The Straw Cottage

eco-accommodation and growing experiments on a small scale


Happy New Year

2014 resolution number 1 – start blogging – been meaning to for a few years now! Just get on with it woman!!

First one about growing potatoes – been drafting it (and the accompanying report) for weeks so might be too long winded. Resolution number 2 – try to be quick and brief 🙂

Growing potatoes Potato notes 2013

I grow early or “new” potatoes because they are very popular with my family. Nothing surpasses the taste of a freshly dug new potato. Also, from an organic growing point of view, you can get a decent crop of early potatoes before the arrival of blight.

Summer 2012 was very wet – perfect conditions for the spread of blight. I was able to save my crop by simply cutting off the tops of the potatoes at the first sign of blight. As the crop below ground was fairly well developed by then we could just dig them up as required and they were as fresh and tasty as usual. Commercial potato growers spray their crops many times through the growing season to keep blight infections at bay. As I refuse to use any chemical intervention, I could lose my entire crop if I were to grow main crop varieties in a blight year (although a lady staying in the straw bale holiday cabin told me how a man on her allotment could manage to grow a potatoes despite blight by covering them in some fine green mesh he recycled from a building sites – I’ve made a note to try this next year!).

Summer 2013 was sunny and dry and I grew good yields of new potatoes. The report above (click next to title) gives a lot more detail. Here is a summary

  • New potatoes are easy to grow in the UK
  • I can grow higher yields in my garden than is possible on a farm scale
  • I can achieve those higher yields without machines. Fuel or chemicals
  • Potatoes have a high yield of calories per m2- This was useful historically when calories were in short supply and may be useful if we have food security issues in the future – or for fattening livestock.
  • Potatoes have a high GI but this can be moderated when eaten with fat and salad or vegetables.
  • 2014 to do list – try more early varieties, save own seed, follow with another crop, try a blight resistant main crop.

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My experiments in vegetable growing

I’ve been growing vegetables in raised beds on my front lawn at Barmby Grange (BG) for a couple of years. I never use chemicals or artificial fertilisers on my crops and I do all the work by hand or with small tools. In 2013 I acquired a new plot in addition – previously a grass field. During the winter months I devised planting plans for the new plot at Village Farm (VF) and a variety of experiments – most of which involved weighing the resultant produce.

Spring 2013 was very late coming. The land was so cold and wet. It soon became apparent that I had far too many ideas given the time now available for land preparation and planting!

Nevertheless, I did manage to grow some crops over the summer and I will share my harvest results in posts over the next few weeks.

A cold, wet spring 2013

A cold, wet spring 2013