Wednesday, 13 February 2019

Chitting Potatoes

The spuds I bought from Wilko have been in doors now for 5 days in the shopping bags they were brought home in and I really needed to sort them out and get them out of the dark as I don’t want to end up with very long white sickly looking growths, what I need to do is Chit them properly.

One of the first jobs of the veg gardening year is to start to force and chit some potatoes. Chitting means sprouting the tuber – putting it, most eyes upright, in a light, cool but frost-free place at about 50F (10C), somewhere like a porch by a window, a conservator or in a disused bedroom near the window is ideal.

Not having any place like that to leave them until they go in the ground which will be mid to late March, I tend to place my seed potatoes in my Space Saver Greenhouse, which will hold off frost attack sometimes with the aid of a terracotta candle heater. In really cold spells like the Beast from the east in 2017 the trays of spuds will come into the kitchen for the night and then back out to the greenhouse for daylight during the day.

I normally use egg cartons / trays from the local cafĂ© but this year they didn’t have an excess of trays knocking about so I have used seed tray modules in mushroom trays to keep the tubers upright.

The bottom and sides of the trays are lined with bubblewrap to hold off the cold and frost over night when left in the greenhouse. A sheet of fleece or bubblewrap will be placed over the spuds at night to keep them warm and cozy.

There is great debate about the necessity of chitting, but research appears to suggest that, it does seem to ensure a quicker and slightly larger harvest. With early varieties it gets them off to a flying start, so the harvest can begin by the end of June. It makes potatoes grow faster and form larger tubers once planted out, so we can get in a Main crop in August or early September, before the worst of the blight takes hold.

Second early crops like Charlotte can be harvested approximately 13 weeks from planting when the foliage begins to turn yellow and die back.

Early maincrop varieties like Desiree can be harvested approximately 15 weeks from planting when the foliage begins to turn yellow and die back.

Maincrop varieties like Albert Bartlett Rooster can be harvested approximately 20 weeks from planting when the foliage begins to turn yellow and die back.

All three sacks of spud were 2kg bags and in terms of numbers of spuds I’ve ended up with

30 x Charlotte (Second Early)
27 x Desiree (Early Main Crop)
33 x Albert Bartlett Rooster (Late Main Crop)

Because the size of the seed potatoes was generally good and egg size I've ended up with a few more spuds per sack this year and It's looks like I may have to make a couple more Planting Membrane Sheets with 27 planting positions.  

Harvesting Tips

·         Home-grown potatoes should be ready for lifting from June until September, depending on the varieties and the growing conditions. Earlies can be lifted and eaten as soon as they're ready.

·         This will be when above-ground growth is still green, and usually as soon as the flowers open.

·         Second and maincrop varieties can be kept in the ground much longer, until September, even though above-ground growth may well be looking past its best.

·         Two weeks before you lift the crop, cut the growth off at ground level. This should give the skins of the potatoes sufficient time to toughen up, making them far less prone to damage from lifting and easier to store.

Sunday, 10 February 2019

Rain Stops Play Again....

One does what one can when the weather is against you, and yes it's another Sunday morning and yes it's raining again, but it's the second week in February and fool's Spring and it's time to start sowing a few things. 

So I've slammed 40 Royal Horticultural Society Palace F1 Parsnip seeds into a take-a-way Tupperware container on damp tissue paper to chit as soon as I see roots forming they will be sown into loo rolls and taken down to the allotment and planted in the Parsnip bed. This year I'm determined to end up with a good quantity of Parsnips. 

Friday, 8 February 2019

Potatoes I'm Growing This Year

A Visit to Wilko sorted out everything but the first Early Spuds for 2019. The seed potatoes are nice sized and not to many large chits already and a lot cheaper than the Garden Centre or B&Q and it has to be said the best looking seed potatoes I've had for a couple of years. I also picked up 10 Gladioli for £1.75 for the back garden 

50 Silver Moon Onion Sets for a £1 from Pound Stretcher, so just need to source some Red Onion sets  

Friday, 1 February 2019

Planning and Reviewing February in Previous Years

Reviewing the diary over the Six five years for February

2013 - Infrastructure works, drying weeds for burning, burning weeds, Rain start of the month, dry towards the end, delivery of woodchip to plot, built a coldframe  
2014Infrastructure works, transplanting bluebells and daffs in comfrey bed, bought and planted fruit trees, Constructed Greenhouse Sub Frame, Seeds from Lidl I could not resist at 29p a pack or 5 for a £1   

2015 -  Allotment Winter Tidy Up, Spent tomato compost & coir dressing added to beds, Sprouts, Cabbage, Chitting Potatoes, Timber base for the greenhouse created, Onions from Seeds   

2016 - Infrastructure works, kerb stones off freecycle, Base for the shed on Spencer Road. Erecting the Shed, Trimming shaggy weed membrane, gathering compost paper & Coffee Grounds.

2017 - Infrastructure works, Laying concrete slabs at Spencer Road in the Greenhouse area , Portable Grow Station created and Sprouts sown, Grow Station 2 created, Chitting potatoes in Grow Station 2,  

2018 - Infrastructure works, Laying concrete slabs on Plot 1A, Installing the bed edging that had been brought from Spencer Road Allotment, Warming Up Beads with solar tunnels and obtaining Timber Roof Joists from the building site next door.  

Planned for 2018

As last year January was very wet, so I'm playing catch up with a lot of items that were scheduled to happen last month. So if the weather permits I have plan to undertake more Infrastructure works, 

I will keep a look out for the Digital Thermometers from Lidl and purchase a few additional ones for the greenhouse and to replace a couple where the screen is not quite as good as it was

Below is the to do list in no particular order and catching up with what actually happened in November and what has slipped. 

Mill Green - Plot 1
  • As much infrastructure works as the weather will allow 
  • Water Butts - Fix taps 
  • Guttering to Shed - TBD
  • Extension to shed - rear - built minor modification required   
  • Cut Roof Joists to bed sizes - Nearly all done 
  • Paint Joist cut to bed sizes - Ongoing 
  • Lay the paving for the greenhouse - TBD 
  • Erect the greenhouse - Timbers Cut for base need to be treated  
  • Tidy Up the Allotment - Ongoing and looking better all the time
  • Remove Hawthorne bushes from the wall - Started but need to be cut down and burnt before March
  • Install Kerb Edging all around the plot - TBD
  • Stockpile Timber ready for burning  - Ongoing
  • Plant Spring Bulbs - Done 

Mill Green - Plot 1A
  • Weeding - Never ending job   
  • Clear the greenhouse - To Be Done 
  • Rhubarb Bed to be created - clearance of weeds in current location and move when ready
  • Tidy Up the Allotment - Ongoing and looking better all the time 
  • Clear area behind the Greenhouse - TBD
  • Clear Seating Area - TBD
  • Plant Raspberries - Awaiting Collection from fellow plot holders
  • Planning
  • Catalogue Seeds 

  • Purchase vent opener for new greenhouse.- Not Yet

Apple - prune trees - and train along wires.

Week 1
Week 1
Week 1
Week 1
Brussel Sprouts - 1st sowing Eversham Special, Bedford Darkmar 21 & Rubine, Breast Cromwell & Montgomery
Cauliflower (early summer) - sow seed indoors
Spring Onions - start to sow fortnightly - North Holland Blood Red       
Week 2
Week 2
Week 2
Week 3
Radish - Sparkler 3
Radish - Icicle
Lettuce (Winter) - sow fortnightly
Week 3
Week 3
Week 3
Week 3
Carrots - cover / warm up the carrot beds.
Brussel Sprouts - 2nd sowing Eversham Special, Bedford Darkmar 21 & Rubine
Spring Onions - start to sow fortnightly - North Holland Blood Red
Week 3
Week 3
Cabbage (summer) - sow seeds indoors
Week 4
Week 4
Week 4
Week 4

Lettice (Winter)- sow fortnightly
Radish - Cherry Belle
Tomatoes -
01 Beefsteak
02 Gardeners Delight
03 Crimson Crush F4
04 Kibitz
05 Money Maker
06 One Hundreds and Thousands
07 Outdoor Girl
08 Stupicke Poini Rane
09 Rapunzel
Late Feb