While I’m happy growing all sorts of flowers and shrubs, I’ve never really gotten into growing vegetables, until this year – apart from tomatoes that is.
What triggered me off was my new greenhouse. OK, I just got that for tomatoes (I must be psychic as I’ve a feeling outdoor toms will be struggling a bit this year), but there was a £50 voucher with the greenhouse kit and having spent some on a water butt, there was a bit left over for a plastic 3-tier potato planter.
I ordered seed potatoes from my favourite supplier and, following the instructions, planted 5 into the bottom tier. It was early and frosts were still hovering around the Kent countryside, so we started in the greenhouse. In next to no time leaves were peeping out. So, time for the next tier and more compost. Once the leaves were above the final tier, it was mid May and the planter was moved outside.
The potatoes did splendidly, although a few wayward shoots forced themselves in between the tiers – I think I’d better cut these off next time. Last week, I harvested the crop as the flowers were over and the haulms were flopping every which way. Harvesting was easy: I chopped the stalks off, removed the top tier and scraped the compost into one bucket and the potatoes into another, taking just enough for our supper. I went back over the next few days, garnering the crop as I needed it.
The potatoes were small and quite delicious, but I think if/when I do it again, I’ll make sure I use some fertiliser. I’m planning to get a crop in for Christmas. I might try a couple of the more unusual varieties – which means I’ll have to get another planter. The Victorian Potato Barrel looks interesting.
But, of course, I’d purchased more than 5 seed potatoes – there were another 15, beautifully chitted and wanting attention. These went into the ground – I’d created a new vegetable bed near the greenhouse on almost pure clay at the start of winter. We’d had a weeping willow pollarded a couple of years ago and the resultant bark had been rotting down. Some of this I dug into the new bed together with soot from the chimney. The bed had wintered well and took the remaining potatoes in May in two, fairly close rows – just wide enough to weed and earth up (at least in the early stages). I also gave them a good covering with some of last year’s compost heap and are good, healthy looking plants.
This morning I lifted one plant – and they are fine, large, potatoes about 1kg in total. A better crop than from the potato planter, but I’d not used any fertiliser in the planter. (Note to self: add Growmore to the compost in the planter next time.)
But it’s not just potatoes that I’m growing – there are runner beans, courgettes, garlic, and peppers – but that’s another story…
I awoke early the morning after my new veg plot was created. With just a little spousal assistance, a forgotten corner of the garden had been transformed into an accessible and useful space. With my vegetable seedlings bursting out of their pots I was eager to prepare for them a permanent home with room to spread their roots.
As I mentioned before, we share our allotment with some good friends who also happen to be our neighbours. Our plot is no more than 150 yards from where we all live and this allows us to visit daily without any great inconvenience. We find that we are able to each do our bit and there are no cross words as to who does the most. If nothing else we work as a team and are all looking forward to seeing a good crop this year having started most things from seed way back in the depths of a cold March.
Those puny looking threads of green we saw poking their heads tentatively out of the dark earth are now starting to stand tall. We are inundated with tomato plants, many varieties from Cherry to Beefsteak and I am looking forward to a good summer harvest. We should be taking our first ones off within the next four weeks — exciting times ahead.
One of the many challenges we, like many gardeners face, is getting the balance right when watering our crops. During the recent hot spell, we had to water the greenhouse plants twice daily; they were crying out for as much refreshment as we could give them – not unlike ourselves, having spent any time under the hot glass panes! However, where our thirst could be quenched with one or two well earned cold beers – our little friends need more than that.
So, as they say – desperate times call for ingenious solutions. Or something like that. As I often say, the keen allotment keeper is akin to a scrap man – always on the lookout for items that would be of some use. Our greenhouse is home to a selection of water butts and piping that has been gathered over the last few months. During the months of rain they filled nicely and we are now seeing the advantage of harvesting rainwater – we are able to freely fill our watering cans and keep of plants replenished.
One of the best uses we found for some old hollow pipework was to create triangular frames for our selection of broad, dwarf and runner beans. It is an age-old trick to create frames for climbing plants, so I am not professing any new revolutionary gardening technique. However, and here comes the clever part, we did find that the hollow pipe served a secondary purpose. We found that they held a good amount of water and by filling them up to the top they would slowly seep the water under the ground and directly into the bundles of roots that are beginning to take hold under the soil.
This in itself gave us another solution to the problem of how to avoid damage to plants when watering in full sun. Directly watering into the roots prevents any sun damage or burns occurring on the leaves and stems.
The next step could well be a remotely controlled or timed watering system and there are many of these available. We have certainly got the space to warrant that investment and we have the water storage solution so maybe…
Until we have decided, however, we will keep on using our initiative and turning one man’s rubbish into another man’s watering solution.