Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Potato Chitting

The Charlotte potatoes that I ordered arrived just before Christmas, a little earlier than I would have expected.  The first thing I did was to take them out of their delivery box and stand them upright in a tray, with the sprouting end upwards.  Egg cartons are a good  container for chitting potatoes, but I didn't have any to hand, but this tray will do just as well.  Some people cut the potatoes wherever there is an eye (this is where the sprouts form) , this way you can get possibly three times as many plants from just one potato.  Also if you cover the chitting potatoes with a little compost, roots will begin to form , making the plants stronger before they are planted out.

Chitting is a way of encouraging the potato to sprout before planting - they produce small dark sprouts.  It is said that chitted potatoes grow faster and you benefit from an earlier crop.  Start chitting your potatoes 4-6 weeks before you need them, probably the beginning of February as the soil begins to warm up - and keep them in a light, frost-free place till they are ready for planting out.

This year I am going to try a different method of planting, with a bulb planter, rather than digging a trench out, in line with my new policy of not disturbing the soil too much.  As the plants grow, instead of earthing them up I intend covering them with straw, grass clippings etc. to keep the light out.  This is purely an experiment to see if it is possible to get a good crop this way.  If not, I will go back to the old method.

I have noticed that when there has been a potato left in the ground after harvesting I have had a really good crop from it.  Possibly because it had grown deeper and that was why I didn't find it the first time round.  These odd potatoes seem to do very well on their own without me fussing over them.  So when my potatoes are ready this year I will try not to be as thorough as I would normally be in trying to find every one, then it should turn into a perennial crop, without my having to buy seed potatoes every year.

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

End of the Year Review

Plums - Victoria, Damsons and Greengages
As the year is coming to an end, I thought I would look back and refresh my memory as to what has been successful this year.  2011, for me, should be called 'The Year of the Soft Fruits'.
Redcurrant bush




  Without exception, this year has been the best ever, for all the soft fruits - everything performed very well  and I had more fruit than I knew what to do with - I think the previous hard winter helped, and although most of the year was very dry, it doesn't seem to have affected the output of the plants.

James Grieve

The eating apple trees were overladen with fruit, most of which were undersized, they ripened before they had a chance to mature into a decent size, but there were hundreds of them, and the plum trees were dripping, to the point of breaking the branches.

On the vegetable side, my two disappointments were the potatoes and squashes, yields were low, due in part to the low rainfall and colder temperatures than we would normally have.   But the carrots and onions made up for the shortfall.

In the greenhouse I had successes and failures too.  The tomatoes romped away, ripened quickly and kept on coming right through to October.

But the cucumbers and peppers were dismal.  So my summary of the year  - on the whole crops didn't do too bad considering the weather conditions. 

It has been great looking back at the photographs throughout the year and has me fired up ready to begin all over again next year.  I have my tomato seed at the ready to sow in January and I can't wait to get cracking.

As this will be my last post for the year on A Woman of the Soil - I will take this opportunity of thanking everyone who has visited and commented and I wish you all a very Happy Christmas and a Successful Gardening New Year.

Three grumpy Christmas dogs via Pinterest

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Liebster Award

I have just received a Liebster Award from  Jo at The Good Life and would like to thank her, it has boosted my morale no end.  In the spirit of the award you have to pass it on to five of your favourite blogs.  I have quite a few favourites (not just gardening blogs) and it has been hard to choose.  The ones I have chosen are just as much for liking the people as well as the blogs.

Colin @ The Recycled Gardener  who describes himself as a creaky old veg grower, and produces amazing amounts of veg under difficult weather conditions in Cumbria, he writes with wit and a dry sense of humour.
David @ The Anxious Gardener who is a gardener of six acres at The Priory on the Sussex Weald.  He has a great sense of humour and never fails to make me chuckle with his quirky blog.
Janet @ Plantaliscious  is passionate about plants, both ornamental and edible, and bread, her brilliant blogging narrative draws you into her gardening world.
Janet @ Planticru Notes - the same goes for this Janet too, she has a lovely garden in Montrose and includes some beautiful photography.
Last but not least Mike (or Flighty as we all know him) @ Flighty's Plot -  for his plot adventures and wide knowledge of birds and wildlife which he writes about in such an engaging way.

Once more, thanks to Jo for enabling me to highlight some wonderful blogs and bloggers.

Just copy and paste the award on to your own blog and let your five choices know by leaving a comment on their blog.  It should be given to bloggers with less than 200 followers.

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

The Veggie Garden in December

Except for the empty pumpkin patch at the bottom of the allotment garden the rest is still pretty much full of produce.  I have started harvesting sprouts even though they are still small, I doubt they are going to get any bigger now, let's just call them sweet bites, mini sprouts, if you like.

I also harvested another handful of tenderstems from the Calabrese on Sunday, shown with the sprouts, these plants just keep on giving - I expect they will eventually exhaust themselves, but when?
The January King cabbages are hearting up nicely, and will probably be ready to eat, in January!

But, in the bottom left hand corner of the allotment, all is not well.  This is my soft fruit area - raspberries underplanted with strawberries, blackcurrants, gooseberries, rhubarb and redcurrants.

The pictures aren't very good as I took them this morning at 7.30 and it was only just getting light, but it will give you an idea of the area.  Everything needs pruning back and all the bushes are starting to intermingle and overcrowd one another.  Plus, right in the middle of the blackcurrant, an elder has decided to seed itself.

The bottom right picture shows a self-seeded perpetual spinach plant that has gone to seed and takes up a huge area.  This part of the garden has gone a little wild with nettles, long grass and mint that has escaped and now grows in profusion.  It looks a little unsightly, but I don't mind too much as my philosophy is that, as long as there is a some control so that it doesn't get too out of hand, a wild area can be beneficial to the rest of the garden.  I think the abundance of this area is because it was once my compost heap.  Along the fence at the back of the garden is a mound where I threw my weeds, which have now rotted down, so I will make use of this next year for planting a courgette and squash.  I intend laying a big branch along the top for the squash plant to grow along, giving the tendrils something to attach too, and hopefully keep the fruit off the soil.  That is the plan anyway.

Finally, the above pictures show the making of cherry chocolate, these cherries are the end result of the cherry vodka that was started earlier in the year.  The beloved decided to use the vodka-soaked cherries instead of throwing them away.  Once it had set, we both has a taste - I quite liked it but he didn't, so I have a feeling it is going to sit in the fridge until we find some willing victim to take it off our hands. 
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