Growing Early Potatoes in England, 1857

In gardens of the south of England, potatoes are planted in a warm border from the first week of October, till the latter end of November. They are placed nine or ten inches under the surface, and well covered with dung. About the latter end of March they begin to appear above the surface, when the ground is deeply hacked with a mattock, and made very loose about the plants. A fortnight or three weeks later the surface is moved again, but the plants need not be earthed up unless they are very exposed to the wind, when it would help to keep them steady.

By this method very fine ash-leaved kidney potatoes may be gathered by 12 -15 May, even in situations not very favourable for early crops. They will be around three weeks earlier than sets planted in the same situation at the end of February. If ordinary care is taken in planting, there need be no danger from frost.

Every farmer knows that among the corn raised after a crop of potatoes, potato plants will appear from tubers which have lain in the ground all winter, in consequence of having been buried by the plough deeper than the frost could reach. It is evident that this garden method of raising early potatoes might be adapted in the field, especially in dry soils. It would be dependent on deep grubbing between the rows in early spring.

In Cornwall, early potatoes are planted in October, spring up a few weeks later, are ready before the autumnal frost stops their growth, and the soil being covered with litter to exclude the frost, they are begun to be used about the end of December, and continue in use until May, when they are succeeded by the spring-planted crops. In recent years, Covent Garden market has received supplies of early potatoes from Cornwall, grown in the above manner.

John Loudon, 1857; paraphrased by Nigel Deacon / Diversity website

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