Category Archives: Potatoes

Spud sinking and plot pottering

It’s not raining! It’s Good Friday, and it’s not raining. Yet.

There is rain scheduled, it is after a bank holiday. Before it arrives, I have taken this opportunity to wander down the plot, sink potatoes and check on the fruit trees.

First with the potatoes though:

You can see the youtube version here.

Kestrel and Lady Balfour potatoes have been sunk into raised beds. I still have to sink pink fir apple, once I have filled the other beds with ‘orse poop. I put the seed potatoes into raised beds as there is better drainage, less resistance for the forming tubers and previous experience has meant a big, quite successful crop. I’m not sure yet if there will be any international kidney this year on the plot.

There was also the opportunity to look at the young fruit trees that are planted on the plot. With the site being windy, they could do with some bracing support so that they don’t keel over. I did quick count, and found that I had quite a few fruit trees, I guess I don’t need to buy any more! In the picture above, you see the morello cherry tree. This one, along with the sylvia, moor park apricot, darling peach, pear du comice, czar  and victoria plum were all tied to a stake sunk beside them.

With the exception of the Czar plum tree, all of the trees appear to be waking up and have buds forms on their boughs. I am not too sure about the Czar, as it has always been a little bit of a miserable looking tree.  The plot most certainly has it’s own little micro-cosm that doesn’t fit in with the rest of the site; i think the peach is the only that is sending out pink fuzzy buds. Have been watching it closely and willing the bud to burst.

2015; Bollywood Gardener and beyond

As a year of two halves, 2015 has been somewhat interesting but different. The first half of the year involved having the best of intentions. Seeds were sown, I had half a plan as to what I wanted to achieve. No different to what I might have done in previous years, I was going to use all my knowledge and experience to make  things better, bigger and more efficient. Then came July, 2015 became incredibly busy and in the tail end; I am only just recovering from a very hectic six months.

Let’s take the first six months, where by the growing season is starting. Plans are afoot, the world is full of promise. We are hoping to have a good year.

Tomatoes, chillies and aubergine were the focus of the first three months. Makings sure that the seeds were sown, that these germinated and the plants pampered. Pampered, as so many valuable lessons had been learned as to how they might be successful. It was touch and go for a while in the early stages. Half baked chillies and tomatoes can be a very scaring and intimidating experience, when you let them be in a hot room or poly tunnel. There were even aphids and bugs that needed to be dealt with.

In July, I hosted a workshop during the annual conference of the Association of teachers of Psychology. I spoke about horticulture and mental health, the benefits that teachers might gain for both themselves and their students. I had asked my Psychology colleagues to sow sunflowers in the Spring and also encouraged conference delegates to do the same in giving them seeds that were kindly donated by the information point. It was also at this point, that I finished the Level 3 Certificate in Counselling studies.

Then came the summer, with lots and lots of growing!

No one year will be the same as the preceding or following. Yet this year felt different. There was just something palpably different that made growing more of a challenge ad something beyond me being busy with work and studies. Last year, I remember being ankle deep in tomatoes, green ones; but there were lots of them. This year,I had a foliage, and not a lot of fruits. Positioned in the poly tunnel, the crop was meant to do well. Even the chillies appeared to have struggled this year. Whilst the poly tunnel seemed to have been filled with triffids, there was a muted level of success. Aubergines did themselves no favours once again. I must say every year that I will not sow them. I finally have proof that I might be better off without them. Lovely plants, the occasional flower; but diddly squat fruit even if the poly tunnel was a bit damp and sweaty.

And note the gadget! The apple one. Having acquired all of those apples from a plot neighbour (they were not scrumped, I had consent!) that was an investment and a half. Saved me hours. The home brew kit is still waiting in the wings. untested this year, maybe it will be used in the growing seasons to come. There were a number of pickles and preserves. The preserving pan was rather busy this year, even though the produce was a bit hit and miss.

With the plot ticking along, and the blog growing. Something else also happened. I had been lucky enough to write guest blog posts for WRG, via the fabulous Michael Perry. This was and still is one of the most valuable writing experiences that I have ever had. This actually triggered something more complex and more challenging than I first realised. Over the summer, the winner of the Big Allotment Challenge Rob Smith had written a short book.  One of my fellow counselling students, L.A.Cotton, had also burst onto the young adult contemporary genre (She’s epic, tell her I sent you) with phenomenal success.

These three things combined spurred me to be courageous and write something myself. June and July were turning points, and I remembered sending a message to both my sisters; saying that I wanted to write an ebook, and I would try and get it out by Christmas. That was it, I was going to do it.

Having written as mentioned previously, the guest blogs for WRG , one of them was about the Indian Inspiration on the plot. I think Michael Perry used the words ‘Bollywood Gardener’ or something similar, and I adopted the hashtag! This inadvertently became the start of the book. I wrote in a way I can only describe as feverish. I have the same frame of mind when writing the blogs, to be honest; and it’s part of the blog life. The book however was different in that this was thousands of words and trying to bring the assorted elements of the blog together. There was a lot of things that I wanted to include in my budget of 25, 000 words. I had a notebook-my blog book actually, the one that I take to the plot-and a pen. Scribbling ensued, and it’s hard to read my writing anyway. So when it’s all in very hurried, that doesn’t help with typing.

What I ended up with was ‘Playing with Plant Pots: Tales from the allotment’. Plus it was well before Christmas!

 

With a bright yellow front cover, you cannot miss it!

I am going to be naturally very biased, and say that I like my book. However, that is genuine. I like to share it, because I do honestly believe in my book. You might, for example, have writers out there, who will promote their books; but not necessarily believe in their own work. You know if you don’t blow your own trumpet, it’s difficult to get others to do the same.

Standing in the kitchen, leafing through my own book was rather surreal. My name was on a book, that I had crafted. Then there was the few hours that it was at number one. A fellow independent writer informed me of that happening, and that made my day, I tell you! I am determined to get back to the slot.

Then there was the swag. The merchandise. Again, this sounds likes trumpeting! Petal, the horticultural Obbit, has always been the online avatar of the blog. A registered trademark, she’s face (other than mine!) of the blog and social media presence.

 

As you will have read, this year may have been different to others; but it has not been quiet. So much has gone one, it’s no wonder that the tail end of the year is slower and more reflective. If it had all been plain sailing, there would have been very little learned, very little documented in the blog, and very little left to reflect upon.

For now, my only plan is try and sow chillies at some point, and plant my fruit trees when they arrive. I haven’t really thought about anyhing beyond that.

I thank you, for having accompanied me on the 2015 journey; and look forward to the one starting in the new year.

Happy new year!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

#NABLOPOMO mashed, chipped, roasted and boiled

That is what happened to the assortment of potatoes that the allotment plot yielded this year.

There were a number of varieties that sunk on the plot, in the raised beds. We had international kidney, lady balfour, pink fir apple, kestral and red duke of york. The red duke of york were a bit hit and miss having been sunk into the earth in the poly tunnel by way of experiment. I don’t think I will be doing that again.

All the other varieties were sunk into raised beds. These were filled with either leaf mold topped off with multipurpose compost or well rotted and very crumbly farmyard manure. I did this as drainage is an issue with the heavy clay on the plot. In the past, heavy clay has basically eaten the seed potatoes in having caused them to rot due to excess water retention. With raised beds, the drainage is some what improved, and the seed potatoes like sleeping under nice organic material.

Internatioal kidney were cute and bountiful, lots of small round, creamy white potatoes. Pink Fir apple had to be the most abundant, with pounds and pounds being harvested. On average, we harvested one 10kg bucket every week. About four or five harvests were made over the duration of the harvesting period. As you can imagine that is a lot of potatoes. That was even before the lady balfour potatoes were harvested. These, thanks to the farmyard manure, were something of a whopper crop. I have grown these before, but have never harvested potatoes that half the size of a football.

All of these really were mashed, chipped, roasted and boiled. Not to mention put into stuffed chappatis. And the varieties matter. Pink fir apples do go well into stuffed chappatis. Lady balfour make for interesting, sweet flavoured chips. They do also tend to get a bit sloppy when mashed, but do hold together when roasted.

I have never found potatoes to be simple, though for many allotmenteers they are. I was gutted one year when the heavy clay caused them to rot. I learned that they needed soft friable soil. Even then, I don’t earth them as is done traditionally.

The humble spud, seemingly simple; can actually be complicated.

Spirit infusion and Spuds

After a month in the dark, the spirit infusions were ready to decant. These infusions involve home grown raspberries and gooseberries. The raspberries broke down and produced  a lovely bright pink infusion. The gooseberries were still quite firm, and hadn’t broken down so much. Both however produced a decent level of end product. Both had been made with 70 cl of spirit. I managed to get 2x 250 bottles from each kilner jar, so I am pretty happy. The gooseberry infusion is rather like drinking a spiced curry.

There there were spuds. Above you see a 10kg bucket of pink fir apple potatoes. This is the first time I sown and grown this variety, and I have to say that I am rather impressed. We managed to get just under 10kg from half a 1mx2m bed. There is still that half a bed and another 1mx1m bed left to harvest. These a beautifully odd shaped potato, and we did get a few, ahem, rude shaped ones. I had to warn my mum in advanced.

Those were okay, then came these.

image1

They look a bit scabby. I forget now, what these are now. Perhaps lady balfour or interntional kidney. I think they have been left in the soil a little bit too long. They will be okay, after heavy peeling. I refuse to say that growing things is always going to be rainbows and butterflies. It won’t be.

Plot Productivity Part one-Early August

The last week has seen teaching finish and exams start; so I have been a little busy with a real life beyond the plot. With evenings and weekends, I have spent some time defoliating the very leafy tomatoes in the poly. Beyond that, parents have been along to the plot. Ma is on her summer school holidays, so has been taking up weeds and digging over as she does anyway. Just with a bit more gusto. I get waken in the morning, with the words “Punam, I am going over road for an hour. back in a bit.” Two hours later, she’ll turn up at home for tea time.

Dad’s engineering training was utilised this week. I am too short to reach the top of the bean wig wams, I have decided to put a horizontal cane between the wig wams to maximise growing. So Dad helped to beam them.

Then he noticed squashes trailing up canes. He decided that I had done it wrong-not sure about the right way and that I shouldn’t use black string-luckily I had gardening twine. So decided to construct some scaffolding for the burgeoning squashes.

My Sunflowers had doing well, lots of blooms appearing. Allowing bumble bees to come by and get a bit intoxicated.

First aloo harvest: Red Duke of York

spuds

I have somewhat lost patience with the poly tunnel potatoes. Whilst I understand that this is for an early crop, I am not sure  that I would repeat the exercise. The tiddly tiny crop, is a lovely shade of red. Rather matches Mum’s nail varnish. But ntot very big. I could have left them in a bit longer, I realise that. But the room is needed for tomatoes and chillies now, so they didn’t stand a chance really. The ground is to be refreshed with a spot of farmyard manure, and the tomatoes are going in as soon as possible.

Polytunnel potatoes: triffids arise

spudpoly

In the last two weeks, the Red Duke of York potatoes have taken on a life of their own. They have been fleeced as there is a chance of frost until the end of the month, Whilst the poly tunnel might reach the heady heights of 30 something degrees, it can still suffer a rapid drop in temperature at night. So all the shoots have been tucked up under fleece. And they really have taken off. They took a while to take off, the clay is horrible, and it was still quite cold when they were first sunk.As the weather picked up, and April was relatively calm; we didn’t have that many showers. The shoots have become more vigorous. My next thought would be when these are going to be harvested. These are to be taken up at the appropriate time, and tomatoes to be plugged in. The tomatoes are getting taller still in the 4TB. I have had a handful of RDOY potatoes previously, those were outside in the clay. Inside, there is a distinct difference. I have yet to furtle beneath the soil, I don’t want the potatoes to be really very diddly. Might give it another week to fourteen days, before seeing what lurks beneath.

#NABLOPOMO: Poly Potato Progress

We are finally seeing some progress with the the poly tunnel potatoes. The warm spring weather has somewhat spurred them on, and the poly tunnel does get rather warm. It was easily 30 degrees this morning when I went to water the chillies. The soil does look rather arid, now I think about it. You’ll have to excuse the spiked leaves, I had forgotten my gloves to pull them out. And trust me, those critters are vicious. Sting lasts for days.

At least half a dozen of the spuds have sprouted and growing.  These were sunk mid February, two months exactly. But, as they are sat in clay and the weather is only just turning, they have taken a really long time to get a wiggle on. When they were in open ground outside, I harvested when the flowers had bloomed. Will need to work out when to harvest these as the conditions are a little different.

#NABLOPOMO: Spud Sinking Saturday 2015

Finally. The spuds have been looking at me for some time. Calling at me, to be sunk on the plot. Today, is Good Friday, and I like other folks on the plot, were going to sink spuds today. Off I went, with compost-trundled along in the wheelbarrow-bags of seed spuds and hand tools. There were also some ear phones and maroon5’s V on shuffle. I was on a mission.

First thing first, I had to fill a few of the beds with MPC. Much of the soil that they had been filled with had sunk after last season’s growth. Also some of the beds had been filled with leaf mold, and this had to be topped off for this year.

This years varieties:

  • Red Duke of York: First earlies
  • Kestral: Second earlies
  • Lady Balfour: main crop
  • Pink Fir Apple: Salad
  • International Kidney: Salad

In February, I had sunk Red Duke of York potatoes in the poly tunnel. A tad early, yes, and with the clay that the poly is sat on; have taken a while to get through.

Red Duke of york coming through with a pernicious weed
Red Duke of york coming through with a pernicious weed

You have to squint a little, but you can see the red and green of the red duke of potato just starting to come through. I was starting to lose faith with these things, especially with the clay. Yes, I know there is a weed and algae. It does get warm in there, especially as Spring attempts to arrive. Will pass the hoe across to aerate the soil and get rid of the algae. Spotted a couple of shoots, but not many. Hopefully, a few more will come through before I put tomatoes and chillies in there.

Next time, I should perhaps scale down on the salad seed potatoes. I underestimated the amount of international kidney and pink fir apple seeds and also the space I had available to put them into. Will probably see those knobbly critters in my sleep. Plus, no one told me about the rather funny shapes and form that pink fir apple seeds take.

There is further experimentation, in that some of the raised beds contained soil topped off with leaf mold. The seeds potatoes were sunk deep into that soil, with the leaf mold already sitting on top. This was then topped off with MPC. Remains to be seen as to this will be a success or I will end up with scabby potatoes. Raised beds are the only way that I can cultivate any form of edible potato. Last years open ground experiment indicated that the heavy clay, wet weather and slug population were going to annihilate anything that was put into it.

Sinking potatoes has taken a chunk out of the number of raised beds being used this year. I have two that already occupied by garlic. I also have to keep one free for Ma’s fenugreek-She will not be best pleased, if she doesn’t have somewhere for her fenugreek. There are not four beds left,  1mx1m in size. Not an awful lot of room for all those squashes to be sown. There are however two other beds, open ground where I am plotting to have running beans. I have tried squashes in open ground and the results weren’t good.