Tag Archives: maris piper

It’s been a busy old weekend….

 

While Mr Mac was busy digging, splitting and relocating irises and crocosmia earlier this week I was in need of something to make me look “busy” so I did not have to help him. To give you an idea of how much I really did not want to help him I decided to tackle my pot mountain……the pile of used pots accumulated over the summer of 2012 that had formed a heap where they had been thrown out of the greenhouse when their purpose had been served.

I think I even mentioned in my Jobs for February blog that it was the prefect time to wash and clean pots yet here we are at the end of April and mine were still untouched, caked in soil, providing the slugs with a comfy winter hotel.

I was so desperate not to wash the pots that I had even offered to pay some of my friends children to do it for pocket money during the Easter holidays but apparently the youth of today don’t need money!

I set about sorting through the pile, throwing away broken pots, trays and modules that were beyond saving and ended up with a nice, neat, tidy pile.

A tidy pile of pots ready for washing

A tidy pile of pots ready for washing

So yesterday when the sun was shining I got my chair, my scrubbing brush, a tub of warm water with some washing up liquid and bleach in it and another tub with clean water for rinsing….and set about scrubbing.

All ready to get scrubbing!

All ready to get scrubbing!

I did not get them all done, but the smaller pots I need for potting on seedlings are all clean and ready for use. The larger pots can wait for the next sunny weekend!

Clean pots drying in the sunshine

Clean pots drying in the sunshine

On Friday I had a delivery of “Million Bells” plugs that I had ordered for my hanging baskets. I read an article recently about planting plugs directly into pots and baskets if that is where they will ultimately end up, so as these were all destined for hanging baskets I decided to plant them up. There were six each of lemon, fire crackle, blue, deep pink and white so I planted the four small baskets with the lemon and fire crackle and the two large baskets with pink, white and blue.

DSC05888

The instructions recommended three plants per 30cm basket so while they look slightly puny at the moment hopefully they will soon fill out. I will keep them in the greenhouse for a couple of weeks and then start hardening them off with a view to putting them out by the end of May.

DSC05889

 

Today the forecast was for rain but we were fortunate enough to have gorgeous sunshine between showers and so we got the potatoes planted.

We planted Maris Piper and Pink Fir Apple varieties and this year we have decided to try growing them in the ground rather than tubs or bags (except the first earlies).

We have been watching Gardeners’ World and Beechgrove Garden on BBC and so did exactly what they did….dig a trench, plant the seed potatoes 12 inches apart and pull the soil up over the top to form a ridge. There has been a lot of talk about the soil being warm enough to plant main crop potatoes but we did not check the temperature and just planted them anyway.

Other than the obvious way of checking soil temperature I heard of another method recently and that is to scrape back some soil and stick your elbow in as if you were checking bath water for a baby. Apparently in Victorian kitchen gardens the way they checked if the soil was warm enough was to pull down your trousers and sit on it with your bare bum! Thank goodness for soil thermometers!

Maris Piper and Pink Fir Apple

Maris Piper and Pink Fir Apple

Even though the seeds have been in the dark garage rather than on a sunny windowsill, they still have chits!

Even though the seeds have been in the dark garage rather than on a sunny windowsill, they still have chits!

We set the seeds out in the trench but then dug a hole to put them in so they were even deeper.

We set the seeds out in the trench but then dug a hole to put them in so they were even deeper.

All haunched up and ready to grow!

All haunched up and ready to grow!

Finally we decided to make the most of the sunshine and planted the garlic (Solent Wight) and the rest of the strawberry runners. We forgot we had some old strawberry pots (yes they were lying under my dirty pot mountain where we could not see them) and so they were given a quick scrub to remove the  algae and planted up with the runners from the old strawberry patch.

The garlic had been hardened off for weeks but we could not get over the length of the roots.

The garlic had been hardened off for weeks but we could not get over the length of the roots.

We sneaked the garlic in beside the leeks.

We sneaked the garlic in beside the leeks.

Dirty strawberry pots.

Dirty strawberry pots.

Home Sweet Home!

Home Sweet Home!

 

Advertisements

ABC Potatoes

Our main crop potatoes (Maris Piper and Pink Fir Apples) should really have been planted at the end of April. However, it was so cold here that we never got round to doing it.

Last week’s heat wave saw an initial flurry of activity. Lots of blue Scottish people rushed out into the sunshine for a freckle top-up and within 30 minutes were rushing back inside to lie down in a cool room because it was “too hot”. We’re never happy.

Over the week Mr Mac and I managed to get two large jobs done, one of which was getting the maincrop potatoes planted. The easiest way we have discovered to grow them is in bags. In the ground the worms eat them. Bags can be emptied whenever you need potatoes, they can be moved around the garden and they can more or less be forgotten about.

Even though we were late planting them they had been sitting in the greenhouse happily chitting away. For the uninitiated (like I was 3 years ago!) chitting involves sitting the tubers in a box, such as an old egg box, with the growing end facing upwards – recognisable by the cluster of tiny buds (“eyes”) on it. When the shoots are about an inch long they are ready for planting. This gives them a head start, although many people say you don’t need to chit maincrop potatoes because they have a longer growing season!

Here is what we did:

Maris Pipers, chitted and ready for action!

We saved empty compost bags which are the ideal size. They were all washed in a big bucket filled with water, bleach and washing up liquid to kill the bugs. Then they were left in the sun to dry.

Turn the compost bags inside out and then roll down the outside. This way, when you need to add more soil the bag can be unrolled to accommodate it. Add some compost to the bottom of the bag.

Place two seed potatoes in each bag and then cover with more compost.

Work out where to put them all!

We were all ready to place them around the garden when this happened…

Rain stopped play! At least we did not have to water anything.

We put the bags under two trees where the only things growing were the weeds.

Finally, pierce some holes in the bottom of each bag for drainage and wait for the potatoes to grow!

Mr Mac is growing chips!

One of the first things we did in our garden when we moved here was plant loads and loads of potatoes because they are good for breaking up the soil.  Mr Mac had experience of growing potatoes but when he started talking about seed potatoes, chitting, first earlies, second earlies, maincrop and haunching I realised there was slightly more to growing potatoes than I thought.

It sounded complicated and for a while I buried my head in the sand and just let Mr Mac get on with it. However, this year I decided to “face the fear” and work out what it is all about. After all, everyone else seems to be doing it so it can’t be that hard!

So here is my quick guide to growing potatoes:

  • Seed potatoes are not seeds but commercially cultivated tubers which you buy in bags from garden centres.
  • Potatoes are classified according to the length of time they spend in the ground. “Earlies” are ready for lifting first, then “second earlies” and in late summer, early autumn, “maincrop” varieties.
  • Potatoes will be ready to harvest sooner if the seeds are encouraged to develop shoots or sprouts before they are planted. This is known as “chitting”.
  • As potatoes grow, draw up earth around the stem so only the tip is exposed. This is known as “earthing up” or “haunching”.
  • First and second earlies are ready for harvesting when the plant flowers and the foliage is still green.  For maincrops, once the plant has gone brown and died completely, cut it down to ground level but leave the potatoes in the ground for another week. This allows skins to harden for storage.
  • Maincrop potatoes should be lifted on a dry day and left on the surface for a couple of hours to dry. They should be stored in a cool dark place in a hessian sack which allows moisture to evaporate.
  • Crop rotation is important.  Never plant potatoes in the same place two years running.

What we do

That first year we had so many potatoes we could have put McCain’s out of business! The purpose of growing so many was to break up the soil, which it did, but it also meant we were overrun with potatoes. We have never managed to store them successfully and the other major problem we had was worms. Probably 75% had been eaten by worms. We know worms are good for the soil which is fine as long as that is where they stay!

We had the same issue in year 2, even though we grew them in another part of the garden so Mr Mac decided all potatoes must be grown in a worm free zone. The solution? Compost bags turned inside out, a half whisky barrel and some deep pots.

We roll the compost bags down, put compost and one or two seed potatoes in the bottom and cover them. When the plant starts to grow, cover the stem and as more depth is required, just unroll the bag.

With the barrel and pots, the same applies. Start shallow and allow enough depth to keep adding compost until the potatoes are ready to harvest.

You can harvest one bag at a time by simply turning it out and collecting potatoes. There is no risk of stabbing the potatoes with a fork and they can be left in a quiet corner of the garden or kept inside and moved out once the risk of frost has passed. Easy!

Our favourites

This year we have planted a first early variety called “Foremost”. It will be ideal for new potatoes and salads. The other two varieties we love are both maincrops. Maris Pipers are good all-rounders and perfect for chips.  Pink Fir Apples have a pink knobbly skin, a waxy texture and nutty flavour, perfect with just some salt and butter mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm.

Foremost first earlies being grown in a deep pot

The Foremost are well on the way.

The Maris Pipers and Pink Fir Apples are happily chitting in the greenhouse.

Maincrops chitting away

And finally…….

Mr Mac has an acquaintance who told him about an ingenious method he had devised.  He did not have any growing space in his garden so he used old car tyres and just kept piling them up and filling them with compost as the plants got taller. Apparently his mother was moaning about the tyres making the garden look untidy and had told him they had to go. His reply was, “They can’t go. I’m growing my chips in them”!

The first cut of 2012!

Well today saw the grass get it’s first cut of 2012. Mr Mac had been trying to put it off for as long as possible. One reason was that we had some serious moss treatment done at the end of last year and wanted to give the grass a chance to grow. However, the main reason the grass had not been cut before now is that after the gale force winds in December and then January the grass was littered with broken twigs and branches and it was my job to pick them up!

Job now done. Back now very sore. Grass cut and looking good I have to say.

If we ever need to buy anything from the garden centre we try to do it on a Wednesday. The reason for this? Dougal’s Discount Wednesday – 10% off all purchases.

Off we went with a list and back we came with more seed compost, seeds for my hanging baskets and maris piper seed potatoes.

I had forgotten about my hanging baskets and have not actually planted anything appropriate. So after a quick look at some seed catalogues I decided on Monopsis, Nicotiana and Trailing Petunia. What I actually bought was pale pink Dascia and fuschia pink Trailing Petunia. The baskets will hang along the “blue wall” I hope to create so hopefully will provide a lovely contrast.

I also decided to pot on my 6 courgette plants. They had been getting quite comfy in the house but 2 of them were starting to keel over! They have now been rehomed and relocated to the greenhouse. I just hope they are still upright in the morning.

Check the size of the tuber on this!

 

 

Mr Mac decided to relocate a peony rose which was impeding progress of his new path network. Check the size of the tuber!