Spuds u like

It’s still early in the growing season here being so high up. We have a very short growing season as we’re situated around 1000ft above sea level, our hillside holding faces North and our soil is heavy clay over a limestone substrate which means with our high annual rainfall the soil is cold and claggy for a good part of the spring and autumn comes swiftly and cool to stop plants in their tracks. So for me, having a polytunnel and greenhouse is an essential part of growing the things I like to eat. The outdoor plants take advantage from being started off under cover and sown in plugs and pots where their root structure allows as mice and slugs are quick to pick off anything sown outside. And the tender vegetable that I love so much – tomatoes, aubergine, peppers, chillies, cucumbers and some squash – have to be grown under plastic or glass if I’m to get any chance at a harvest at all.

So in the greenhouse I have various trays of seedlings coming up and growing on where I’ve pricked them out.

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These include spinach and salad leaves,

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tomatoes, peppers and one measly aubergine seedling (I’ll have to purchase some plantlets later – the seed was evidently a bit old!) and rather a lot of celeriac and Alpine strawberry seedlings because they took so long to come up that I sowed more thinking it was a dead loss. Ha…. I think friends will be getting celeriac and strawberry plants if they all come good!

I also have Flat Leaf Parsley (one of my brother’s favourite herbs) and Coriander (without doubt my favourite herb, I could live on the stuff!)

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Outside in trays on the racking I have some sweet peas in Rootrainers,

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cabbage seedlings (too early but I was given these – more on this another day)

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and some peas coming up in gutters. I really can’t direct sow peas and beans as the local mice think it’s manna from heaven and not one will make it through to shoot above the soil!

Out in the veg plot itself though all is still damp and chilly – the beds have been weeded and in some cases mucked with FYM courtesy of the digestive systems of our varied animals. This year they have mostly been covered with black plastic – partly to give myself a head start on weeds but also to help warm the soil up before planting. Today I dug up the last of the carrots – we’ve been eating them since last August so this is probably the best harvest of carrots I’ve had and they taste so much better than shop bought ones. I’ve also dug up the last of the parsnips and put them in the Root Store. There are still some beetroot in the ground and they will come up soon as well. The Chard is hanging around looking quite sorry for itself after a severe trimming by rogue chickens but now it’s netted I hope ot have a few more meals off it before it starts bolting uncontrollably.

Last week I started planting out the seed potatoes. I don’t usually chit potatoes – the ones that inevitably get left behind after harvest the crop seem to manage to grow perfectly well just where you don’t want them! No chitting, no cosseting, no planting them carefully with the eyes upwards. Nope, these spuds that have been hanging around all winter (“Moochers” as Phil calls them, because they mooch around waiting to come up) grow very well when it’s just right for them. So I tend to fuss less and plant more now.

The past few years I’ve only grown main crop varieties but this year I decided for no special reason to grow some earlies as well. So for First Earlies I’ve got Home Guard, Second Earlies are Charlotte 

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and for Main Crop Cara which are the best I’ve found to grow here and for taste. So many varieties of potato are deadly dull and mushy when cooked and I don’t really see the point of growing them. I like to grow Anya as a salad potato but they really do succumb to the blight badly here so this year I probably shan’t bother. They are a variant of Pink Fir Apple – delicious but with all the knobbles a bit of a faff to deal with when cooking. Anya have the same fabulous taste and are much better behaved in the kitchen. My favourite main crop potato is Desiree but these don’t grow very well here at all. They grew very well in the garden of our childhood home which was dryer and sheltered and they cropped well. Here the crops are poor and scabby and the blight razes them to the ground before they can grow to a decent size. I have put in 6 seed potatoes of Desiree just for old times sake but I’m not expecting much of them. One or two tasty meals will be fine. I’ve planted a few Home Guard and Charlotte in the greenhouse bed too to try and force a slightly earlier crop – hopefully in around 10 weeks time. Can’t wait!

So now they’re all safely tucked up underground – hope the mice don’t find them before they grow!

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