Welcome to Lesley Upton’s allotment blog, where she will look at life on her Berkshire allotment, from the veg she is growing to how people are living with the threat of coronavirus. Here she tackles planting potatoes
It’s time to get potatoes in the ground, so I went to the allotment yesterday and planted three rows. My allotment neighbour and mentor, Ray, who has had an allotment for about 30 years, always puts his potatoes in on St Patrick’s Day – 17 March. He delayed it for a week this year, so as soon as his potatoes go in I know it’s time for me to start planting mine.
I dug a trench about 10cm (4in deep) and added a light sprinkling of blood, fish and bone. I then planted my salad potatoes, ‘Charlotte’, with the shoots pointing upwards. These had been chitting in the greenhouse for a few weeks and the shoots were starting to grow well.
I placed the tubers about 1ft (30cm) apart and then covered half the trench with soil. The other half I covered with some Dalefoot Lakeland Gold compost. I placed a cane where the compost finished so I know which potatoes have which covering.
Dalefoot’s Lakeland Gold ‘clay-buster’ is for heavy and clay soil. The soil on my allotment isn’t heavy clay, but it is clay and has become ‘claggy’ after all the rain we had earlier in the year so I thought it was the ideal time to try it.
Dalefoot claims this peat-free ‘vegan friendly’ compost is ‘full of rich organic material’, and will aerate and improve the soil structure. We’ll see how the ‘Charlotte’ potatoes perform with this added compost compared to those that don’t have it.
My first-early ‘Foremost’ potatoes were planted in the next row, leaving a gap of about 40cm (16in) between the rows. I followed the same procedure, placing the tubers about 1ft (30cm) apart, but didn’t add any Dalefoot compost to the trench.
The ‘Charlotte’ and ‘Foremost’ potatoes should be ready in about 10 weeks.
The first of the maincrops went in next. ‘Desiree’ is an early maincrop with a beautiful red skin. I dug a trench and placed these about 15in (37cm) apart, leaving a distance of around 30in (75cm) between rows.
Over the next few days I will plant my last maincrops, ‘Picasso’, in the same way. As both ‘Desiree’ and ‘Picasso’ are early maincrops, they should be ready in about 15 weeks.
In your garden
If you don’t have an allotment or a lot of land to plant potatoes in the ground, why not try planting them in containers or bags of compost? As well as the potatoes at my allotment, I also plant some in plastic trugs in the back garden.
The trugs have had holes drilled in the base to allow water to escape. I plant three small potatoes in each trug filled with homemade compost. I also add a little blood, fish and bone.
If you don’t have a trug or other suitable container, you can use a large bag of bought compost. Remove half the compost, place the potatoes in the remaining compost and earth up with the left-over compost as the potatoes grow. Don’t forget to pierce some holes in the base of the bags to allow water to drain out.
Use what you’ve got
If you don’t have any spare compost, use an old compost bag or heavy-duty rubble sack, fill it with garden soil, add some blood, fish and bone or chicken manure pellets, and plant the potatoes in that.
And if you don’t have any seed potatoes, plant some old shop-bought potatoes that have started to sprout.
If you want your potatoes to go further, cut some of the larger potatoes in half. Make sure each half has at least one eye that is sprouting and leave them to dry for around three days before planting.
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Stay safe everyone out there and come back to the blog for more advice over the coming days and weeks.