As the potato foliage develops we earth up when we think necessary and that helps to keep the weeds down too. Now we are waiting for the flowers to appear on our first early potatoes.
- When the flowers appear on the first early potatoes, we will make a decision about when to start checking them to see if there might be some little new potatoes just under the surface that we could harvest early as a special treat.
- The length of time the potatoes take to grow will vary with the variety and the weather conditions, the potatoes would have been reluctant to grow until the soil temperature was right for them.
In a good year I might get a few new potatoes earlier than the seed potato labels suggest,but most likely it will take a bit longer.
I use a method to check them that saves digging up the potato plant and wasting its potential if the little potatoes have not grown big enough for me to use. Someone who has been growing potatoes for over thirty years told me the best way to check if your potatoes are ready is not to dig them up but to use this method to check how big the new potatoes are.
- Check your new potatoes size by using your hands or a trowel to gently scrape away the soil at the side of the potato plant.
- You will find the new baby potatoes are not very deep below the surface and they are attached to the 'mother plant' by delicate thread like 'roots'.
- If you are careful not to sever the connection between the main potato plant and the developing new potatoes if they are too small and like marbles just gently cover them over with soil and leave them to grow on until the are larger. Try the same process later and you will not have wasted any little potatoes if you work carefully.
- When you find some new baby potatoes that are large enough to eat gently detach them from the plant. Cover over the plant and any other potatoes that you are not harvesting that day.
With first early potatoes it is a good idea to harvest the amount you can use and not attempt to store them. Newly dug up the first early potato when eaten that day will retain its special flavor and texture better.
That's it for now, remember that the milder your climate the earlier you probably planted the seed potatoes and the earlier you will be able to harvest the new potatoes in your garden or on your allotment.