Growing Potatoes at Slopefield

Potatoes are one of the most common vegetables grown throughout Slopefield and there is nothing better than the taste of newly dug early tatties with butter!

Although not a difficult plant to grow there are a number of factors which can make a big difference between a successful , bountiful crop and failure.

Early seed potatoes should be "chitted" (allowed to sprout) before being planted out 30 centimetres apart in a 10 centimetre deep trench with a small handful of slow release potato fertiliser. As the potato plant grows the row should be heaped up give the forming tubers some protection from light as this can cause the potao tuber to turn green and become poisonous.

Potatoes are greedy feeders so thrive in well fertilised soil and regular liquid feeding with a potassium rich fertiliser such as comfrey or nettle tea.

They need to be watered regularly and benefit from a mulch to retain water.

If planted early (end of February at the very earliest) they require protection from frost by covering with fleece.

Plants need to be netted near harvest time to prevent predation by crows.

Late Blight is a wind borne fungal pathogen (Phytophthora Infestans) which thrives in humid, warm conditions and arrives EVERY year at Slopefield in early to mid July.

Blight affects the foliage initially, and eventually, the tubers of the plant. It starts with small brown lesions on the leaf surface which produce white spores and brown fungal rot which eventually makes its way down into the roots of the plant rotting the potatoes. Blight spreads very rapidly by wind borne spores.

If Blight occurs the infected leaves should be removedfrom the plants as soon as possible and either burnt or removed from the site and must NOT be composted. The potatoes should be left in the ground for several weeks before cropping. Any tubers which show signs of rot should be removed from the site and disposed of.

The most successful way of growing potatoes at Slopefield is to either grow Early varieties such as Arran Pilot, Rocket or Orla which are quick to crop (10-14 weeks) and plant them mid to end of March under fleece until the chance of frost has gone or to grow Blight resistant potatoes such as Sarpo Mira, Cara and Orla which are largely unaffected by the pathogen.