This weekend, the clocks went forward an hour as we officially stepped into spring. To celebrate, the sun shone, jumpers came off, and t-shirts were worn on the allotment. Surrounded by a sea of pasty white allotment skin and reddening cheeks, the british gardener never looked so glorious.
But, it was quickly down to business.
For me, planting spuds is an occassion. It feels like once they’re in, spring can start. Some gardeners simply dig a hole with their trowel and plant the chitted potato, while other gardeners opt for ridging their seeded tatties. I’ve never tried the ridging method, but I understand it’s a good option for raised beds. By drawing up the soil into an upside down ‘v’ shaped ridge (not too steep or it will crumble in the rain), then planting into the top, you avoid the problem of earthing up later in the season. It also prevents the bed from getting waterlogged and rotting your tubers.
I had considered ridging this year, but as a creature of habit, I opted for trenches. An old way of planting potatoes, but still my favourite. There’s enormous satisfaction to be had in turning soil, cultivating it, then creating trenches. Besides, once the plants are through, earthing up is a task I look forward too. I’m not going to lie, it’s backbreaking, in fact as I write this now I’m full of aches and pains. However, it’s a ritual I enjoy.
I may have previously said, I’m opting for four potato varieties this year; Kestrel, Cara, Sarpo Mira and Ratte. After last year’s potato famine, I have high hopes for this crop.
Speaking of famines, last year’s carrot crop wasn’t the best. We had problems trying to germinate the seed. I don’t know why, I had done what I’ve always done, yet the results were pathetic. However, this year I’m pleased to report, my carrot seeds have germinated and little green heads are popping up through the soil every day.
Gardening can be a fickle business, it always throws something at you that you would never expect!
The broad beans and garlic are coming on nicely, so is the spinach I planted a few weeks ago. In the polytunnel, I can barely move due to all the seed trays and pots, and it’s only going to get worse. Nevertheless, you won’t hear this gardener complaining, it’s a joy to see the allotment brimming with new life.
So while the crops grow, and the soil warms, maybe it’s time to get out the mankini and work up that gardening tan? If nothing else, it should scare off the pigeons.
For more on growing potatoes, you can check out my column for Kitchen Garden.