Growing Big Baking Potatoes
I’m craving a big, baked potato, and fortunately I’ve got the perfect candidate sitting in my cupboard. It weighs over a kilo, and was sold to me at the Burnham farmers market by local organic farmer Sarah (pictured with the aforementioned potato).
At first, I was a little daunted by this mutant potato, and even after two days of not eating I’m not sure I can manage the whole thing. So, maybe I’ll split the tattie with my wife, but it’ll definitely justify two cans of beans.
I’ve used all my homegrown potatoes up, so bought a bag from Sarah too. One thing I noticed was that they were all a good baking size. I’m never had much luck growing big potatoes, so have been doing some research in time for this year’s planting.
Sarah’s potatoes are Ambo, although Kestrel, Winston and Pentland Crown are also recommended. This year, I’ve bought Estima on the advice of Ron, the man who runs the allotment shop. He’s told me to grow half as earlies and leave the rest to grow on.
Preparing the Soil
Preparing the soil seems fairly standard. Manure the earth as usual before planting, but one thing that is suggested is mulching the soil once the potatoes are in. Hay or straw are recommended, spread on top to about 8cm deep. This has left me wondering whether I could use the grass cuttings when I next mow the plot.
This might keep the weeds down too, which is a bonus for me as my potato patch often falls to the bottom of my To Weed list during the summer.
Spacing is also key for bigger potatoes. For a potato to grow large, it’ll need plenty of space, which makes sense. Last year in particular I was obsessed with squeezing in as much as possible. This time around, I’ll be spacing the plants at least a foot apart.
Another interesting tip I read involved rubbing out all but 2 of the shoots on the seed potatoes before planting. This will mean fewer but larger potatoes, and I guess works in the same way as leaving only one fruit on a plant when growing big pumpkins.
For me, digging up potatoes is one of the most exciting jobs on an allotment. It’s like a treasure hunt, so I’m hoping for some big surprises come the Autumn.
In the meantime, if you’ve had success with big potatoes in the past, I’d love to hear your tips…