Early signs of blight in a potato plant. At least, the higher leaves have early signs - I'd say it was a bit more advanced in the lower leaves.
... you just dig up the spuds quick and dispose of the leaves, preferably by burning and definitely not on the compost heap. This one, on the other hand...
... may have gone a bit far - oops.
Surveying the potato patch, I saw that the telltale yellowing leaves were pretty widespread. Oh dear, I'd better get digging, then. I started off by digging only those that had signs of blight, but fairly soon realised that the number of first earlies that needed lifting was,
All of them.I got that done yesterday, and one of the maincrop, just to see how it was doing. All the potatoes looked pretty healthy, even the ones from the seriously blighted plant in the photo above. Here's what I harvested:
Blight-stricken first earlies, all safely harvested, plus one King Edward's worth of spuds (those are the ones loose on the table)
I couldn't believe how many potatoes I got from that King Edward: That's two and a half pounds from just one plant! It's no wonder they're so popular with gardeners.
Having lifted all the first earlies, I was able to tot up the total harvest: I lifted just over 19 lb yesterday, making the total harvest just shy of 29 lb. The cost works out at 30p/kg, which compares favourably with around £1.35 for new potatoes from the supermarket, and I'm not even looking at the organic ones for that comparison.
I was planning to save some of them as seed potatoes for next year, and I've put aside 15 of the biggest (the seeds I bought were pretty big) for that purpose. Now I'm wondering whether that's a good idea, as I know these plants have been affected by blight. There's no sign of blight in the tubers, but could it be lurking there unseen? Will I get early and vigorous blight wiping out the whole crop if I try to grow from these?
Today I tackled the maincrop. Encouraged by the quantity I got from the King Edward I dug yesterday, I did think I'd lift the whole lot today. On the other hand, it would be nice to leave them to grow for a while longer (and not have to dig the whole lot in one day!) What I actually did was to dig up all those that had clear signs of blight, which was quite a lot of them. These were mostly in the middle of the bed, so taking them out will allow a lot more airflow around those that remain. I'm hoping this will be enough to discourage the blight from advancing too aggressively, but this is probably wishful thinking. I'll be monitoring it closely now, and may well be digging the rest of them within a week or so.
The next question I have to think about is storage. The first step is to let the skins harden. Common advice is to leave them out in the sun for a few days for this purpose, but I'm not sure this is such a good idea. I've noticed the skins hardening on spuds I've stored in the cupboard for a few days, so sunshine can't be critical. Also, we all know what too much sunlight does to potatoes*. In any case, dry weather can hardly be guaranteed round here.
I've left them out in the sun for a few hours to dry out, but now I'm going to bring them in, and try to figure out what to do with them next. Spreading them out somewhere dark seems like a good idea, I'm just not sure quite how to achieve it. For long-term storage, I had thought about a press, which is a big box full of sand or dry soil. However, I'm not sure I'm up to organizing one of those in the time available. I did buy a couple of hessian sacks with the seed potatoes, so I think I'll be using those instead.
* It turns them green and toxic, in case you didn't know.