Though the weather is due to take yet another turn for the worse this weekend, Spring growth is in full swing. The daffodils and crocuses are out, and there is much budding and shooting going on in the garden and all around us.
There’s such excitement in all the new life arriving, and the reawakening of plants, trees and flowers after the long winter. The birds are energised in their search for food and nest materials.
I didn’t know much about varieties – and there were a dazzling array on sale – so I was went with ‘Rocket’ because they promised to yield early spuds (10-11 weeks after planting).
I’ve since read that though they’re good for earlies, Rocket potatoes aren’t the most flavoursome, are sensitive to blight and don’t store well!
We shall see…
Chitting / sprouting
It is recommended to start chitting potatoes from mid-February for planting mid to late March (in Ireland the tradition is on or after Saint Patrick’s Day – 17th March). Mine went into the ground on the 24th.
Chitting allows the potatoes to grow shoots in advance of planting, and shaves a week or so off growing time. Though apparently it’s not strictly necessary, and seed potatoes can be planted without chitting. The main thing is to ensure that shoots and leaves don’t appear above ground level before the last frost.
A warmer soil is ideal for starting your spuds.
Chitting is a simple process, potatoes should be stored in a light, dry and cool place (in the absence of a potting shed, I used my kitchen counter). Ideally the spuds shouldn’t be in contact with each other (I used egg cartons to separate them). And while potatoes can produce a number of shoots, you should cultivate one per spud so the plant’s energy isn’t too stretched.
I planted nine chitted potatoes in a raised bed at a depth of around 15cm, ensuring the shoots were completely covered. I also plants some in bags (turned down at the edges to let sunshine in, and so I can earth up the soil and raise the sides of the bag as required later), and additionally in an unwanted bucket (with a hole in the bottom for drainage) and a pot. If you’re using bags, pots or other containers, be sure to leave room for the soil to be ‘earthed up’ around the plant as it grows (a blog on that to follow in a few weeks!).
Winter 2017–2018 has been a long haul, albeit one interspersed with some lovely sunny days.
Then, when it looked to be over, we had our extended visit from the unpredictable Beast from the East, a relative of whose is threatening another unwelcome visit this weekend.
The Beast was no match for my Cristo garlic, however, whose shoots made a convincing appearance this week.
No sign of the shallot shoots yet, but I checked a few of the bulbs and they look in good condition. Hopefully, they’re just taking their time coming out.
Today I moved my first lettuce seedlings outside under fleece, joining the first potted radishes, which are growing nicely under a cloche.
I also planted a pot of Early Nantes carrots under a cloche, and some Rodelika variety carrots under a cold frame in one of the raised beds.
Inside, I’ve some Calabrese Broccoli seedings at secondary leaf stage, and coriander and flat leaf parsley soaking up with sunshine on a south-facing windowsill. In a month or so, I’ll introduce them to the outside world.
On the subject of broccoli, my one remaining purple sprouting broccoli plant continues against the odds in a pot. I had removed it from the bed and isolated it as it was overcome by caterpillars. It’s made a remarkable recovery, and unlike the other broccoli plants, has never bolted – presumably this is to do with the limitations on its growth imposed by life in a pot.
Our youngest dog Pip, is a big fan of this plant, and regularly likes to munch a floret or leaf.
Also making a welcome post-winter recovery is the potted lemon balm.
And finally, our potatoes are ready to go out, I just want to wait till we’ve seen the back of the snow risk before taking them outside.
As the last of the late snow thaws, the tiny shoots of my recently sown garlic and shallots have reappeared, sodden, but hopefully not defeated.
I’m a couple of weeks behind schedule in embarking on the next phase of my ambitious 2018 garden plan. And there’s still quite a lot of heavy lifting to do – a lean-to glasshouse to install, fencing to put up, a couple of tonnes of soil to be sifted through, and countless jobs to improve the aesthetics of the garden. But, we have also made great progress in re-shaping the garden and getting it ready for this year’s planting.
2018 is going to be an epic gardening year. I’m going to plant lots of new crops: potatoes, beans, peas, cucumber, courgette, squash, parsnips, sprouts, pak choi, spring onion… and try to stay productive throughout the year. Watch this space!