March Planting Lists…

For those living in the UK, I don’t need to tell you we are experiencing some glorious weather here at the moment.  The down side to all this early sun (and we are talking shorts and T-shirts…we are British so you have to forgive the tendency to get legs and arms out at the slightest hint of blue skies) is it has been announced that a hose pipe ban will begin in the new few days.  It’s not that I spend endless hours watering my garden, but I do like to keep the vegetable patch damp enough to let the seedlings and slug nematodes (which I put on a few days ago) have half a chance and this coupled with the fact I am lazy busy means things will become more difficult, and the waterbutt with it’s lovely bird tap is nearly empty.  I think I need to invest in more for nest year.  Hey-ho, it’s the way it needs to be but I am wavering on maybe cutting back on my planting plans….so far, we have added to February’s lists (and planted under cloches, outside):

Beetroot – Pronto & Burpless Golden

Broad Beans – Crimson Flower

Turnip – Snowball

Peas – Ronda & Sugar snap

Radish (to add to those already planted) – French Breakfast

Inside I have started off some

Courgettes (Defender x 2 & Soleil x 2).

I am itching to put more in but the other thing to consider is even though we are having glorious days, the night temperatures are still quite low and I hear this sunshine might not last.  In fact there was talk of snow ‘Up North’ over the weekend.  The other things is we are planning a few days away soon so I wont be able to water any seedlings and there is little point setting them off. The plus side is that we have some lovely Spring flowers well into bloom.
The anemones in my cutting patch are showing off nicely and the narcissus are about to have their turn, along with the tulips.  I tried in vain to take a decent photo but it’s just too bright out there, causing too much shadow and washed out colour.  You’ll just have to trust me that the Spring flowers are looking very lovely.

Potatoes 2012…

My new seed potatoes arrived last week and are happily chitting in the kitchen, once they have a few shoots, I plan to plant them in the greenhouse in bags and hope we don’t get any late frosts, before moving them outside later in the year, when things have warmed up for good.  I couldn’t remember exactly what I’d ordered (as it was back in October) but this is what came:

  • Potato ‘Charlotte’ – Truly sensational flavour whether eaten hot, smothered in butter, or cold in a tasty salad niçoise.
  •  Potato ‘Maris Peer’ – Favoured by restaurants and gardeners alike as the firm creamy yellow fleshed tubers retain their colour and have a superb flavour, without disintegrating.
  • Potato ‘Rocket’ – A very early bulking and heavy cropping variety producing almost round, white skinned and fleshed tubers. First early.

The above descriptions are borrowed from Thompson & Morgan where I bought them as a ‘Potatoes for Planters Collection’ so I get 5 of each tuber plus I added an extra 10 of the ‘Charlotte’ variety as they are my very favourite.  I ordered the tubers only with no additional planting bags, following last years trials I am opting for putting all my potatoes in 14 litres exhibitor bags (1 tuber per bag), which I have plenty of.

The first year of growing, I planted my potatoes in large potato barrels, the ones I used had 5 tubers per barrel and the sides at the bottom could be lifted in order to remove a few potatoes at a time.  It worked fine, but I got bored of trying to push the soil back in to the hole and get the sides back on each time we wanted to eat a meals worth and eventually you just have to turn the lot out, which left us overwhelmed and guilty for not eating them direct out of the soil, when they are ay their best.  I used these planters in year 2 as well.

Next I moved onto large bags (below, left) which came with last years gourmet potato planters collection, also for planting 5 tubers per bag (although I planted 4).  In this case you ‘grub’ your hand down the sides and attempt to pull a few potatoes out at a time as you need them.  Again, not ideal.

I also experimented with a few of  the 14 litre exhibitor bags (above, right), which are essentially a small heavy duty black bag with holes in the bottom.  As with the other planting bags you place the tuber (once chitted  on a sunny windowsill to produce a few green shoots) on top of about 3 inches of soil (I use John Innes 2 or 3).  You then cover the tuber with soil and keep topping up as the plants grow, covering the stems but leaving the top leaves poking out, until the bag is full.

My main reasons for opting for the single tuber bags is because it produces the perfect amount for a family meal, the boys love turning the bag out and pulling out the potatoes and none get wasted.  The down side is they look a bit ugly and you have to buy the soil to fill them (which, of course, I have to do with all my planters) but as I don’t have space in my raised beds for this crop, I’m happy with that sacrifice.

Finally, I wanted to share this photo, apart from my ravishing ‘slippers’ I found these very edible potatoes when I turned out a bag that has spent the entire of winter stuck behind the greenhouse.  It was shoved there late last year, long after the foliage had died off and we’d struggled to eat all the ready crops, I think I put it there out of guilt, meaning to eat them at some point but forgot.  I’m amazed that they were still in perfect order after an entire winter outdoors, but there you  go, my garden always surprises me.