Gardening with Daphne Ledward: Time for something different

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My brother-in-law is much more of a keen vegetable grower than I am, so when they visited us from Sheffield before Christmas, he made his annual pilgrimage to Birchgrove Garden Centre to buy his early seed potatoes, and I am sure by now he has them chitting away merrily on their utility room windowsill.

I have to admit that in recent years, apart from growing a few very early spuds in pots, I haven’t bothered too much with home-grown potatoes as you could generally buy them locally far cheaper than you could grow them, bearing in mind the cost of the ‘seed’, fertiliser and other peripherals needed for raising a decent crop.

This year, however, with the clearing of a piece of my vegetable garden used, not very successfully, for cut flowers, and the price of potatoes going through the roof, my number one New Year’s resolution is to have home-grown potatoes by June, and try something new for later in the season.

The mail order choice of varieties is tremendous.

Obviously, it pays to grow some extra earlies.

‘Swift’, although not new, fits my bill, as it has good resistance to scab, eelworm and other diseases,and as my new potato patch is the part of the garden that was heavily manured with ‘hoss-muck’ last summer, and therefore not the ideal land for potato growing, disease resistance is of paramount importance.

For the new variety, I’ve chosen ‘Toluca’ (listed in Mr Fothergill’s Summer Garden Catalogue this year) because it is thought to be blight resistant, and blight was a big problem the last time I grew potatoes at the Patch.

And, just for fun, I thought I’d try Albert Bartlett’s ‘Purple Majesty’, a curious spud with deep purple skin and flesh which retains its colour when cooked (pictured above).

I guess this will be one you either like or loathe, but it’s worth a try.

I can’t wait now to set the seed out in egg trays (to keep them with their ‘eyes’ uppermost) and watch their fat little shoots appear.