Posts Tagged ‘early potatoes’

KEEP AN EYE ON SOIL TEMPERATURE BEFORE DECIDING WHAT TO SOW – 4th wk in Feb 2014

Carne is known for first early potatoes as the soil temperature is a little warmer for early sowing.

Carne is known for first early potatoes as the soil temperature is a little warmer for early sowing.

The experienced gardeners I meet around Ireland tell me that there is a tendency to sow seed too early in the year. The likelihood is that many imported seed packets and gardening literature originates in places where the soil is warmer earlier in spring compared to the NW of Ireland in particular. Taking the soil temperature before planting out seedlings or sowing directly makes sense.

In my book ‘Trevor’s Kitchen Garden’ (www.orpenpress.com) on pages 103 – 104, you will find a list of vegetables and the soil temperatures which suit their seed germination. Lettuce will start off in a low as 2 c, whereas tomato, courgette and pepper need atleast 13 c.

The potato likes about 10 c in the soil. However as a tuber, it is more robust than the tiny seeds used to grow most vegetables. The warmer the soil early in the year, the quicker the growth begins. Living as we do in Tacumshin, we are near Carne in the south eastern corner of Ireland. The soil temperature is generally about 1 c  warmer in the early part of the year compared to other parts of the country. However the wetness of the ground held up potato sowing this year as much as soil temperature.

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POTATO PLANTER BAGS ARE IDEAL INDOORS WHEN FROST THREATENS OUTDOORS – 4th wk in March 2013

In February, I planted a few seed potatoes, (Orla, Charlotte and Blue Danube,) in garden centre bought potato planter bags. To start with, I put a seaweed layer at the bottom of each bag, followed by a 50/50 mix of garden compost and soil to fill about half the bag. One, or at most two, seed potatoes were sown in the middle of each bag. The bags were watered and placed inside the patio door on an old election poster to protect the kitchen floor! Regular watering of bag grown potatoes is a key factor in getting a good yield.

Recently in March, I planted a few more potato bags with Lumper and Colleen varieties. Hopefully in April, maybe May, the risk of frost will have passed. Once the patio is frost free, I can shift these potato planter bags outside to grow on and get an early harvest in June, before the blight season begins in earnest. When the potato plants grow taller than the rim of the bags, I will earth up each plant with that 50/50 mix of compost and soil to increase the number of tubers growing out from the stem of each plant.

After the potatoes flower, and the flowers wither, it will be time to tip out the potato plant, soil and all and retrieve the harvest. The resulting soil in which the poatoes grew will be an ideal soil to grow other container grown veg like courgettes or peas or beans or carrots or lettuce or radishes, etc. If I had more space, I would certainly be planting seed potatoes in the open garden soil later when frost has passed, in drills, or using the Aran Bed method, as well as in bags for an early crop.

Unusual organic seed varieties are still available from Sonairte, the Eco-Visitor Centre and Gardens, Laytown, Co. Meath,

Protecting the potato bags from outdoor frost by starting them off indoors. If looked after, these purpose made bags last years, but buckets or strong black plastic bags will work also.

Protecting the potato bags from outdoor frost by starting them off indoors. If looked after, these purpose made bags last years, but buckets or strong black plastic bags will work also.

www.sonairte.ie. If you can’t get to Laytown, then the Sonairte stand at the Dublin Food Co-Op, Newmarket, Dublin 8, on a Saturday is another place to pick up a bag or two of organic seed potatoes. They are €6 a bag or 2 bags for m€10.

The varietes available are Colleen, Toluca, Sarpo Axona, Bionica, Charlottte, Remarka, Sante, Sarpo Mira, Cara, Desiree, Robinta.

PARALLELS BETWEEN IRISH RUGBY TEAM & HUNGRY GAP IN THE KITCHEN GARDEN – 3rd wk in Feb 2013

Murrayfield is unlikely to become allotments for growing fruit and veg anytime soon. That does not mean there are not comparisons between Irish rugby players being good at kicking and crops being ripe for picking. The older players ripened last summer and autumn in gardening terms, and the younger lads have a little time to go yet before they are fully ripe. For growers of fruit and veg, this conundrum of ‘too old or too young’ is known as the ‘hungry gap’.

In the case of my small garden, the chard is hanging in to give me and guests fine leaves for tasty meals. (See picture.) However the yield is becoming patchier as the plant is past its prime. The garlic cloves planted last November are about 10cm high but will not be ripe until late July this year. Fearing a ‘hungry gap’, I can see that the purple sprouting broccoli and everlasting cabbage are looking good for the next couple of months. However, June and July will be sparse for harvesting anything substantial, apart from rhubarb under the rowan trees and the early spuds now growing in bags inside the sliding door of the breakfast room. Those spuds should be ready to harvest in June.

The bounty of Nature can be useful during the ‘hungry gap’. For example, the spring growth  of stinging nettles makes handy ingredients for delicious soups, steamed as a veg or fried and tossed in spaghetti. (Nettle recipe on p.33 of ‘Trevor’s Kitchen Garden’,  www.orpenpress.com.) Lamb’s lettuce seeds itself each year in the garden and is prolific for the next couple of months. However, the hungry period is a challenge in the garden as the leaves available tend to be small and fiddly requiring more preparation time picking and cooking.

Irish rugby seems to be in a bit of a ‘hungry gap’ too, at the moment. Hopefully a few proverbial ‘green stinging nettles’ can be selected for the next match against the old warm weather loving

Pat O'Mara, Orchard Manager at Seed Savers, Scarriff, Co. Clare, (www.irishseedsavers.ie) cutting chard for dinner while a guest in 'Trevor's Kitchen Garden' before teaching a Sonairte course in fruit pruning up the road in Laytown. (www.sonairte.ie)

Pat O’Mara, Orchard Manager at Seed Savers, Scarriff, Co. Clare, (www.irishseedsavers.ie) cutting chard for dinner while a guest in ‘Trevor’s Kitchen Garden’ before teaching a Sonairte course in fruit pruning up the road in Laytown. (www.sonairte.ie)

‘French beans’!