I sit here as a slightly worried grower. My early seed potatoes have all made the short, but potentially traumatic journey from shed to soil. The potatoes had already developed good chits and any delay in planting would have resulted in a lot of the chits being knocked off when being covered with soil. On a domestic scale it is possible to carefully plant longer chits in the soil, but we would still be planting next week if we were gently covering each seed potato. There is normally a satisfied feeling of completion on dropping the last one in the soil but not really this year. The standard planting date of St. Patrick’s Day is fine as a general rule of thumb but of limited use in a cold wet spring like this year. Teagasc advises that seed potatoes should not go into the ground until soil temperatures have been at least 70C for three days, this is certainly not the case this week, soil temperatures were barely 50 C. So rather than feeling quietly content, with an aching back, I am apprehensive about the final yield. Potatoes, like most plants, hate having a check in growth. The change in temperature from a warm shed to cold soil could make them produce a lighter crop of smaller potatoes. Ignorance can at times be bliss I suppose, if I wasn’t aware of this I would probably be a happy grower rather than an apprehensive one.
My feelings were similar to those I had when dropping my eldest daughter off at college. My parents could happily drop me off being gently unaware of the various temptations that lay before me. A level of ignorance that I, unfortunately, didn’t share. Still my daughter seems fine and hopefully my potatoes will be too.
The soil that the potatoes went into was not only cold but wet, a bit weedy and uneven. The cold wet spring offered very limited opportunities to get on and work the soil, in fact it was covered in snow for a week. I’m glad they are earlies so that I can harvest them and tidy the ground up in July. So please don’t be too critical of our potato patch if you come and visit us at GROW HQ; sometimes in a garden you just have to move and sort things out later. I think for many novice growers the gap between the “Gardener’s World” type of ideal garden conditions and the reality on the ground can be disheartening. Though with a bit of effort and luck you will nearly always harvest something, I’m sure that I’ll get a reasonable yield out of my potatoes…… and there is always next year!
I look forward to meeting some of you for my second garden class of the year on Saturday 31st., we can all have a good moan about the weather (as all gardeners do) and discuss ideas on how you can get on with your growing- and tidy the mess up later!