Wednesday, 1 August 2007

Blight in Blightey!

After having attacked the long grass at the weekend in and around the veggies, I noticed that some of the leaves on the potato plants had gone black and crispy. I put it down to the amount of rain we have had of late but was advised later by Janet, the 'growing things expert' from next door, that it was 'Phytophthora infestansa', a touch of the old blight, which was apparently the cause of the potato famine of Ireland in 1845 ...there you go, a little bit of history for you!
A healthy plant should be bushy, lush and green whereas the blight affected specimens will start to flop and look very miserable.

The best thing to do is keep an eye on it. If it starts heading for the stalks of the plant and they turn black, patchy and twiggy, nip it in the bud by cutting the plants nearly to the ground and start digging up the potatoes as soon as you can to avoid the disease spreading to the tubers.

By Thursday, the plants were looking even worse and totally unlike the lush green specimens they once were. I decided to lop the plants down and see if my efforts had amounted to anything. About a month ago I had some friends come to stay for the weekend and was very excited about presenting a homemade potato salad to compliment the BBQ. I'd had a good dig around beneath one of the plants with a garden fork only to find one small potato about the size of a conker! The others were barely the size of large peas even though the plants had been fully grown for sometime and recently flowered.

My efforts hadn't gone unnoticed and Mother Nature had rewarded me with a fine harvest of 'Harmony ' potatoes. The other variety I have growing is the 'Picasso' which has pinky shades over the skin. The Picasso variety have also contracted the blight, not as badly as the 'Harmony' variety, although they are beginning to turn that way now. I'm trying to leave them in the ground for as long as possible as it's going to take us a little while to get through this lot!

It's a great feeling digging for potatoes and just when you think you've got them all up you'll find another one ...and another one...
Once you've cut the plants down your supposed to leave them in the ground for a couple of weeks to let the skins harden. They looked pretty good to me though so we got stuck in that evening and they really were yummy and totally organic! fabulous!!!
The girls enjoyed the harvesting too and eagerly stood around waiting for a worm to come up in the dug soil. They are turning into very spoilt chickens but happy ones none the less! Constance (the white chicken) is beginning to get a little bolder and will come and snatch the odd worm out of my hand. Betty on the other hand is just a piggy and will wait right by my side, clucking at me to dig faster to find her another fat juicy worm!

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