Sunday, 2 September 2007

Christmas Day Spuds ! 2.09.07

Welcome to another weeks update of Growing your own Veg at Read's Retreat.

This week I spent a good few hours pottering in the garden, culminating in todays planting of my Christmas spuds.
The first job before planting involved hand weeding of the bed, after which i applied a liberal sprinkling of slug pellets. Slugs are not a problem to the spuds, its just that they tend to congregate and thrive under the mulch material. This sprinkling will hopefully deter them somewhat.

The mulch material for this bed is a couple of old wood chippings sacks, which are black on the inside.
The reasons I like to grow under plastic are 1) That it blocks out the light and therefore minimises weed growth, and 2) that being black, it absorbs the heat from the sun, which in turn promotes growth of the tubers during the shorter periods of daylight that will follow now, by gently warmimg the soil.
Plus the fact that I like to recycle wherever I can on the plot.

Using a selection of bricks from my store, I simply laid out the sheeting as required and weighed down at the edges.

So far so good, and not much outlay.

There's another bonus too when growing under a mulch material: There is no need to earth up the potatoes as they grow, as they are protected from sunlight and will not turn green.

Finally it comes to the planting.
I adopt a straightforward approach that has not yet let me down.
The first step is to work out how many seeds to plant. Previously this main crop bed was home to 10 seed pots, but with the decline in conditions, I'm now planting just 5 seeds in the same area. This will give them the best chance of growing larger spuds, with plenty of room for the roots to spread out.
Next I simply cut a cross in the plastic, about 4" each way, then plant the seed approx 8" deep. This is a bit deeper than normal depth of 6", but hopefully this deeper planting will encourage the plants to grow stronger, and therefore be more resistant to the bad weather we are bound to get. The seeds are then thoroughly watered in. Regular daily watering over the next 30 days will help prevent scab from forming, and help to set the root structure. The final task after watering is the best bit: Over each planting hole, make a 1" deep depression using your fist. "Why" you ask ? Well, this acts as a natural water trap during rain spells, so you know the rain water is being directed exactly where you need it. It works the same when watering during dry spells too!

The seed pots used this time are v. Maris Piper.
As you can see, they have been chitted in a warm area for about 4 weeks. This is especially good when planting for Christmas spuds, as strong growth is already on the go, even before they reach the soil. All shoots that are not on the crown of the seed, are simply cut away with a sweep of thumbnail, so all growth is concentrated upwards. They are then planted as described earlier.
I have estimated that approx growing time will be 100 days, give or take a bit, and that depends solely on the weather. 2 more plantings over the next fortnight should ensure a Christmas day harvest - I'll keep you posted.

Elsewhere on the plot, there's been plenty to do:

The last of the peas from my second sowing were harvested and eaten today. I left the roots in the soil, where they can continue to add nutrients while they break down.
This gave me the room to plant a further 3 Curly leaf Kale seedlings into the bed. The rest of the Kale plants are putting on good growth, some of them quite bushy and about 8" tall already.

Next, I transferred a further dozen seedlings of the Kale into 3.5" pots to grow on a bit. The idea of this is so that I can replace - if required - any plants that succumb to slug attack.

If not needed for that reason, I can simply plant them in the borders and / or give them away.

I know mum wants a couple!

As you can see, there's no shortage of Runner Beans at Reads Retreat!
Maybe I'm going mad, but today I added some general purpose plant food to the watering can. This will help the final lot of flowers to set, and in turn provide for a final flourish of beans later in the year.

Next picking will be tomorrow - just in time for tea ! Yummy.

Good things come to those who wait !
Only a few weeks ago I was devastated to find my tomato plants had been demolished in the gales and storms we had.
However, i let the plants be, and now I'm being rewarded with about a half dozen toms every couple of days.

Thats about it for this weeks update. I hope you've found it informative and useful, and I hope to see you back here next week. Till then, have a great gardening week.


1 comment:

TopVeg said...

Very interesting description of potato planting. We are having problems now with green potatoes, as the dry soil slips off the ridge. Like the fist treatment, too! Sensible!