Tag Archives: lady balfour

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.

#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.

Potatoes, peppers and prepping Apples

Potatos and prep were the key words this week. As mentioned previously, we have had an abundance of Pink Fir Apple potatoes. This week we harvested the last batch. These have been by far the most productive potato that I have ever managed to grow. My potato growing adventures have not been without incident. so to have such nice good quality potatoes from the plot is something of a surprise. All of the spuds this year were in raised beds, and either in compost or farmyard manure. This does appear to have paid dividends.

In the poly tunnel, we have a mass of six foot triffids. Would you believe, that whilst I was away, Ma harvested a red tomato. Yes, I was upset too. You can also see her picking glads, some of which were as tall as her.

Grapes are on the turn, and whilst there is not many of them this year, they are rather sweet. The autumn raspberry cane has kicked off with lovely large fruit, whereas the blackberries are still somewhat thin amongst the boughs.

Ma has taken up the cabbages, as she was about to declare war on the critters that were nibbling on them. She has shredded them and frozen for winter saag dishes.

Then came the apples. Having spend ages chopping, coring and peeling. I have found a new gadget! This was tested in the falstaff apples, the worcester pearmain are too small as are the home grown concorde pears. if only I had thought of this two weeks ago! Would have saved me six hours of work!

#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.

The plot, the poly and potatoes

plot

I was going to play on the plot today. If only for a brief spell. What I really wanted to do, was sink potatoes. Yes, already.

I have had fairly dire success when it comes to potatoes. What for others might be a fairly straight forward thing to do, for me, is a challenge. There has been some limited success growing potatoes in raised beds, and that is what I will in a couple of months time. I don’t really want to dig trenches again into the clay. I did that last year, and the seed potatoes were basically eaten by the clay. What could have been a beautiful bountiful crop, was in fact diddly squat of not a lot really. Very few spuds actually came out, and I had planted quite a few. Was rather demoralising really. I don’t particularly want to feel that way again. Last year was the first time for a number of the varieties that I am trying this year.

This year, the spud list is as follows:

  • Red duke of York-first earlies
  • Kestral-second earlies
  • Lady balfour-Main crop
  • Pink fir apple-salad variety
  • International kidney-salad variety

What I have done today, could possibly end with disappointment, as I have set about doing an experiment. I toddled off to the plot, with a bulb planter, a transplanting trowel and a bag of red duke of york seed potatoes. I went into the poly tunnel. The soil in there has already been tidied up and even had poop put into it. It is still horrible clay though, like the rest of the plot. Then over the next hour, I sunk the seed potatoes. I started off with the bulb planter, but didn’t like it, and so the transplanter trowel dug slots for the spuds. Each seed was then popped in. and covered over with the dirt that had been dug over. This is the first time that I have sunk seed spuds undercover, and therein it’s an experiment. It is also rather early. Most people have probably only received their potato orders and are likely to be now chitting their spuds in preparation. There is fleece on hand, to cover the shoots as they come through. I realise that there is a huge gamble when we are still experiencing frosts and will do so, til the end of may. By that time, the spuds should be up and out. Leading to tomatoes and chillies being planted into the poly. I didn’t fancy having an empty poly tunnel for such a long time.

Previously, I have sown kestral and lady, not too bad. Both were okay variety, particularly in light of my spud growing naivete. International kidney got eaten by the clay last year and didn’t work. Pink Fir apple is new this year, as it is such a knobbly looking thing. What I need to reflect upon closely, is where all the potatoes are going to go, and how. I really don’t want to sink into the clay, as that is a short way to write everything off.

Beyond the potatoes, I took this opportunity to walk around and tidy up the raised beds. Three of them, require topping up with MPC. They currently contain leaf mold. These, I suspect will be used to grow potatoes. There are other beds, that would also benefit from topping up, have sunk quite a bit. I can start to work out now, what is going to go where. Mum is going to need a raised bed or two for spinach and fenugreek. Space where running beans and climbing beans might go, is currently covered in black plastic. I don’t want the clay to get even more wetter and stickier. The vast majority of the raspberry canes that were sunk before Christmas do appear to have rooted and remain plugged in. No sign of growth yet on them, though. With the fruit trees, the braeburn apple, falstaff and worcester pearmain have started to form buds. The rochester peach less so. The peach is on persica rootstock. I have done some research about the concorde pear, and it appears that another one near by would improve things. At the moment, I’m not sure there is one near by, and so might reflect on finding another to sink on the plot. The pear treee that I have, has never ever fruited. Even the victoria plum has fruited once upon a time. There are huge great big plum trees dotted on the site, I like to think that may have an effect.

Marching Red Duke of york

Image

Have removed the fleece from over the potatoes. If it does frost between now and the end of the month, will have to recover. Above is the one mound of red duke of york, These are first earlies, so could be up as early as next month. They have been in for about eight to nine weeks, I think. I had been expected a few more clumps of leafy foliage. I can’t imagine that the other two mounds so expertly sunk by the artist in residence will have failed. He’ll be gutted if they have! We want a success, so A)he comes back again B) he sees that his handiwork paid off. I do want to see the red potatoes come out, they are being played with this year, for the very first time.

The vast majority of the other spuds are up. Am yet to see any Maris Piper though. Lady balfour, international kidney and King Edwards, have certainly sent up green leafy shoots. I can only imagine that the seed potatoes are perhaps struggling to grow through the heavy clay. The very name of international kidney makes me laugh. These were not planted in trenches, but sunk with a bulb planter. So it will be interesting to see how these will progress. 

Pot-eh-tow!

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Things are starting to sprout. This the growth for the Red duke of York, as sank by the artist in residence. Have yet to see Maris piper or king Edwards come up; but international kidney, lady Balfour and kestral are all coming through. This has meant that as we are not yet out of the frost window, these shoots have been covered over with fleece or grass cuttings.

More aloo sinking: spuds galore

Potato planting

Nearly at the end of the potato planting job. I think I might go slightly loopy if I see any more seed potatoes. That said, there are 20 Maris Piper tubers that remain to be sunk.

There have been two different techniques used to sink the spuds. Firstly, traditional potato trenches dug, seed potatos sunk with mounds built on top. Now, I don’t like digging, and I can’t make the mounds. Second, seed potatoes have been sunk in the same as bulbs would be, with a bulb planter. No mean feat, all in all, with horrible heavy clay that makes both of these techniques incredibly difficult and painful,

I really don’t like digging trenches,

Now, why do i have green grass on the mounds that were actually formed. I’m going to have issues earthing up, that’s why, and I can’t make proper mounds. At least the grass will break down as organic matter, and then hopefully protect the developing halums. Grass has been heaped onto the mounds, and might even help level out the dips and divots too.

Kestrel, king edwards, international kidney, maris piper and red duke of york have now been sunk. I was starting to worry about how much space there was, but it might be okay. At least half the plot, in terms of open ground is concerned with potatoes. This is a sinking of spuds on a grand scale, much bigger volume than I have ever attempted. So this could be a fairly moderate success, or a complete, and abject failure.

Potatoes and precipitation: aloo sinking

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For weeks now, fe sacks of spuds have been looking at me. Urging me to plant them. With Easter later than expected, I’ve verb counting down towards an appropriate dry window. I may have also overestimated how many spuds I might want to sink given the space that I have.

Finding The Artist in Residence-remember him, he sunk bulbs last year-saw to making a start in this task. There are quite a few varieties of potatoes. Today, we sunk red duke of York and lady Balfour. All very old money aristocratic on the plot. I forget now when these will come up.

As you can see, The Artist in residence has a fabulous technique of digging potato trenches. Armed with the magic spade-to me it’s magic, to him “a spades a spade.” Yes he said that- trenches were dug and spuds dropped. The Artist In Residence all too amused by then ‘tentacles’ and very discerning in sinking those spuds he thought were decent. They were all going to go in, regardless.

There had been an ambitious plan to get potatoes planted. Didn’t get as far as kestrel, international kidney; with Maris piper and king Edwards waiting in the wings. We were thwarted by rain drops falling, a bit of wind and thunder in the distance. I had just started to dig a trench for another bag of spuds, and the last one for lady balfours was hurriedly covered over. We’ve established that I can’t really make mounds properly. And if it keeps raining, low chance of spuds. Really don’t know where I am going to put the rest. One part of the plot was still too sticky and had yet to be turned over on preparation.

But a start nonetheless.>