The awakening

It’s just gone the month of February, maybe it’s because I’m a little bit impatient and I have a touch of the twirlies but there’s already some spuds chitting and seeds sprouting indoors. Also if I get a minute this week, I’m going to stick a double layer of fleece over a couple of patches of the garden to warm the soil up for the big kick off in the next couple of months.chitting 2016 styleeI bought two types of spuds from Shannon’s, who have loads of varieties in stock from the different cropping types (first earlies, second earlies, main crop and second/late main crop) the terms of which used to confuse the hell out of me. A simple explanation about all of that is here. The ones “chitting” in the back room (above) are Sharpe’s Express (first early) and the good old Maris Piper (main crop.) seed starting 2016 styleeAlso in the back room near the window, is a covered propagator with tomatoes (Moneymaker) and sweet peppers off to an early start, which will be no doubt be leggy as hell before they’re ready to go out.foxtail returnsAnd talking of Shannon’s, this is where I bought the Eremurus aka foxtail lilly or desert candle bulb from and it looks like the monster is ready to resurface again for it’s year long reign of terror (above.) It might be not even be an inch at the moment but before you know it, it’ll be 6 foot tall and will be sending up a lovely flower spike like last year (below.)

But be warned, don’t get on it’s wrong side as it might come into your home and take over your life! On afoxtail 2 tip

For how much longer do we tolerate no gardening

seed tray businessThe other morning I had a look at our good friend Scarlett’s great blog Heavenly Healer and was reading about her seeds now coming up (including cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers and aubergines) and it’s nice to see someone else on the “twirly” tip!

I’ve started off some seeds in the back room in a cheap plastic propagator and they’re coming on slowly. Also every year I’ve a few leggy tomato plants sitting on the kitchen windowsill waiting to go out once the risk of frost has gone and this year is no different!Kitchen plantingThere’s one egg box of potatoes still chitting away merrily in the back room. Spring please come soon so we can do some gardening!chitting march 2015

To all the twirly kings and queens…

toms and peppers feb 2015It’s never t’wirly* here! A few days into the new year I stuck in some seeds (post here) and here’s how they are getting on nearly a month or so later. It’s all done on the cheap, (especially after the expense of christmas!) the propagator cost us £3.50 from shannon’s, the seeds were off ebay and the whole thing is stuck in the back room by the patio doors.

There’s some tomatoes on their way (tray on the left, front) and behind them, the peppers are starting to come through. Alright it’s been a month, but who cares as they won’t be able to go out till ages yet. The other seeds coming through in the pots are some lettuce leaf basil and some strawberries. The other two pots contain an odd one for me, alkanet, don’t ask me why but I’m giving it a go this year and also a chinese lantern (aka bladder cherry. what a good name!) More reports on those in the next few weeks.

spuds on the chit feb 2015And as for the seed potatoes from shannon’s (above), there’s signs of life! Keep on chitting on.

And to end on, here’s a happy sounding slice of tune-age from a few years ago with an apt forward-looking title (considering the weather of late) as heard on Tom Ravenscroft’s show the other week. It’s from Karriem Riggins called Summer Maddnes S.A. (Alone Together.) Roll on the spring!

*More on the cult of the twirly here.

It’s never too early for “earlies”

It’s definitely that time again! I popped into Shannon’s today as I had a day off work and procured a small pack of first early seed potatoes, Pentland Javelin. Just like the last couple of years I’ve stuck my seed spuds in an egg box with the blunt end of the tuber upwards (the end that has the “eyes”) to give them a head start come the spring (aka “chitting”).Chitting 2015The process of “chitting” encourages the seeds to sprout before planting them outside. We’re not talking the long pale shoots that you see when potatoes have sprouted after being stored in the dark, but ones that are short and sturdy.

The important thing with “chitting” spuds is to make sure the container is in a cool position with natural light and where’s there’s no risk of frost. I’ve stuck mine next to the propagator on the floor in the back room by the patio doors.

A couple of years ago we were emailed a great tip from Shirley Calgary who said “Actually you do not need the whole potato – I have cut the potatoes in 2 or 3 pieces as long as you have a sprouted or sprouting eye you are all set.” Great stuff!

More on chitting here.propogator a week onAs for the propagator (post here), the seeds I put in last week have started to come through. How good is that? I know it’s early and I’ll be left with leggy tomato and pepper plants on the kitchen windowsill in the spring but why change a habit of a lifetime?

There’s a whole lotta chittin’ going on

chitting time in 2014

Here’s the state of play, spud-wise last weekend on the “earlies” I got from Shannon’s a few weeks ago. Those “chits” are looking good, the tray is in front of the back window and the room’s kept cool so there’s none of those spindly long pale shoots you see on well past-it potatoes that’ve been in the cupboard for a month. The great Bob Flowerdew mentioned on GQT the other week that chitting is a good thing to do and gives the plant a bit of a head start. Talking of which, I’ve just found the following tip on Bob’s website in the section what to do in March: “For a really green lawn, pee in the watering can, dilute well and apply often.” Good one Bob but I don’t think me neighbours would appreciate that one!

Half term something come back again

Yesterday was a bit of a blinder weather-wise. There was a thick frost during the early hours of the morning but in the afternoon it was well nice and even got slightly warm!  I’m off for the half term so I got the old flymo out and did the lawn, forgetting to go around the remains of an old bush in the middle of the grass thus mangling the metal blade of the mower in the process. It was nothing that could be sorted with a slight modification with a pair of pliers!

chitted potatoes and moody catI’ve been warming up a bed for the past few days (where spuds are going to go) using some horticultural fleece and yesterday took the massive risk of putting in a small handful of seed potatoes and sticking the fleece back over, anchoring it down with bricks and stones as you know it’ll be cold again. I only put in about 6 so if they fail it will be only 90p wasted (they were 15p each at the great seed swap/spud event in Sydenham) but they are buried in about 3″ of pre-warmed soil and have fleece over the top of them so fingers crossed!

when the chits are downI also stuck one of the already chitted seed potatoes (the end with the nice green tips go skywards up!) in a large sack covering the tips of the chits with about an inch or so of compost and will keep adding more once they start growing. I put the sack in the homemade cloche/mini cold frame where it’s in the company of two seed trays of cabbage seedlings. The sack could’ve be started off in a conservatory or a porch keeping them out of way of the mad spring weather so give them a good start before moving them outside in a couple of months when the weathers better. More half term gardening reports to come…

Let them eat (Potato) cake

we're just chittingIt’s that time again! With the seed potatoes I bought at the Potato Fair and Seedy Sunday the other week I’ve started “chitting” them so to get the spuds off to a good start.

All that entails is simply getting the seed potato, placing them upright in a suitable container, an old egg box or a clean seed tray with the “rose end” upwards (the end that has the “eye’s”) and put in cool, light and airy place, away from frosts and let nature do it job. Mine are in the back room by the patio doors. I’ve just checked them now and I must have put a couple by mistake the wrong way around as yellow buds were starting at the bottom. No bother, just turn them around  if that happens.

In a few weeks you will get nice tight buds forming not those long yellow shoots you get when a potato starts to spout inside the spud bag! I’ve also felt-tipped on the box what variety they are and if it’s an early or a main cropper, as it’s very easy to get confused having bought two varieties.

We were told a great tip last year from Shirley Calgary who said “Actually you do not need the whole potato – I have cut the potatoes in 2 or 3 pieces as long as you have a sprouted or sprouting eye you are all set.” Brilliant!

Remember to tell everyone else in the house that they are special seed potatoes or you might have them cut, boiled and served on your dinner plate like “lewishamgardens” did. That’s a crime!