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British Queen arrives at CountryLife

by Malachy - Horticulturist CountryLife Dungarvan | Feb 08, 2016

British Queen arrives at CountryLife
Before anyone jumps to conclusions, no we did not have a royal visitor to the garden centre last week. What did arrive will delight many of the GIY’ers who have been waiting for British Queen potatoes to come in stock. 

British-Queen-Potatoes-are-very-popular-in-storeIn the years I have been working in the garden centre here I have always been amazed with how early gardeners come in trying to get their hands on British Queen potatoes. Some years I have people looking for them from just before Christmas. They are really a star performer in many peoples’ eyes and are justly sought after. 

When it comes to potatoes there are two different types that are grown, early crops and maincrops. Early crops, as the name suggests, are the first to mature and be dug up (normally May- June). Early potatoes are never really affected by blight as they are usually dug up before blight gets going. Within early potatoes you can also get first early and second early potatoes which mature at different times.

Main crop potatoes on the other hand are usually the very last potatoes to be harvested in late summer. Main crop potatoes are more susceptible to blight and so you need to be vigilant during summer for signs of it.

Rooster-potatoes-are-well-known-maincrop-potatoWith both classes of potatoes there are a number of different varieties under each so there is a lot for gardeners to choose from. Home Guard, Duke of York, Colleen and Orla are well known early varieties that we have in stock at the moment. In terms of main crop ones to look out for Roosters, Record, Kerr’s Pink and Golden Wonder are the top of many people’s lists.

The traditional time for planting potatoes in the garden is always around St Patrick’s Day or around this date when the soil has warmed up. You also want to make sure that the threat of frost has well done. While this date is still a bit away there is a lot you can do in the meantime to get ready for planting.

One job is to prepare the site you are going to grow your potatoes on. Once the soil is dry enough and ready to work you should dig it over with a garden fork and remove any rubble or stones from the soil. Work will be made much easier later on if you get rid of any weeds on the area now. It is a good time now to get your hands on some well-rotted manure that can be used when planting your potatoes.

The most important job to do now is sprouting or chitting your seed potatoes. This job should be started over the coming weeks. Chitting is simply when you start to grow the shoots on your seed potatoes. This is done by placing the potatoes in a shallow tray (or even an old egg box works brilliantly). By chitting your seed potatoes you are actually speeding up the growing process and get potatoes ready a good few weeks earlier than if the seed potato was just placed into the ground.

Just like bulbs have a top and bottom end, so do potatoes. On potatoes the top is referred to as the rose end  and is where the sprouts grow from. When you are chitting your potatoes you want to have shoots that are around ½ - 1 inch long when you are going to plant them out.

Written by Malachy

Here to help! - remember if you have any questions feel free to pop into one of our garden centres or you can contact us on our Facebook and Twitter pages and email us at: hello@countrylife.ie

Malachy's Bio 
I have been gardening since I was 5 years old when my mother gave me a part of our garden as my own. I have studied horticulture in the National Botanical Gardens in Glasnevin and was a winner in the young horticulturist of the year competition. I have worked in Several plant nurseries and garden centers such as Mount Congreve in Co. Waterford. My special interests are plant propagation and Cacti!

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