The heaviest crop of potatoes of the best possible quality is the attainable right of every home food producer; though it is commonly regarded as an achievement reserved for experts only. The first essential is really good planting tubers – technically, seed potatoes or sets. The second is correct cultivation, which means attention to a number of orderly, simple details quite devoid of anything extravagant in the way of labour or outlay.
Quantities to Plant.
Fortunately it is possible to estimate approximately the yield from any given quantity of seed potatoes planted. If a total of about 4 cwt. is aimed at, eight 30-ft. rows – or the equivalent of a 240-ft. run – should be planted.
These eight rows could be made up of: one 30-ft. row of what is known as a first early variety and two rows of a second early variety, 4 lb. of seed potatoes being required to plant each row, this accountingfor 12 lb. of seed; and five rows of a main-crop variety (or varieties), requiring 3 lb. of seed per row, this accounting for a total of 15 lb. of seed.
The yield of the first three rows can be reckoned as 1cwt., of the next five rows as 2 A cwt. So that from the planting of 27 lb. of seed a total yield of 4 cwt. can be expected.
Ready for Use.
In normal circumstances the first new potatoes will be available some time in July, from the planting of first early varieties; in August the second earlies become available; and in late September the main-crop varieties, for storing, these being in sufficient quantity, perhaps, to last out until the first of the next year’s new potatoes can be dug up.
In selecting your varieties, and quantities to plant, the object should be to secure sufficient potatoes for current needs from as early in the year as possible and enough for storing later in the year for winter and spring use.
For July use, first early varieties include Arran Pilot, Epicure, May Queen, Sharpe’s Express.
Ready for lifting in August, second early varieties include Great Scot, Ben Lomond, British Queen, Arran Comrade, Catriona.
Main-crop varieties, late September, include Majestic, Arran Banner, King Edward VII, Gladstone, Kerr’s Pink, Redskin, Up-to-Date, Arran Victory.
The most devastating potato disease in the world is known as wart disease, on account of the small cauliflowerlike, greeny-yellow growths that develop at the base of stems and on tubers of attacked plants. The disease is so serious that it must be notified at once to the Ministry of Agriculture (address obtainable from local council offices or police station) and their instructions awaited. Affected tops, and tubers must be burned, and, as the soil in which it occurs remains contaminated for years, only varieties of potato certified as immune may be planted therein. In this case immune refers only to the wart disease and not to any other of the troubles that afflict the potato.
It is of the very greatest importance that this regulation be complied with. Of the varieties already listed the following are definitely immune and may be planted with every confidence in ground which has been infected by wart disease.
Arran Pilot, Great Scot, Ben Lomond, Arran Comrade, Catri-ona, Majestic, Arran Banner, Gladstone, Kerr’s Pink, Redskin, Arran Victory.
Buying Seed Potatoes.
Odd lots of seed picked up at the greengrocer’s without any official certificate to accompany them may prove to be a ruinous piece of shopping. To safeguard the home food producer’s interests, the Ministry of Agriculture requires that all potatoes sold for planting shall have been officially certified as having been grown on land free from wart disease (for which a numbered certificate is given, certificate numbers being prefixed with the letters C.L., meaning clean land); or that they have been inspected officially and found to be free of wart disease (certificate numbers also prefixed C.L.); or that they are of an approved variety true to type (letters T.S. before certificate numbers signifying true stock).
The letter A preceding the C.L. or T.S. on the certificate means that the potatoes have been grown in an area infected by wart disease (though they are not themselves infected, of course), and these must not be moved or planted outside the scheduled infected areas.
If the number of the official certificate and various other official particulars are not enclosed in, or delivered with, any bag of seed potatoes the purchaser has a legal right to demand a written statement setting out these details: name and address of seller, the class, the variety, the size and dressing, and the number of the certificate.
Class of Potato.
Seed potatoes are officially classified as follows: Class I (Scotch) signifies potatoes grown in Scotland; Class I (Irish) potatoes grown in Ireland. Potatoes grown in England or Wales under the provisions of a scheme authorized by the Minister of Agriculture are indicated as Class I (English Special Stock) or Class I (Welsh Special Stock).
Those referred to as Class I (English once grown) are potatoes grown in England or Wales which are either the produce of seed grown in Scotland or Ireland in the preceding year, or are the produce of seed included in the special stock classes in the preceding year, such produce not being in accordance with a scheme authorized by the Minister of Agriculture.
All other potatoes not included in the foregoing are referred to as Class II.
The significance of all this is explained below.
Name of Variety.
Under these provisions of the Ministry it is required that a variety must be true to type to the extent of 97 per cent of the quantity of seed potatoes sold. If it is not so, the seed potatoes must be sold as mixed varieties.
Size and Dressing.
The size of seed potatoes is important; best results come from planting those about the size of a chicken’s egg. Dealers are therefore required to declare that their seed conforms to certain limits, size and dressing referring to the dimensions of mesh of top and bottom riddles (sieves) used in gauging the seed. The latter are required to pass through a 2-½ in. mesh riddle but not through one of 1½ in.
When the dealer states only the size of the bottom riddle (1/2in.) his seed is sold with the description ‘as grown.’
The potato deteriorates as to weight of yield and size of tubers if a crop is raised from home-saved seed for more than two years in succession. Seed potatoes raised in another district should therefore be obtained for planting to as large an extent as possible. A money-saving compromise can be effected satisfactorily by saving vigorous plant which is dug up with an excellent weight of big tubers will almost certainly have a few small ones attached, and these are the best seed.
Seed potatoes selected in that manner will, when planted the following year, produce a crop almost, if not quite, as good as the parent crop; because the seed inherits the good qualities of the parent.
Bad, or weak, qualities are as easily inherited. Small tubers saved from a plant that produced nothing but small ones will, when planted, yield even smaller potatoes. Disease is also passed on with equal facility. enough seed potatoes each year to plant half of the next year’s potato area, the other half being planted with seed raised elsewhere. The following year seed potatoes can be saved from the new half, and so on. In that manner a vigorous stock is maintained, as free from disease as care can make it, and the home grower profits exceedingly.
How to Save Seed Potatoes.
Chicken-egg sized tubers can be picked out from the crop when this is lifted in bulk, but – and this is of supreme importance – they should be picked out during the actual digging and not later from the potato heap. The reason for this selection on the spot is that suitable-sized seed must be chosen only from those plants which have a really big individual crop. A
The folly of planting any old seed needs no further stressing.
Suiting Variety to Soil.
Some varieties of potato produce grand crops of magnificent eating and storing qualities in one district, yet prove far from satisfactory in another district. Soil and locality must therefore be considered. Varieties that are known to do well in any one district should be adopted by the newcomer to potato growing. The names can be learned from local growers.
For soil described as fairly heavy, or medium, the variety King Edward VII is generally suitable. Soils ranging from medium to heavy suit Great Scot and Ben Lomond. All types of soil – properly cultivated – can be cropped with Majestic, Arran Pilot and Arran Banner; the latter is also generally suitable for light and dry ground. When ordering seed potatoes it is advisable to indicate a second choice in case the dealer has run out of the variety, or varieties, ordered, or to state definitely that none other than the variety ordered shall be sent. That precaution may save a lot of trouble.
Potatoes will not grow satisfactorily in lumpy soil; it must be broken up as finely and to as great a depth as possible. If the ground is clay, or otherwise heavy, lighten it with wood ash, charred woody pieces from the bonfire, and leaf-mould. It is not advisable to attempt to lighten it with grit or ashes from the house fires, such material tending to scratch the tender skins of young tubers and induce surface scab.
If manure can be obtained, bury it below the top 9 in. It should not come in contact with the seed potatoes at planting time, more especially if the manure is raw – that is, new. Material from the soft refuse heap is invaluable for enriching potato ground, trodden in thickly at the 9-in. depth. So also is seaweed, straight from the shore or stacked and dried.
Material from a worn-out hotbed or mushroom bed or from the old marrow heap can be dug in with considerable profit; or it can be used to line the planting drills. If potatoes are planted with a trowel and not in drills, the material should be dug well in.
After the ground has been dug, further assistance can be given to the coming crop by raking, hoeing or forking into the surface one of the trade-name potato fertilizers; or this mixture – superphosphate of lime three parts, one part each of sulphate of ammonia and sulphate of potash, applied at the rate of 4 ounces to the square yard; or plenty of wood ash, which is obtained by burning woody garden or allotment refuse.
Wood ash provides the potash which potatoes require, as also does the ash of burnt bracken and of seaweed.
These powders can either be mixed with the dug surface or sprinkled in the planting trench or in the trowel-made holes, before planting.
Sprouting the Seed Potatoes.
Growth starts from the small sunken buds or eyes scattered about the tuber. The best are at the broad end, which is spoken of variously as the rose or crown end. The plants get an earlier and better start if planted after these eyes have made about in. of growth. Method of sprouting is as follows.
As soon as the seed potatoes become available (either purchased, or picked out from the home crop at lifting time) they are placed touching in shallow boxes, on end, broad end at the top. Each box should be a shallow framework only; solid sides and ends obscure the light which is essential to the production of short, sturdy, green sprouts; and each should hold one layer only.
The filled boxes are at once placed under cover where frost cannot reach but where light is unhindered. Warmth is not required, but if the shed, attic or other shelter is not absolutely frostproof the boxes should be covered with dry material (such as bracken or straw or sheets of paper) in very cold weather; the covering to be removed when there is no danger of the tubers being frosted.
From first to last they must be dealt with gently. Skins are easily bruised, and in that condition the tubers are apt to rot in the boxes. They should be looked at from time to time and any that by their appearance give rise to doubt should be removed and burnt.
No water should be given whilst they are set up in the boxes. If shoots show signs of developing long and spindly and white they are not getting sufficient light, and chances of getting a big crop are being reduced.
Limiting the Shoots.
Shoots will develop at various points on the tuber, not only at the broad (top) end, but they are not all required. Remove the weakest first, then reduce the remainder to the two sturdiest. Those that are not wanted are easily rubbed off with a touch of the finger. Yield will be both bigger and earlier for this attention. More than two shoots, however, should be left if the sprouting tubers are on the large side and it is intended to divide them before planting.
Dividing Big Tubers.
Chicken-egg-sized seed potatoes are planted intact. But larger ones give a bigger total yield when divided and the portions planted as though they were small whole tubers. The cutting should be done after sprouting, with a sharp knife, from top to bottom if possible, each portion to come away with at least one sturdy sprout.
If the cutting is done before sprouts develop there is a risk that some portions may fail to grow after planting, as all eyes do not necessarily send out shoots.
There must be no haste to divide the sprouted tubers. The time todo it is immediately before planting. Should it be discovered, after cutting, that the ground is very dry, the divisions should be put back in the sprouting boxes (under cover where they came from) for five or six days, this giving the cut surfaces a chance to harden somewhat. After that they can be planted in the dry ground without risk.
The chief things to avoid are the cut surfaces being dried by sun or wind, and the breaking off of shoots by careless handling. The safeguard against the latter is obvious. Protection against wind or hot sun is given by doing the cutting in shade or in a shed and by covering-in the cut tubers as soon as they are planted.
There is nothing to be gained from powdering cut surfaces with lime, wood ash, or anything else, before planting.
Planting Unsprouted Tubers.
The advantages of larger and earlier yield must be foregone if, because of lack of time or convenience, tubers have to be planted in an unsprouted condition. They should be placed in the trenches, or trowel-made planting holes, upright, and broad end to the top. If dropped in just anyhow they naturally fall on their sides, with the result that a larger number of shoots come up than would be the case if planted broad end up.
The plant that starts with two, or at most three, strong shoots will produce more good tubers than the plant that sends up half a dozen crowded growths to start with.
When to Plant.
Late February to about mid-May covers the ordinary potato-planting period. It is governed by state of soil and weather. Cold, sodden ground is no medium for seed potatoes, sprouted or unsprouted. It is better to be a month later than the usual time (for the district) of planting than condemn the tubers to conditions that are most definitely not in their favour.
All varieties, whether first early, second early, or main-crop may be planted in the same month, the crop will be ready for lifting (the natural vagaries of spring and summer apart) when the variety has completed its natural span of growth, and not before. As the first early varieties are first to start sprouting it is desirable that they should be got into the ground as early as possible – perhaps late February.
But February planting demands certain conditions, a sheltered, sunny position and light soil being very necessary. The possibilities here are more likely to exist in the home garden than on an allotment. A border of light (but good) soil at the foot of a south-facing fence or wall, unshaded by trees or a building, is ideal. There sprouted seed potatoes may be planted if not in February then in mid-March. In the midlands, where conditions generally are colder, the end of March is safer. Farther north and in Scotiand mid-April is the safest date.
Second earlies can be planted, in normal circumstances, during the first half of April, and main-crop varieties from then on to about mid-May.
How to Plant.
First early and second early varieties will be planted 1 ft. apart, main-crop varieties about 16 in. apart, in rows 2 ft. distant from each other and running, where possible, north and south so that both sides of a row get full benefit of the sun.
Planting depth depends on nature of soil. If this is heavy, about 4 in. of soil should cover the tops; 6 in. if the soil is light. Trenches may be got out with spade or hoe to receive the sprouted tubers, or these can be planted in trowel-made holes of the necessary depth.
Sprouted tubers should be carried to the planting site not in a bag or sack or heaped in a trug, for this would result in the breaking off of many sprouts, but in single-layer boxes. Unsprouted tubers can be submitted to less cautious handling, but even here precautions must be taken against skins being bruised or torn.
Placed one by one in the trench, sprouts upward, they are packed around with well-broken soil when the row is completed, then covered over, with equal care to avoid damage to the sprouts. Those planted in trowel-made holes are speedily covered in by passing the rake along and above the row.
Hoeing Between Rows.
It is necessary to keep the surface soil between rows broken and loose, to keep down weeds and also in preparation for earthing up. If the surface is too hard to work with the Dutch hoe or draw hoe the fork is the tool to use. The soil should not be disturbed too close to the actual lines. These should be marked plainly, at the time of planting, with stakes or large wooden labels.
Earthing Up. Potato plants need to be earthed up by scraping soil with the draw hoe from between rows and piling it against the stems of the leaves, but without covering the leaves.
The purpose of this is to keep the tubers, which are swelling just beneath the surface of the groundand gradually working upwards, in complete darkness. Without this mound to cover them more deeply many would in due course become exposed to the light; the result of such exposure being a green tinge on the tubers, which gives them a bitter flavour and renders them most distasteful when cooked. Earthing up serves a secondary purpose in supporting the tops which otherwise would flop all ways.
Soil is first drawn up to the stems when the plants are about 6 in. high, again when stems have lengthened another 6 in., and again if there is more bare stem to cover. The result is a continuous bank of soil with sloping sides, with a V-shaped depression along the top, out of which the leaves stand up. The bank-top depression is to catch rain for the benefit of tubers and of the thirsty potato roots.
Easiest way to earth up is for the operator to straddle a row and, walking backwards, use the hoe on left and right sides alternately, die hoe held so that its cutting edge is at an angle of about 45 degrees with the ground. The tool is used with a chopping motion to break lumps of soil, with a scraping motion to draw the broken soil into position. If necessary, the fork can be used to loosen the surface first. As the banked-up soil increases in height, so will the channel (from which earth is withdrawn) between each pair of rows deepen.
When the first earthing up is about to start, some wood ash, or superphosphate, sprinkled alongside the plants and between them, provides a tonic that will be put to good use by the vegetables.
The potato is not a hardy plant, so trouble from frost can always be expected. When early tops are blackened completely by frost that much growth is wasted, but unless the tubers themselves have been badly frosted later growth will push up from any eyes that may so far have remained inactive.
Tops nipped by frost can be. saved from complete crippling if cold water is thrown over them before the sun reaches them – thrown over the foliage by the bucketful, or hosed over the plants, or applied generously with a syringe. This application of cold (note the water starts a gradual thawing of leaf-and-stem tissues before the sun gets there to start a quick thawing.
It is the quick thaw which causes disaster to frosted plants; a slow thaw leaves them comparatively unharmed.
Those that are planted earliest naturally run the greatest risk of frost. Any top protection that can be given them is useful, such as sticks pushed into the ground to hold up a low roof of sacking, or shoots of evergreen (laurel, etc..) laid flat along the row tops. This protection should be held ready in the event of frost threatening; it must be removed when the frost has passed. The scheme might not be practicable on every allotment, but it is not difficult of adoption where a small early planting has been made in the home garden.
Later varieties of potato especially are liable to be attacked by a disease known as blight. This is not to be confused with green or black fly, which are also sometimes referred to as blight..
It is a fungus attack, assuming most serious proportions in a wet summer. It appears in the form of brown blotches on the upper surface of leaves and within a few days of this being noticed the tops may perish.
Though complete destruction of the tops is not inevitable, tubers may rot in the ground or, in spite of the fact that they may appear unaffected when lifted, they may decay in store. The safe plan is not to wait for those brown blotches to appear but to coat the leaves, back and front, with a fungicide in powder or liquid form whilst the foliage is still healthy – first in June, again three weeks later, and once more in August. Used in powder form the fungicide should be applied five or six times, at intervals of about a fortnight.
A preparation known as Bordeaux mixture, for either wet or dry spraying, can be purchased in tins, for this special protective purpose. It is sold with directions for use.
It must be noted that possible risk of injury to potato plants when thus dusted or sprayed must be accepted when the area is within ten or twelve miles of certain large industrial towns, on account of acid fumes which may be in the air interacting with the Bordeaux mixture to the serious damage of foliage. Where there is any doubt, useful advice on this point may be got from experienced growers in the locality.
Tubers often become infected at the time of lifting through contact to raise a new variety effects the cross-fertilization of potato flowers of two different varieties, and sows ripened seed from the resultant berries. From diat January sowing, under glass, are produced seedlings which are planted outdoors in May and then dealt with as though they were plants raised in the ordinary way from seed potatoes (tubers). For five or six years the stock thus raised is weeded out with the utmost care, weaklings, those with badly shaped tubers or bad cookers, and other undesirables being destroyed. The ultimate result may or may not be a new variety worth marketing.
When to Dig the Crop.
First early varieties are due for lifting first, but haste to start on the new potatoes should be checked until tubers have reached a decent size. Indication that that stage has arrived is given by the tops when these start yellowing. A plant should then be lifted and skins of the tubers tested; if these are so soft that they tear easily it can be taken as a sign that the tubers have still to do some plumping up, and it would be a pity to lift too many at once. Skins should be fairly tough before digging up a whole row.
Later varieties can be lifted when all the green colour has left the foliage; or tubers may remain in the ground until the tops have died right down – after which nothing but harm can come to the undug tubers, in the form of wireworms and other pests, and disease.with spores of the fungus washed from the leaves by rain; when that happens they will rot in store. Here the safeguard is to lift the crop a fortnight or so after the tops have died completely; or if it is time to lift and the tops are still green, cut these off and dig up the tubers a week or so later.
Potato Plants in Flower.
Some potato plants carry many flowers, others none at all. Whether flowers are produced or not the crop of tubers is in no way affected. Rows of plants decked out with white or lilac blooms, each about the size of a halfpenny, are certainly a most pleasing sight, but to the food grower they represent beauty and nothing more.
Those flowers which chance to be fertilized are followed by berries which are definitely poisonous; fatalities have occurred through eating them. Each potato berry contains from 100 to 300 seeds. Hence seed potatoes and potato seed are not interchangeable terms.
The professional grower seeking
Ideal conditions for lifting are no rain and a dry soil. Something can be done to help wet soil dry out by cutting off the tops (the haulm) a few days before digging is to begin. This exposes the ground to wind and whatever sun may shine, and gives more chance that the potatoes will come up clean – not plastered with wet earth.
How to Dig the Crop.
Lifting is carried out with a fork, and if its tines or prongs are long the job is expedited. A start is made at one end of a row, the fork, held upright, being jabbed into the ground 8 in. or 9 in. from the base of the mound. Pressure from the ball of the foot presses the fork in still farther whilst the handle of the tool is being levered towards the digger. In that manner the tines are coaxed beneath the mass of soil and tubers.
Thus loosened, the tubers are brought up on the flat of the fork, the upheaval being assisted, if necessary, by the grip of the digger’s free hand on the plant’s stems (if the tops have not been cut off). The fork load is then dumped a few inches to left or right, wherever there is a vacant space.
Plant number two is then lifted and the fork load of potatoes dumped on the surface whence number one was lifted, and so on to the end of the row.
It is easier to work from left to right (or right to left) of a row than to dig at right angles to it, And the object of using a long-tined fork and pushing this in well away from the base of the mound is toavoid spearing some of the tubers and leaving others in the ground. It is always worth while going over a dug row later with the fork to ensure that no potatoes have been missed; otherwise odd ones may send up unexpected growth in the midst of next year’s crop of beans or whatever may then be located there.
Drying the Tubers.
The lifted potatoes should not be picked up immediately but be left on the ground to dry. On a hot or windy day a few hours’ exposure will be sufficient; in damp, muggy weather a couple of days may pass before the skins are dry. If rain falls just after lifting, bracken or straw will be needed to cover them; it may even be necessary to gather them all up and put them under cover. Circumstances will dictate the exact proceedings, the object being to get the skins dry but not to expose the potatoes to light for so long that they become green.
Tubers of seed size, however, should be allowed to green before being put away on shelves or in sprouting boxes. These can stay out for four or five days, onthe ground or on a hard path (providing it doesn’t rain), and be turned over a time or two to facilitate the greening process.
Whilst the crop is drying, tubers that have been injured by the fork, diseased and undersized ones, should be picked out and the best of them set aside for prompt use. Very small ones and those not too badly diseased can be cooked and fed to chickens and other live stock; definitely unfit tubers should be burned.
Potato Tops Disposal. Before the potatoes go into store, or as soon as possible afterwards, the tops should be raked into small heaps and then carted away either for burning or adding to the soft refuse heap or pit. If they are diseased, the bonfire is the place for them; their ashes will return good potash to the soil. If they are clean they will rot down along with other vegetable matter in the compost pit or heap for later digging in.
Storing for Winter.
Early potatoes for using up before the main crop is called upon can be stored in sacks, baskets, bags, barrels, anywhere under cover where they can be easily got at. They need ventilation (or they sweat, which induces decay), shelter from rain, protection against rats and mice; they must not be subjected to heat (which will shrivel the skins and start them sprouting), and they must be kept dark. These early varieties will keep in good condition (if not previously used up) until the end of the year, providing they are protected against frost, and sorted over occasionally for the removing of tubers showing decay.
Potatoes for winter store need to be provided for similarly, with extra precautions against damp. The larder might accommodate a sack or two or a few boxes, and the cellar or attic the remainder. Paper, pieces of old sacking, bracken, anything of that nature placed thickly over the boxes, etc.., will be an insurance against frost.
If the potatoes are to be heaped on the damp floor of a cellar or shed the floor should first be covered with a layer of dry bracken, heather, straw, stout twigs or small branches of trees as a cushion between tubers and the damp base. The heap should not be more dian about 18 in. deep, to decrease the risk of sweating, and it should be covered to keep out the light.
It may be necessary to store all or part of the crop outdoors. The procedure is as follows. A layer of sifted ashes from the house fire is put down, at least 2 in. thick, on the driest part of the ground. On that layer the tubers are placed (with care to avoid bruising) as a long heap, 3 ft. to 4 ft. wide and about 18 in. deep, the sides sloping as steeply as possible up to a narrow ridge.
They are then allowed a few days to sweat before being covered with not less than 6 in. of bracken, heather or straw, this in turn being covered with 3 in. of soil made firm and smooth with the back of the spade – so that rain shoots off as fast as it falls. If rain threatens before the sweating period is over the heap should be covered without further delay.
There is no bother about finding the soil covering, for this can be dug from all round the base of the heap, the surrounding trench then serving as a runway for rain or surface water. It may be necessary to provide the trench with an outlet if water threatens to accumulate.
Ventilation is arranged for by providing the outdoor heap with two or more chimneys of tightly twisted straw or bracken, these to go into the ridge as far as the top layer of tubers and to stick out a few inches above the soil covering. Earth should be packed around these tightly so that rain cannot enter that way.
When die heap is drawn on, the covering is removed from one end, a supply of potatoes taken out and the covering replaced at once.
One further attention sometimes given consists in dusting the layers of tubers as these are placed in store, indoors or out, with lime or sulphur. This serves to check decay and acts as a deterrent to rats and mice.
Potatoes in Pots.
Other methods of growing are worth consideration. With a greenhouse temperature of 55 degrees (by night) it is not difficult to get new potatoes well in advance of die earliest outdoor crop, sprouted tubers being planted singly in 10-in. or 12-in. pots. These are half-filled with a mixture of good soil two parts, one part sifted leaf-mould. A tuber is placed upright in the centre of the surface and die pot then filled to witiiin ½ in. of the rim with die same mixture, this to be pressed down, not too firmly, with the fingers. The pots are then placed close to the glass and the soil kept just moist.
When the tops have reached about 6 in. in height they should be held up by means of short twiggy sticks pushed carefully down the sides of the pot.
The crop is got at by inverting the pot and removing this from the soil mass, the upside down tops being supported by one hand. Tubers of usable size can then be picked out and the soil mass returned to the pot to enable smaller tubers to complete their swelling.
First early varieties such as May Queen, Snowdrop, Eclipse, should be chosen for this purpose. If potted in January, useful potatoes should be ready by April. They can also be grown in a cold or hotbed frame, more successfully in the latter. The frame needs to be of ample depth, with 9 in. of really good soil. Sprouted tubers are planted 3 in. deep and 1 ft. apart each way, the frame light is covered with some protective material each night in case of frost, and no ventilation given until tops show through the soil.
Air is then admitted cautiously, as opportunity offers. Some extra soil should be introduced into the frame for mounding up around each plant when the tops are up about 6 in., and the root-run has to be kept uniformly moist. When I ft. of growth has been made a little groping with the fingers at the base of each plant will enable the size of tubers to be discovered. The largest should be taken first and displaced soil put back. The groping is repeated until all tubers have been gathered.
Preparing for Table.
Tubers should be scrubbed, and deep eyes nicked out. Food value is greater if potatoes are cooked in their jackets; the skin then comes away very thinly, leaving much nourishment which is lost when potatoes are peeled before cooking. That … loss represents 9 per cent of the nitrogen content and 17 per cent of the valuable salts. Boiled in their skins the losses are reduced to o’ and I’6 per cent respectively. A rich, starchy food, a mealy potato is more easily digested than a waxy one.