostPosted: Sat Jan 22, 2011 9:57 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I have grown many varieties of potatoes over the years and can truly say that Sarpo Mira is the only truly blight resistant variety. Even related Sarpo variety Axona, although not having any blight in the tubers, had succumbed, the leaves and stems rotting resulting in a small yield. I will be growing Mira as my main crop from now on.
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