Category Archives: potato

feeling hot, hot, hot….

Lots and lots of sunshine.  The weather may break tonight, which will be a relief.  Meanwhile, it is ideal hay/haylage making weather.  Our neighbour was out, lickety split and had the field opposite cut in no time.

Within 2 days the whole lot bagged up for haylage.

The lad who rents the field from us wasn’t quite as fast; though he is baling for hay rather than haylage.  Still, all done ahead of the potential change in weather. It’s so much easier to rent the grazing to someone else rather than chasing a contractor to cut and bale. Everyone wants the hay cut at the same time.  The fields are looking quite bleached but within a fortnight they will be green again.

On a much smaller scale, the lovely OH cut the grass in front of the polytunnel with the sickle bar mower.  Not for hay or haylage.  I’m using the grass to earth up potatoes.  I’m afraid, given the heat, I just gathered up the cut grass as fast as I could and lumped it over the potato haulms. Not very elegant but hopefully will produce a crop.  I must go and investigate the earlies.We are finding that it pays to set the alarm a little earlier and get out onto the holding before the sun becomes too hot.  By midday we are finished with working outdoors and retreat from the heat.   In the tunnel the nasturtiums are blooming – another flower to add to the evening’s salad.

The elderflower cordial is draining fast. I’m making another batch before all the flowers disappear.

Reading this week: 60 Degrees North by Malachy Tallack

times they are a changin…

and I’m not just talking about the weather, though it was a relief to have the rain over recent days.

Well, it was a different story a week back.  Lots of glorious sunshine, which was timely.  As the lovely OH and I get older it means that we have to find ways to reduce the ‘graft’ on the holding.  I’ve been reading a number of Charles Dowding’s books and we’ve decided to move towards a ‘no-dig’ approach.

First up this year is using mulches for earthing up potatoes instead of soil, because if there is one thing we don’t have any shortage of here is grass.

The first and second early potatoes were planted a few weeks ago in about 4 inches in soil which I topped up with another 4 inches of old hay.  Charles Dowding prefers to use compost to mound up rather than hay or grass as his experience is that the latter attract too many slugs. We shall see.

The main crop potatoes went in more recently and in addition to using up our old bales we are applying grass clippings.  The lovely OH cut the grass in a number of locations which I then gathered up

and spread over the main crop planting area.   As the haulms emerge we will earth up with more grass clippings.  Hopefully the harvesting of the potatoes will be easier and the mulch should suppress weeds and help to conserve soil moisture and thereby reduce watering. We hope.

Since those sunny days, we have been away and it’s quite astonishing the amount of growth that has happened whilst the rain fell.  We have come back to an abundance of greenery. Even the indoor sowings of corn, french and runner beans have all sprouted away like triffids. Amongst all the green lushness, the first poppies have appeared  in the wildflower verge, their colour standing out as bright as a fifties starlet’s lipstick.

It’s good to be back home.



there’s gold in them there hills…

Well, I’m probably a bit late on planting out the first earlies but bang on schedule for the second early potatoes.  I’ll plant out the main crop towards the end of April.

In the past we’ve earthed up, but to be honest it’s a bit of a faff, so this year I’m going to try mulching.  I’ve popped the seed potato into the soil at around 6 inches depth.  Next step will be a good watering, followed by a 6 inch layer of old hay, then another good watering.  We’ll use some redundant fruit cage netting to pin down the hay initially.  Once the shoots start coming through then I’ll top up with grass clippings from the orchard.   In any event, this will be a good way to get a lot of organic matter into the lower end of the main vegetable plot.  I’ll be interested to see what the yield is like and whether there is any greening.

In my daffodil holding area I have some double narcissus which look a lot like ‘Cheerfulness’ and ‘Yellow Cheerfulness’.  They both have a lovely scent so these will be moved to the ornamental garden in due time.

Looking across to the wild flower verge, the first of the perennials of the wildflower mix we sowed in the verge last year are starting to flower…here, Red Campion.  Others are comimg through, but I have found that I’m useless at identifying plants just from the leaf form.

Top fruit wise, and it looks like we had excellent pollination on the apricot!  I’ll thin later this year.

The bees are flying and are a nice calm colony which is all to the good as I have to jettison the occasional stray out of the polytunnel.

Reading this week: The Paper Garden by Molly Peacock



false news?…

Earlier this month it was announced in various news streams that some of our larger supermarkets were introducing ‘lettuce rationing‘, to the effect that a shopper couldn’t buy more than 3, yes THREE, icebergs lettuce on a given shopping trip (Tesco) or 2 ‘any lettuce’, (Morrisons).  This was then followed up by the Telegraph reporting that sales of lettuce seeds has soared on the back of ‘lettuce rationing’.

Oh, I believe that there is a restriction on the vegetables coming in from Spain.  Even so, who wants to buy 3 iceberg lettuce per shopping trip? Why would someone buy one when they aren’t even very nice lettuce – even in summer, let alone winter?

As for the rush to buy lettuce seed?  I work in the industry I’ve found that the GYO public isn’t rushing out to purchase lettuce seed at the moment, they are buying their seed potatoes and broad bean seeds like they always do at this time of year.

On the other hand, I did sow lettuce in January in the polytunnel; the variety ‘All the year round’ I recall.  Well, the sowing has rewarded me by producing just one seedling and I’m not even sure it’s a lettuce – it might as easily be a rogue from an adjacent seed tray.  I rather feel that this uncooperative, non germinating seed is reproaching me as if to say – ‘I don’t see you standing around in the nuddy in 0 to 2 degrees so why should we’.

Fair point.

I’ll go back to chitting the potatoes then….

dsc_0047 Reading this week: A Natural History of the Hedgerow by John Wright


she sows seeds….2017

Goodbye 2016… hello 2017.

It’s good to be back in the swing of sowing.  One of the best things about growing vegetables is that the majority are, to all intents, annuals, which means the current year is always, potentially, the best growing year yet!

Having the polytunnel means I can start on sowing peas, broad beans, (Sutton and crimson flowered)…

dsc_0001leeks, cauliflower (All The Year Round), lettuce, (also named All The Year Round), and red onion, (Brunswick).   So, half tray of each except the peas which I’ll plant up in guttering.

dsc_0002A little late, but I’ve sown sweet peas in root trainers.  Ideally, these would have been sorted around mid-December but I’m hopeful that I’ll still get good strong plants.

The trays have gone into the polytunnel, joining the onions and shallots which were planted in modules last autumn.

dsc_0003The beans and sweet peas are currently in the utility room until germination as they are mouse candy.  I need to dust off one of the propagators and sow the chillies and then get the decks cleared for the tomatoes and aubergines.   Coming on the horizon are the local potato days so in preparation I’ve, (more or less), finalised the long list to:

  • First earlies: Belle de Fontenay (for salad and boiling); Red Duke of York (for mash and roast);
  • Second earlies: Anya; International Kidney; Charlotte for salad; Nicola for boiling; Kestrel a good all rounder
  • Main crop: Ratte, Pink Fir for salad; Maris Piper and Arran Victory for mash and roast.

We’ve grown most of these varieties before, indeed some appear on our list every year, flavour is everything!  This year we’ll ring the changes and try one or more of Nicola, Kestrel, Maris Piper and Arran Victory.

Work on the ornamental garden bounds forward. The lovely OH is hard at work constructing a metal arbour from rebar…

dsc_0009Once this has been set along the paths and the angle iron/wire fencing has been cemented in then the box hedges will be planted.  We’re heading for a cold snap later this week so I’ll look at finishing the pruning the gooseberries and orchard fruit the other side of the weather front.  If the ground dries out a bit I can also set in the hornbeam whips.  Plenty to do.

No sign of snowdrops yet but my Helleborus niger is a lovely substitute.

dsc_0006Reading this week: Hops and Glory by Pete Brown



swings and roundabouts….

Potato Day came and we went!

IMG_20160207_103001163IMG_20160207_103224159This year I stuck to a very modest 2 tubers per variety, with an initial intent to have 3 or 4 different varieties for each maturity category (First Early FE, Second Early SE, Main Crop MC). Of course this is the joy of a local Potato Day, because you can buy a single tuber instead of a bagful, which means you can track down a favourite potato for mashing, boiling, baking ……

The concept of a ‘Potato Day’ was an idea of Henry Doubleday Research Association’s, (HDRA, now Garden Organic), directors Jackie and Alan Gear, back in 1994 and the first Potato Day took place at HDRA’s headquarters, Ryton Gardens.  Today, there are numerous Potato Days taking place up and down the country, throughout January, February and even March.

We struck out with obtaining Epicure; Anya; Golden Wonder and Mayan Gold, though we could have bought Anya by the bag.    I’ll dig out a couple of good Anya tubers from storage for planting this year as it is such an excellent salad potato and not as knobbly as Pink Fir.  As we cast around for alternatives, I and the lovely OH overhead other growers singing the praises of Chopin (FE) and Roseval (MC) so we came home with these as well.  The final list was FE: Winston, Red Duke of York, BF15 and Chopin; SE: Charlotte, Belle de Fontenay, International Kidney; MC: Ratte, Pink Fir and Roseval.


I’m chitting the potatoes in the potting shed – I do this every year for all, though probably only the earlies really benefit from chitting.  Some of the these I’ll put into bags and grow on in the polytunnel. The rest will go into the ground once it has warmed up.

We are still using last season’s crop.  Each year the lovely OH goes sea fishing, braving the waters of the Atlantic Ocean.  Which means we can have a home cooked, fish and chip supper most Fridays.  Chunky oven chips, skin left on, salt and ground pepper then served with malt vinegar and tomato sauce – a celebration of the humble spud!






The nearby town was frantic with shoppers.   It is much calmer here on the holding where we have been gathering up ingredients for tomorrow’s Sunday dinner.

DSC_0592 Sweet shallots and cox style apples from our stores; thyme from a ragged bush in a terracotta pot near the piggery; the cider – bought, as we have finished all of the lovely OH’s homebrew; the plump pheasant also bought, and the reason for the venture into the melee.

Potatoes, again from stores:


and some wilted stems of swiss chard from the vegetable garden.


The recipe is this one from Delia.