I’ve just dug up the last of my first early potatoes and will soon be moving on to the second earlies. This year my most successful first earlies were Lady Christl. Slice Lady Christl open and you will see a light buttery yellow interior. This butteriness is carried on in to the flavour. It’s reminiscent of the nations favourite Charlotte but not as sweet, instead there are slight parsley notes.
Lady Christl is a high yielding waxy potato which was first bred in 1985 by Meijer Research BV. It can get to around duck egg size, although most will be smaller. It makes an ideal new potato. It holds an RHS award of garden merit at the time of publishing. Going forward this will be my benchmark first early and is an excellent first early potato, well worth growing.
In the Kitchen
Being a waxy potato Lady Christl is best for steaming or boiling with a little mint. The skins are thin and smooth so no need to peel. You can also sauté and it makes decent chips and wedges. Why not try making Brave Potatoes for something a little different.
Yield and Plant Health
Lady Christl is mid to high yielding but good for an early. In the ground you should expect around 5-10 small hen egg sized potatoes. Despite the fact it’s disease resistance is only so so it holds an RHS award of garden merit. For most home growers, using crop rotation we are unlikely to be affected by the diseases it is most susceptible to and you lift it before late blight becomes an issue. It has good slug resistance which is a bonus.
Widely available but also
When your seed potatoes arrive, remove them from the packaging and lay eye side up in egg boxes or on paper in a light, cool but frost free place. This is called chitting.
In late march – early April dig a narrow trench about 10cm deep. To improve yield you can line with compost or well rotted manure but it will make the potatoes more prone to slugs. You can water in some nematodes if it is warm enough who will infect any nearby slugs and will offer some protection for 6 weeks. You can repeat by watering them in when earthing up but make sure you are watering the soil not the foliage.
Space the seed potatoes 40cm apart in rows 30cm apart. Cover the potatoes with the soil from the trench. When the halms appear above the surface you will need to cover them with earth if there is sign of a frost coming. When they are about 20cm high you will want to draw soil about 15cm up the stems in to a flat topped ridge. This will reduce the likelihood of getting green potatoes due to light exposure as these are toxic. You can also earth up with a mulch of compost or straw.
Potatoes will not need much watering except in the driest of weathers when you would want to water well once a week. As a rule more water will lead to larger, but also more watery potatoes.
You can buy specialist potato fertiliser but a sprinkling of organic bone meal dug lightly in to the soil is probably all they will need, especially if you have dug in compost or manure on planting or have earthed up with compost.
Pests and diseases
Slugs – You can reduce the slugs by using nematodes watered in to the soil before planting.
Scab – Causes rough scabby patches on the potato skin and the flesh underneath. It is unsightly and can affect storage potential. Any potatoes with scab should be used quickly.
Blight – Fungal infection that can devastate any potato crop that has no resistance. Leaves will show browning patches, which get more and more prolific, including on the stems until the entire plant is covered. The foliage of any potato showing signs of blight should be cut down to the stems and removed. The potatoes left in the ground for a week before being dug up. If not caught early, blight can infect tubers, which will rot in storage but some are more resistant that others. There is no non chemical cure but some varieties are resistant.