Friday, February 23, 2007

Rain, rain, go away

This is a horribly frustrating time of year to have an allotment. It's been either snowing or raining for weeks now, and there's standing water on the lower "slopes". The soil is totally unworkable, cold and uninspiring. It's all a bit depressing.

I'm diverting myself by chopping up holly to put around my little baby pea plants. Something is eating them, and I can't work out whether it's slugs or mice - probably a bit of both. So I'm cracking open the slug pellets (I use the organic ones - they look the same but don't kill the birds). As for the mice, I'm trying a little tip I got from Carol Klein's veggie programme (not a favourite as it keeps whizzing off into irrelevant camera effects, but you do get the odd useful tip). She suggests putting holly all over baby peas & beans since mice find it too prickly to walk over. So far it seems to be working OK and is also providing something for the little pea plants to climb over - so with a bit of luck it should save them.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

To chit or not to chit...

It must be nearly spring! I've been chitting my potatoes.

There's a lot of debate over whether or not to chit potatoes - that's the process of putting them out in trays, or eggboxes, in a bright, frost-free place for a few weeks so the eyes can sprout and form short shoots before you put them in the ground.

I've always thought it best to take the common sense view: after all, the only thing chitting is for is to bring your potatoes on a bit, and make sure they get up and running as early as possible.

The only potatoes that's relevant to is the earlies - so I've always chitted my Duke of Yorks and they've always done brilliantly, cropping at the beginning of June.

But even second earlies will develop fine if you plant them, unchitted, in mid-March, cover with fleece and then start harvesting once the first earlies are finished - usually the end of June. That's plenty of time for them to get going well without any extra help.

And as for maincrops - they'll be in the ground all summer, right up until August and September, so they have even more time. Just bung them in towards the end of March and they'll be away - couldn't be easier!