At the weekend, I dug up my potatoes, a job I relish every year. However, despite my love of harvesting spuds, I don’t often dwell on all the reasons potatoes are a great crop to grow.
Maybe they’re just not all that fashionable, amongst the more glamorous allotment crops that are around at the same time, like tomatoes, raspberries, and squashes.
But potatoes are definitely great. Here are six reasons why.
Potatoes are an excellent choice for the time-constrained allotmenteerist. I very rarely water my potatoes once they’re planted, choosing to let the rain do that, and have never been disappointed with my crop. If you’re looking for a high return with little effort, I’d thoroughly recommend the pink fir apple (pictured).
You can lay a tarpaulin on the soil and grow the potato plants through slits too, keeping the weeds down at the same time.
Fun to harvest
For me, potatoes are such fun crops to harvest. Digging them up reminds me of a treasure hunt – when you start rooting around the soil, you never know how many potatoes you’ll find and what size they’ll be. I never fail to be full of childish excitement when it comes to harvesting potatoes.
Late Autumn is generally the time that most people begin lifting their maincrop potatoes. Depending on the weather, maincrops are normally ready between 18 to 22 weeks after planting and are the best type of potato crops for winter storage.
A meal staple
Find me someone who doesn’t eat potatoes! It’s estimated that the average person in Britain eats nearly 100kg of potatoes a year, so if you’re going by the mantra ‘grow what you eat’, then the potato is definitely worthy of space on your plot.
Lots of different varieties
Did you know there are over 80 different types of potato available in our shops today? There’s so many, that’s the average grower would struggle to try them all in a lifetime!
From the International Kidney (aka the famous ‘Jersey Royal’) to the blight-resistant Sarpo, there is always something different to grow, and they all have their own special baking, roasting, chipping, and mashing qualities.
Looking for the right potato for the right cooking style? Try the Real Men Sow Guide to potatoes.
Some potatoes will last well into the winter months under the right storage conditions, making them a good money-saving choice.
Storing properly is key. If you can find a nice, sunny day to harvest then all the better, as potatoes benefit from a few hours of drying out before storage. Lay them on the ground in a nice warm position, and then roughly clean the mud and soil off the skin.
Store in paper or hessian sacks in a frost-free and dark place if possible. Under the worktop in my shed normally does the trick for me.
Don’t use plastic bags for storage, as the potatoes will condensate and rot. You only need a couple of rotting potatoes to quickly ruin a bag full.
For more potato storage tips like these, check out this post about successfully storing spuds.
Potatoes help break up the soil
If you’ve just taken on a new plot and there is some compacted soil, potatoes are a good first crop to grow because their roots help break up the soil.
Add some manure and compost too, and the soil should be ready to take anything in the second year.