The ugly side of allotment life

Holes in potato tubers! And not just holes, but holes still inhabited by ‘the usual suspects’. I knew should have got these potatoes out of the ground and here’s the ugly evidence: keeled slugs making merry in my crops!

Actually holes in spuds can be caused by several pests, including wire-worms which have an interesting life-cycle: four years eating your potatoes and only three weeks as a click beetle, but it’s usually slugs. Often you’ll spot small round holes in the skin, but bigger excavations inside the tubers. Keeled slugs live and feed mainly in the soil seeking out decaying organic matter as well as living plant material. Damage to potato tubers takes place from late summer to autumn. Because the damaged spuds will get secondary rots, mildews and infections you should throw them out.

Prevention


• Limit slug damage by lifting potatoes once the tubers have matured (guess who left it too late?)
• Pick varieties that slugs aren’t so keen on such as 'Pentland Dell', 'Wilja', 'Charlotte', 'Golden Wonder', 'Estima', 'Sante'

Cure

Use nematodes like Phasmarhabditis hermaphrodita, which is watered onto the soil in the evening after the potatoes have begun growth but before the top growth is too dense to allow access between the rows. Wish we'd thought of this in the summer ...

Damage Limitation

• Once you know you’ve got keeled slugs in your potatoes, get them out of the ground asap. You can put undamaged potatoes in a clamp and preserve both their keeping qualities and their lovely fresh taste
• Rotate your crop next year.

Posted by The Allotment Blogger on Tuesday, September 30, 2008

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