Making an Early Start.
A couple of weeks ago, i checked on my seed potato tubers, which were stored in a shoe box in the coolest cupboard in the kitchen, and was horrified to find that they had grown masses of white, straggly shoots. I removed the longest ones, leaving only 3 on each tuber and set the potatoes at a kitchen window. The shoots gradually darkened in colour and began to show signs of leaf growth. I decided this week that I had no choice but to plant them out, even though this is 2-3 weeks earlier than planned.
It will be evident to some now that I’ve never cultivated potatoes before. I experimented last year with 4 spuds which had, mistakenly, been added to the compost bin and had grown foliage. These were planted in a spare area, just below the soil surface, with further layers of compost added as required – a sort of “no-dig” method. It worked, because these 4 potatoes produced 14 decently-sized ones. For my first real attempt this year, I chose the first early conservation variety “Witchhill”, dating back to 1881, purely because the “Witch” part fits in with our Wizard of Oz themed garden. I hope this choice doesn’t end in disaster because, being an old variety, it will probably have a greatly-reduced resistance to blight and other diseases.
Luckily, I had treated one of my small raised beds a few weeks ago to some free rotted manure. I spaced the tubers to 30cms apart at their centres, and buried them so that the tips of the shoots are just below the surface. Future “earthing up” will consist
of heaping compost around the plants, as in last year’s experiment. Finally, I added a fleece blanket to protect the tubers from frosts. At the same time, I planted out my rhubarb “Champagne”. This had been growing in a large, glazed pot and, with all the rain last summer, the pot frequently became waterlogged. The rhubarb stems rotted, and I thought it had died, but it is regrowing quite nicely. This was planted out in a corner of this raised bed, as it will benefit from the rotted manure, and more frost. Now, I look forward to seeing the rich, red stems of the rhubarb and the white flowers on the potato plants.
- 1 Mar, 2008
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