Sunday, 8 March 2015

Hocus crocus

Spring guarantees a cliché

Has it sprung? Have you seen the first sign? 

You'll know it's happening when the snowdrops appear, daffodils show a glimpse of yellow, someone sits outside a pub in a t-shirt...

I approach that first glistening snowdrop with dread. It means things are going to get out of control pretty damn quickly. It starts with the weeds, then the bugs, all creeping up on you like a cheat on sports day taking small steps to get a head start.

It seems unfair. My poor chilli seeds have been sat on the window sill, my peas in the grow house, chives sown in a pot, hoping that they'll take the hint from the daffodils and get cracking. But it seems none of them have done. All lifeless and hibernating. It's as if they can't even hear the noise from the tables outside the pub next door...

Perhaps I need something else to signal that the race has started. Maybe I've become a little too down hearted about spring, despite a big of effort this year to get things going. As it happens, a little spell was cast on me this week down in Devon. Walking down the steps to a jetty, my eye took to a bold flower defying the cut-throat wind. A crocus.

I'd almost forgotten about this flower, and given I know so few flowers I really have no excuse to forget any. Strong, confident and clearly quick off the mark, I think this is the flower I and my sluggish plants need to get ahead of those dastardly interloping weeds.

Sunday, 22 February 2015

Chit lit

This is a tale about commitment. 

Today I rekindled my love affair with the humble potato, one that started a long time ago when my heart was taken by a fiendish roast, but which has never flourished into the garden.

In truth, me and potatoes have never been apart, and I could often be found indulging in a creamy mash. Or chips. But rarely have I had the commitment to grow and stick to my own. Just the once before in fact and it didn't last, blight set in and I only got a small crop. I thought about growing them again but something to do with the temptation of other veg that freed up the bed quickly - beans, radish, you know the crunchy types - led me astray.

But now I've grown up, moved on. Now I have a proper kitchen...

And so potatoes, roast potatoes in particular, have taken hold. my Sundays are all about perfecting a roast chicken's best friend. I've tried all the tips - and I don't buy the goose fat myth - a good par boil, steam dry and roughing in the pan, high heat and oil, mmmm, the perfect roast...sorry, day dreaming.

Four weeks ago I took the plunge and bought my seed potatoes, ready to 'chit'.

A strange word, chitting. Reading gardening books it implies a technique, a deliberate careful method to get the best potatoes. To me a chitted potato is no different to that neglected spud at the bottom of the vegetable rack. But still, I took the care to find suitable egg boxes to house them and checked their progress every day.

I've learnt a lot in four weeks, based on the advice of others. 'Don't put them by the window, they need to be in the dark'. 'Don't put them in the dark there, they make the kitchen look untidy'... 

Feeling unwanted, the poor things took a while to show any enthusiasm to wake up, but I stuck with them and finally in the last 10 days the shoots showed real promise. 

Last week I prepared their space in the raised bed, today I increased the depth with more top soil, and planted out a row of 6.

My only worry is that they're a bit shallow. In the raised bed I mean. Despite the extra soil, the bottom of the bed is probably only 5cm deep. I fear they'll realise that for all my commitment, they may not hang around!

The Hapless Kitchen Gardener

My photo
I only feel hapless because some people make it look easy to grow 10 ft marrows or a banquet of greens whereas my courgettes got nabbed by killer slugs and I only got one raspberry. So tips and stories from people less hapless than I are more than welcome. As a disclaimer though, none of my comments should be taken as expert advice on which you can rely! © Unless stated otherwise, and with the exception of guest content where that guest retains copyright, all photos and posts are the copyright of Tom Carpen and may not be used without permission.