Friday, 7 March 2008

Chitty Chitty Spud Spud

I have been hunting high and low for last years variety of potatoes I planted called 'Picasso' but have not been able to get hold of them anywhere. So now I have gone for 2 varieties of good all-rounders, 'Kara' and 'Record'.

Once you have your potato seeds you need to 'Chit' them. This means letting them sit in the light for a couple of weeks or so to let them sprout. Egg boxes are ideal for this as they sit very snuggly in rows in the same position. You will notice little shoots appearing from the eyes on the potato seed. The longer these grow, the better, but you must be careful when it come to planting so as not to not to break them. From these shoots will grow further little shoots where colonies of potatoes will start to grow. Once planted, look for these shoots coming to the surface of the soil, when you see this, cover them over again with the soil which will encourage them to grow further, thus producing more shoots for more potatoes. Theoretically, instead of getting 20 potatoes from one plant, by doing this you could get around 20 kilos!!! So don't forget girls your roots!

I have decided to dedicate around 2/3 of one patch to potatoes this year. We generally use them on a daily basis, so the more, the better and they store so well. Just leave them in the ground and dig them up when you want them. The best time to get them in the ground after chitting is mid April time. Some people plant out as early as March but your really risking attacks from frosts then and you don't actually gain anything time-wise either. Having dug over the patch to get it ready for this years crops, I have stumbled acoss the odd ones that we missed last year. Great for a Vegetable Patch, Patch Soup to use up all the odds and sods that may still be lurking beneath the brown soily waves!

Planting season is here!!!

Well, this is the month where it really kicks off!

So far, the greenhouse is sporting both red & Yellow cherry tomato plants and the same colours for the larger adult tomato plants. The seeds took nearly a month to break through their cosy little soil beds but have emerged all green and healthy, as they should. On wandering around my local garden centre with a friend at the weekend, I found a fantastic variety of tomato called 'Mr Stripey' . It does what it says on the tin really in different tones of red, but will look great in the old salads this summer

The real medal winner so far on the seed sprouting front has to go to the Cauliflower. I have over 40 plants now and plan to adjust the veggie patch in order to host them all. I shall waffle a bit about that later on!

I thought I would start a few onions off in peat pots in the greenhouse as opposed to sticking them straight in the ground. I went for both red and the normal brown skinned onions, the red being 'Red Baron', sharing the same nickname as Gary when dressed in his motorcycle enduro gear. The boys in France gave him the name last year during a 3 day rally in the French hills. He certainly lived up to his name, as I hope the onions do!!!

The brown skinned variety are called 'Turbo'. Whether this means they are going to fly out of the ground at terrific speed, or produce masses of lovely sweet bulbs is anyone's guess. The name grabbed me and the description of flavour sounded rather good, so I went with it!

The potatoes are well into their chitting process now. They have been on their respective window ledges for the past 3 weeks and are sprouting quite nicely. By the time the other 2 patches are ready the spuds should be chitted well enough for planting out. For now though, they are quite happy on their window sills in the light watching the days come and go.

The Silver medal winner in the greenhouse have to be the Leeks. I have never attempted to grow these before, so don't really know what to expect. They are just over 2 inches long now and have unfolded from there bent over stance when first coming out of the ground. I have an abundance of these as well so it's a good job the patch has been made bigger to accomodate them all!

This weekend saw the second and third entries to patch 1 this year, being the parsnips and the Feltham First Early Peas. I have split the patch into thirds and am planning on growing equal amounts of Onions (red & brown), Parsnips & Peas. The chickens were very intrigued with the drill digging and as soon as they saw little green morsel being strategically laid out in a zig zag fashion on the soil, they thought that Christmas had come early! I lost a few to a very persistant Constance who would not take no for an answer. In the end I had no choice but to put them back in their pen to have any chance of planting any further seeds! Now that the 3 cherry trees have gone from the patch near the fence, I am hoping that the side of the workshop will provide enough shelter for the peas as they grow. I have another packet of 'Main Crop' peas to sow a little later on in the year, thus attempting the staggering of growth!

The parsnips went in like a dream although the seeds are very flat and not good to have exposed in strong winds! I dug each long gully about 1 inch down and thinly sprinkled the round flat seed all the way along the row, with a little handful of Growmore fertiliser to help them on their way. I decided not to 'water in' as I was monitoring a very large black cloud heading straight for the newly planted up area and knowing it would save me a job!

The Elephant Garlic that I planted at Christmas is now about 2.5 inches high, despite Constance nipping the top of the shoots off in their earlier stages! I took the little cloche protectors off that I had carefully made out of carbonated water bottles, to let them get a good soaking underneath the rain clouds.

Now that the patch is taking shape, the chickens will be banned from their weekend explorings and diggings in and around the patch. I shall have to get busy on chicken fencing the garden gate and ushering them into the main gardens instead so they can't massacre any new shoots that appear!