Our cats love this time of year, there are trays of dirty potatoes in the conservatory just waiting to be sat on – or so they think, writes Anne Akers.
They soon get shown the door, which leads outside to where there’s plenty of potato-free dirt. These are my seed potatoes which are chitting or sprouting, giving them a kick start before they are planted.
There are traditions about when to plant potatoes, usually centred on Easter, but Easter is late this year.
I’ve already planted Nadine, my second earlies, or ‘new’ potatoes. Those currently chitting are maincrop, or ‘old’ potatoes, two different varieties, Picasso and Vales Sovereign. I tend to choose crops that are blight resistant, as once blight takes hold, it rampages through the allotment, destroying potatoes and tomatoes. Fellow allotmenteers can be heard shouting ;there’s blight, dig up your potatoes now!’ But that’s some time off.
The main factor in when to plant is the warmth of the soil.
Gardening guru Monty Don tells of farmers dropping their trousers and sitting on the soil to test the temperature, though adds that it’s just as easy to stick your hands into the soil. I can just see the faces of the other folk on the lot and probably hear their laughs if I did that.
Despite the flag-cracking temperatures in February and March, it’s not summer and it won’t be for some time. There’s still the threat of frost this time of year so it can be a gamble when to plant not just potatoes, but all other plants and seeds. But we all gamble, sowing extra seeds, knowing that some will germinate, and others may not.
I’m going to get my main crop in over the next week, knowing that while some may not grow, most will, nature’s very good like that.
Also planted are onion and shallot sets, or baby onions and shallots.
Plant one baby onion and it grows into an adult onion, plant a baby shallot and it grows into many adult shallots. They go just under the surface with the tips showing, which is like an invitation to every bird in the city to help themselves, so it’s best to cover them with net or horticultural fleece.
I have grown shallots from seed when I didn’t know about sets and they were fine! I’ve planted seeds too this year so will report on progress.
Meanwhile in the greenhouse, tomatoes, broad beans, cucumber, gherkins, lettuce, cabbage and sprouts are sprouting.
The cats have also found their way in there too. Bless.
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