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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.

Digging over the patch

So the promised sun didn’t materialise, but then does it ever? It was still warm enough to don wellies and scoot the barrow over to the new veggie patch in Acre Field (the default name seems to be sticking, how original…). We already have potatoes chitting on a window sill in the house, and have been for about a week now – ready for an Easter Sunday planting session as the old boys always do. You need 6 weeks to allow them to chit properly. Today’s task was to dig over one of the two 30′ square vegetable patches and plant around 100 shallots. Tomorrow’s labour of love is to dig the second 30′ square vegetable patch over and sow parsnip seed – something we should have done a few weeks ago if we’d owned a spare ice axe to dig through the ground.

The digging over of the patch also gave us ample opportunity to rid the area of larger stones, and to de-weed the little blighters that have popped up – mostly chickweed but also some groundsel and wild pansies. Single ones we hoed out, those more prolific we turned over with a spade to bury them as a cheap green manure, as we were advised to do by farmer John.

We’ve got two 30′ rows of shallots, bought from the local allotment society, and planted them 6″ apart, in rows 1′ apart, and placed just below the surface, using the most useful tool I own – a piece of dowling, lovingly hand-crafted, that fulfills the jobs of a spacing ruler, a string holder and a dibber. Each bulb will sprout around 8-10 bulbs which means we’ll be eating a lot of pickled onions!

As is getting the norm each time we dig here, we also unearthed some pottery, what looks like a couple of sherds of Midlands Purple Ware which was made and used between AD1450-1600, and a piece of flint that looks suspiciously like the base of an arrow head – which will make it either Paleolthic or Mesolithic. These are to add to the other 20 pieces we’ve already piled up from this 30′ square piece of land! If only we could find some Anglo Saxon gold 🙂