Harvesting British Queen potatoes – learning from my mistakes

British Queen potatoes were the variety of second early potatoes I chose to grow in my Victory Garden. Around two weeks ago I took my fork and decided to harvest them from the ground. Sadly, I have to admit, I was a little bit disappointed. Like everything you grow at the allotment, you’re always hoping for the best and hoping that you get a good return on the hard work and effort that you put in.

Sadly, most of the potatoes (just over a quarter) were really small, almost marble like – which isn’t ideal when the number of potatoes you dig up isn’t very many as well. Overall – a poor yield.

The variety of potato I harvested was British Queen, which is a variety that’s over a 100 years old and described as…

This RHS AGM variety is over 100 years old and still highly prized for its yield, shape, floury texture and delicious flavour. Today, Potato ‘British Queen’ is Ireland’s favourite summer crop. The oval, white skinned, floury-fleshed tubers make excellent general purpose potatoes and are particularly good for roasting.

Source: Thompson Morgan – British Queen Potatoes 

So, with the above in mind – you can imagine my disappointment, however – I’m sure this is something that all growers have had to deal with at one time or another and this result has of course prompted me to take a step back and look at where I went wrong.

I’d not long since harvested my Red Duke of York first earlies and faced a similar fate with those spuds as well. So what have I discovered?

Spacing 
I’ve grown the potatoes in my Victory Garden this year, which means I’ve crammed the tubers into a small space.  This means that the plants were most likely competing for space and water, which really isn’t ideal.

Watering 
It’s been a particularly dry year at the allotment, and across the country (at one point I thought we were going to have the pleasure of a hosepipe ban!). Can I honestly say that I watered as frequently as I should have? The answer is probably not – a lack of water means the tubers are likely to struggle to swell.

Feeding
In one of the two beds of my Victory Garden I double dug in some compost material, in the bed that I didn’t, I grew my potatoes – I’ve always been warned that too much fertilisation can be a bad thing. Too much nitrogen can encourage too much vegetative growth. However, clearly, too little nitrogen can cause a low growth rate in your tubers.

Early frost damage
My potatoes were victim to early frost damage, which although didn’t decimate the plants, they did stump growth for a couple weeks. Next time, I’ll be sure to mound up sooner rather than later in order to keep everything to an optimum temperature.

I’m yet to harvest my Desiree main crop potatoes – it’ll be interesting to see how these turn out. If these are small like the British Queen potatoes, then I would say my estimations are correct.

Wish me luck!

British Queen potatoes

Chitting and planting British Queen Second Early Potatoes

So it’s time to plant my second early potatoes in the victory garden and the variety I’m growing is called British Queen.

The British Queen potato was bred by Archibald Findlay in 1894. Findlay was a potato breeder from Scotland who soon moved to the potato capital – Lincolnshire. Many of his varieties Findlay bred we promoted between 1891 – 1921. His most famous varieties are – Majestic, Up-to-Date and British Queen. If you’re in Scotland, you probably refer to these simply as ‘Queens’.

I’ve looked online and seen that British Queen is the mashing potato of choice as they boast light, fluffy flesh. Although Findlay pioneered the blight resistant spud – British Queen is susceptible to blight, but luckily matures quite early. This means that if there is blight in the air, it should avoid any diseases that are in the air.

As much as I love the prices you get in your local B&Q or Homebase, I did find myself with a lack of choice – so I ended up purchasing these seed potatoes from RHS Wisely. They have a number of different varieties available, each with their own attributes.

It’s essential that you chit your potatoes before you plant them in the ground – chitting is just another word for sprouting. To chit your potatoes, all you have to do is leave them in a tray in a sunny place and they’ll soon start to sprout. The trick is to not let them get to spaghetti like as these sprouts tend to fall off when you plant them into the ground.

 

I was on the look out for an old, well known variety of potato to plant into my Victory Garden and no sooner than I had planted them, they started poking through the ground. If you take a look at my Victory Garden plan, you’ll see that I haven’t given these spuds a lot of room – this is because I’m trying to aim for a high yield – ultimately, I’ll just have to wait and see how these turn out.

These seed potatoes were planted about a trowels depth into the ground – and I’ll probably end up mounding these spuds up with material from the compost bin – we’re not quite out of the woods yet frost wise!