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Potatoes & Onions

2016 potatoes onionsThe last two weekends rotovating, hoeing and digging have paid off, and the weedlings are thin on the ground. The weather has warmed the soil, and I feel safe putting something in without fear of weeds taking over before the seedlings have a chance to break through.

When it comes to potatoes, I know we should put the earlies in, well, early, but it just felt too cold and damp, and we’re in no rush. So today we planted the whole kaboodle, first and second earlies, and the main crops. Mid April, nice and warm, clean soil, perfect!

First earlies were Rocket – we usually go for Swift, but I fancied a change – they have a good disease resistance and whilst we haven’t really suffered from keel worm yet, it can’t be a bad thing 🙂 Second earlies were Charlottes, great for salads which are a staple in the house during the warmer months. We’ve grown them before and had good crops. Main crops were our two favourites – King Edwards for roasting – can’t be beaten, and Valor for a general good all-rounder, a rarity in that it’s a main crop variety that can be mashed without disintegrating. It also has very good blight and eelworm resistance. We had some blight last year, and I can’t help but wonder if the blight trials they’re carrying out two fields to the south-west of us is making it as far as us. If so, it upsets me greatly 🙁

Then on to the onion patch – we’ve again gone for the old favourites – Picasso Red shallots for pickling, Sturon white onions and Karmen red onions, both decent storers (though not as good as the shallots in my experience), and Marco garlic – a new one for us. I’m a bit gutted that we’re late with the garlic, they really should have been in weeks ago, but such is life.

Root Crops are Go!

2015 Root Veg Sowing 5It’s time for hardy root crops to be sown directly into the soil. This is probably the first year, after five years of growing food in the patch, and seven years growing our own food, that I feel we’er finally getting the hang of it. Ironically it’s also the last year in our five-year crop rotation system, next year the various veg will be planted in the same place they were when we moved the veg to the patch from the house. So we’ve had four years of learning about the various bugs, pests and weather types that we can fall foul too – and hopefully know enough to keep on top of many of the more common problems life can throw at you! Of course, there’s no doubt a hidden spanner waiting to be thrown into the works when least expected! So far, with the warm weather, the shallots, onions and garlic are doing really well. One of my favourite groups of crops to grow, and not only for the fact that they really do seem to thrive on our soil – not one bad year really (touches head for luck).

2015 Root Veg Sowing 4And then there are our roots. We like the Hollow Crown parsnips we’ve grown since the start, the Flyaway carrots are now fly free, when grown under the enviromesh, and the three rows of Boltardy beetroot, that has never bolted on us, is nice and safe under the mesh nets, from sparrows, pigeons, rabbits etc. See – we really do feel we know what we’re doing at last! Isn’t ignorance bliss 😉

2015 Root Veg Sowing 1As you can see – another thing I like is straight lines – and this rake is one of my bestest tools. It was left behind in the old outside toilet in a house I used to live in in Birmingham. It looked old then, and it feels home-made, but quality home-made. The end is heavy, perfect for raking our light soil that’s littered with pebbles. The pebbles tend to rise to the surface as you rake, and can easily be collected to one side to pick up into a bucket and carted off to fill a pothole somewhere in Derbyshire.

2015 Root Veg Sowing 3In fact, you can see a couple of trays of pebbles in one of the photographs, and that’s the fifth year of raking the ground over! It’s also useful to make the seed lines in the soil – heavy enough to tamp down a line, move on and extend the line, if held inverted. Some tools are just made for work 🙂

Finally, the whole family got stuck in to getting spuds in the ground. Again – this year was like well-oiled machinery – Suz and I dug holes, Jay and Smiler dropped the spuds in, we covered them over. It’s so much easier with all four doing it, and a lot more fun.

Potato Sorting

Having left them for a day drying out, the next task was to bring all the spuds up to the garage to sort through and bag. None were so badly blight-struck that we had to bin them, so a bag of mixed tattys was made up to eat now or give away, and the rest were bagged up separately for storage into hessian sacks 🙂

In the background you can see the onions, shallots and garlic, far back right are the Desiree, middle right are Valour, front right are Edzel Blue and front left are Anya, named after Lord Sainsbury’s wife…but apparently the spuds ain’t  bad 😉