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Thursday, 26 January 2012

Does Size Matter?

I've got massive tubers.

Honest luv, but I'm talking seed potatoes - a recent order was recently delivered and the tubers were huge. 

Purchased by weight (1.5kg), the company advertised the approx number of tubers to be 20-25. Good for 4 or 5 rows in my potato bed. But such were the size of the tubers in my delivery, I had 13. Only good for 3 rows at best.

While I received 1.5kg, I was a little disgruntled that the difference in quantity was so marked (a 48% reduction on the mail-order company’s best approximation), so I thought I’d grizzle. I’m good at grizzling when the mood takes me. 

It met with a swift response and a further 1.5kg delivered, gratis, free and for nothing. Thank you D.T. Brown

The downside to this generous gesture is that I now have too many tubers for the space I’ve allotted for the ‘second earlies'. Subconsciously selecting which tubers I might actually plant, my eyes were drawn to the larger ones. But why should this be?

I guess we all want big, strong, healthy plants and I guess the big tubers give the impression they would fare best. But do big tubers actually equal a better yield, bigger potatoes, or a bigger anything? If you know, please enlighten me.

I did engage in a little bit of research. Alright, about 10 mins on the internet but that was enough to suggest there isn’t a definitive answer.

There was some mention of cutting big tubers, although this leaves them more vulnerable to disease and frankly, I see no reason why anyone on a home-growing scale would really need to do this.

One reference I found stated; ‘Commercial quality is defined by uniformity and size of tubers, as well as external appearance. For normal production, a reasonable size of seed tuber or tuber pieces should be about 40 to 50 grams. Big size seed will increase cost and seed that are too small can rot before emergence.’

Other references suggested the ideal tuber was ‘The size of a hens egg’.

The most pertinent quote was probably that reference to smaller tubers being more susceptible to rot.  My plot is on heavy clay and we generally have very wet winters, so soil conditions are generally cold and wet, even in early spring.

On this occasion, much like the wife deliberating over something more pleasurable than potatoes, I think I’ll opt for big. 

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