Upon our return from the Alps, King of the Hill noticed that the foliage of our maincrop Desiree potatoes was displaying symptoms of the early blight (target spot) that Monty Don mentioned in a recent episode of Gardeners World.
This is an opportunistic disease, striking the ageing leaves of the mature plants. With the tubers set, our crop could be harvested as usual at these first signs with little contamination, hopefully. KOTH promptly cut down the foliage of all the plants to be burned, leaving the potatoes in the ground for a few more days until this weekend, when we found the opportunity to lift them all and leave them on the surface in the sun to dry. Then we carried them up to the house: taking four journeys with our trusty wicker trug.
The only sign of damage appears to be from slugs. These tunnel through some of our maincrop potatoes every year – last year we grew Maris Piper, which were heavily attacked – while our first and second earlies manage to escape unscathed. Next year we shall investigate what we can do to prevent slugs feasting on our late tubers; perhaps investing in nematodes towards the end of the season.
Despite discarding the worst tubers, we still have a heavy crop of unspoiled potatoes, with little or no sign of scab, ready to store in paper bags for use over the winter; along with some that have minimal damage. These we can prepare now, cutting out the damage before boiling, mashing and freezing the rest.