Summer Harvest

Summer Harvest

Summer Harvest

Summer harvest is one of the most exciting times for the kitchen. The allotment has enjoyed the early summer sunshine, followed by heavy rains. This season our successes are greatly outnumbering the failures, and we are starting to get to grips with the polytunnel. At this time of year, there is an excellent variety of fruit and vegetables available at the plot. It’s the time of year when the outdoor vegetables are maturing, and the first signs of ripening tomatoes and chilies are appearing in the polytunnel. 

Summer Harvest

Recent weather has provided perfect conditions for blight. Which luckily so far seems to have avoided our potatoes and tomatoes. So far from the few plants that we have lifted the potatoes seem to have done really well. Early Pink “Duke of York” spuds taste as good as they look. Our main crop “Maris Piper” is providing some excellently sized baking potatoes and perfect Sunday roasties. Having received them in a novelty Christmas gift I didn’t hold out much hope for these Purple Carrots. I’m delighted with the results and the deep water tank with a 50/50 sand/mpc mixture has worked a treat. 

Summer Harvest

One of my personal favorite parts of the summer harvest is the pea and beans glut. One bit of advice don’t bother growing Asparagus Peas. They do have a lovely red flower but they taste bland and 1 day late in picking and they are hard as a rock. Gathering enough of the same size for a meal is a chore. In conclusion, if it comes free with a magazine doesn’t mean you have to grow it.Summer Harvest Since every day is a learning day and the best way is by doing and trying. My first every runner bean crop is excellent with some whopping beans must look up those record books.  As always the ever reliable “mange tout” is starting to come to an end and have accompanied some great meals. 

Another steep learning curve for us this summer harvest is managing the polytunnel and greenhouse. There were a couple of days this summer when Conor was out of the country and I was too busy to get to the plot. Within 36 hours of the polytunnel door being closed and window vents being closed, we lost a lot of seedlings and damaged many plants. Hence now we try to open the polytunnel and greenhouse each morning to allow the air and insect to circulate around our plants. Having spent a sweltering few hours in the polytunnel removing excess foliage and removing suckers to increase the airflow around the plants. This not only makes it easier to navigate and water the polytunnel but reduces the risks of blight.

Summer Harvest

With some crops starting to come to an end and some spaces starting to fill up in the beds. We are replenishing them with fertilizers and using plug plants that we started from seed in the greenhouse. It is also possible to make some late sowings this time of year. Salad veg e.g. beetroot, lettuce, radish can still be sown. Along with a large variety of Asian greens, and early or dwarf veg. 

Summer Harvest

Living in Belfast it’s not every day that you come face to face with a live Dinosaur. Due to a long and boring training course about protected species, I knew not to touch or disturb it. Having taken a photograph and contacted  Ulster Wildlife, we soon learned that it was a Smooth Newt, Northern Irelands only native and protected species.

Summer Harvest

While the rain is great for the plants it’s not great for the plans that I had made to build a potting area and workbench for the allotment. May the sunshine return.

 

Late Spring – The Joys Of

Late Spring

Spring

Late Spring and for once the weather has been on our side. The end of the season has been pretty wet but no signs of blight yet. Almost everything we have planted has been doing well. In fact, we ended up losing a few seedlings due to sun scorch. Pretty much most of May was glorious sunshine.  

Late Spring

Early Sring is about hardening off seedlings and keeping an eye out for the lasts frosts. Mid Spring you start to plant out your seedlings and protect from pests and the elements. Late spring is when you realize all the hard work was worth it. You start harvesting early greens. Lettuce, rocket, and spinach. Spring

 

Berries are starting to ripen and fruits are forming on the fruit trees. Eating as you work, picking the specimen fruits for yourself.  Spring

The brassica bed is starting to fill up. Cabbage heads are forming big and hefty. The legumes are starting to climb tall and flower. The first of the mange tout will be ready to harvest anytime now. We’re trialing a variety of pea called “Asparagus” this season and will keep you informed of the progress.  

Late Spring

The potatoes are starting to flower and will be ready to harvest in a few weeks time. This is definitely one of our favourite times of the allotment season. Irish men do love their spuds. 

Late Spring

 

 

In the Polytunnel

Late Spring

 

Inside the greenhouse, it’s fair to say that as usual, I have over done it with the tomatoes. At last count, there were 30 plants in the polytunnel, and 6 in the greenhouse. I will start gifting them to anyone who will take them. 

Late Spring

Our Aubergines seem happy enough and growing steadily. 

Late Spring

As too are the cape gooseberries and sweetcorn. Out of 50 sown corn kernels, these were the best 12 I could manage. Corn is a firm favourite to eat for myself but I have terrible luck germinating. 

Late Spring

Our chillies plants are starting to show signs of bushing up. Being hardy plants and enjoying being neglected we have been watering just once a week except when temps are high.

Late Spring

 

Courgettes inside the polytunnel and outside in a bed are both doing well and starting to produce. The end of spring does great things for your salad containers.

 

SO basically nothing to learn here it’s just me showing off all my wares so enjoy what’s left of the spring and roll on summer.

Happy growing everyone. 

How are your crops coming along ?  Subscribe now and leave us a message or send us a picture of your produce.

zombies

Zombies Allotment Survival – 5 Essential Seeds

Zombie Allotment Survival – 5 Essential Seeds  

ZombiesSo you flick on the television and every channel the same. Zombies Allotment Survival is on. But your prepared and have already built a walled perimeter even Trump himself would be proud of. You have enough water and growing space and 2 months worth of supplies. Unfortunately, you only have the choice of 5 fruit or vegetables to grow. That’s the rules. Zombies are coming. What 5 Essential seeds would you choose?

Here is the top 5 essential seeds I would choose, for the climate I live within here in Belfast.

1 Oriental Greens  

 Oriental Greens such as the ones we have grown in the past, including pak choi, choy sum and tat soi. What’s great about these greens is that they can be grown all year round. They are also great for growing in confined spaces. In UK conditions, best sown in Autumn and late Spring. Asian/Oriental Greens are great sources of Vitamin A, C, E B vitamins. They are also a great source of fiber, iron, calcium and potassium. With the zombie population still at large, these veg are quick cropping and tasty. They also come often in mixed seed packs. Full of variety and textures to keep you fed and nourished.

Zombies
Pak Choi, Potatoes Strawberries Broccoli and Kale

2. Beans

 Thrust into a time, when you have been forced vegetarian. You take solace in the fact that contained in your seed box is a pack of mixed beans. Whether broad, split, kidney, or soy. Beans are an excellent source of protein, with Soybeans coming in at 16.6g of protein per 100g. Also containing metals such as potassium, magnesium, zinc and are a source of antioxidants. Climbing beans are great on saving space. They also are great for storing and drying to reuse the seed for continuous planting. Beans can be sown after the last frosts and will fruit until September. Some of the hardier Beans can be overwintered e.g. aqua dulce Claudia Broad Bean. 

 Thrust into a time, when you have been forced vegetarian. You take solace in the fact that contained in your seed box is a pack of mixed beans. Whether broad, split, kidney, or soy. Beans are an excellent source of protein, with Soybeans coming in at 16.6g of protein per 100g. Also containing metals such as potassium, magnesium, zinc and are a source of antioxidants. Climbing beans are great on saving space. They also are great for storing and drying to reuse the seed for continuous planting. Beans can be sown after the last frosts and will fruit until September. Some of the hardier Beans can be overwintered e.g. aqua dulce Claudia Broad Bean. Zombies

 

3 – Kale

Kale is not only a hipsters best friend, it may help preserve your life until rescued. It is widely regarded as a tough plant and will gladly keep you fed and company during the long winter. Kale comes in two forms, Kale and Curly for obvious reasons. Varieties include Nero di Toscana, purple scarlet, dinosaur etc. Kale is very low in calories while remaining high in fiber. Low in calories is that a good thing? Well yes because hunger and boredom will soon set in. Kale can be grown after the last frost up until the early summer. Plus everyone knows zombies hate kale.    

Zombies
Curly kale

4 – Berries

Berries are well known for being superfoods and also amazing tasting. Being well know sources of Vitamin B as well as antioxidants. They are packed with fiber and great for your digestive system. Either juiced, jammed or eaten straight from the bush, they are a great boost to mind, body, and soul. Straw, blue, black and raspberries are all Uk and Irish favorites and a great sign of good weather. All berries are sun lovers but with so many different varieties liking different varieties. Especially blueberries who appreciate an acidic soil. 

Zombies
Strawberries

5 – Potatoes

 This one is a no-brainer, like much of the population by now. Not only are they versatile and great tasting. But is there really much point is you haven’t got the option of spuds for tea. Baby, Boiled, Roasted or mashed they are little bundles of joy that might just get you through this ordeal. Potatoes are great for storing through winter and high in carbohydrates. Planted around Mid March, a succession of first, second and main crops will keep you well spirited and full of energy. 

Zombies
Spuds
Zombies
Purdys

With a continuous supply of veg to keep you healthy and fed throughout the year. Zombie groans ever present at the boundary wall.  Its sit back and try to refrain from talking to your veg, all day. 

We would love to hear what 5 fruit  or vegetables will you grow when they come???

 

 

 

 

Greenhouse Goodness August 2106

Greenhouse Update

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Our Greenhouse
After our early doubts about the effectiveness of our DIY greenhouse, we can safely say that it is working a treat and we are starting to reap the benefits. Next season the greenhouse will be mainly used for seedlings, with the larger plants going to be in our, as of yet non existent poly-tunnel. This season, I started some seedlings at home on my windowsills, with the intention of maturing them in the greenhouse. Thankfully everything went to plan, and the greenhouse was constructed in time, as all of our outdoor tomatoes failed, suffering from blight. The greenhouse provides us with much more controllable and consistent growing condition, and thankfully all of our plants inside remain blight free.

We are currently growing two variety’s of tomatoes in the greenhouse.

Gardeners Delight – Is very much a favourite of gardeners, producing delicious tangy but sweet cheery tomatoes. These tomatoes are hardy and perfect for growing on a sunny windowsill or on a patio a large container. When the fruits started to show we have been feeding weekly with tomato feed.

 

Costoluto Fiorentino – These are a large growing Italian tomato with irregular ribbed and deliciously juicy fruit. These are also easy to go and suited to UK conditions and are also suitable to grow in a large pot.

Along side our tomatoes, we are growing two variety’s of Peppers.

Sweet Romamo – are a long sweet pepper deliciously slow grilled straight on the BBQ, we are trying one of these plants outdoors so we will show the comparison at the end of the growing season.

Bell Peppers – these are a year round staple of most cuisines, so we decided to grow some in time for the end of BBQ and salad season. Germination of these seeds were rather difficult and I only got lucky when I kept the seeds inside a mini greenhouse instead of just the windowsill.

We also started some gherkins “Adam F1”off from seed and when they started to sprout we gave them some time in the greenhouse, too to grow strong roots before hardening off and placing them in their final growing positions. I constructed a meshed lean-to at the front of the shed with enough room for the containers to hold the creeping or climbing plants. Previously this year I had a crop of mange tout growing in the same position, but I decided to switch for a gherkin patch as they are one of my favourite veg to pickle and deff one of the the best tasting. After a few days hardening off and with Conor making a cracking job of a protective fleece for their first few nights outside on their own, I can happily report that I harvested my first ever gherkin tonight. Ta Da !

Another first for me to grow this year is Aubergine, I have three plants that have been flowering for about 4 weeks now but none of them had set fruit yet. It was only last night when I was rotating the peppers, that I seen the first of my eggplants.

The last of our greenhouse variety’s and this one is a complete accident is our one and only cucumber. I sowed 6 cucumbers with the thought of keeping two and giving a few away which I normally do to friends. I was left with the two I was keeping for myself (the best examples obviously). But I had nowhere to put them so they were neglected at the back of a blind on a sunny window sill with the intention of compost bin. When it came to dispose of the fallen climbing plant I was surprised to see the yellow flower of a small cucumber on one of the plants. I had to try and save it. With nowhere for it to climb properly I just planted it into the ground where the one fruit continued to swell. It may look like a kids constructed oil rig, but its my cucumber, my pride and joy, and boy is it gonna taste damm good !

July Holiday Washout ! 2016

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GrowBlogs Allotment

Having my annual July holiday week, I thought I would use the good weather to get ahead of myself, and to give the plot a really good tidy up and weeding. Normally this time of year, I spend a lot of time making sure that all my crops are well watered, but this year there has been no need. It has rained everyday for the past few weeks with few sunny intervals. While not ideal at all, most of the crops are doing well, and we are recording good temperatures in the greenhouse.

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Some July Produce

July for the vegetable grower is a busy, but bountiful month. Plenty of crops to harvest, rows of spuds still nestling in the soil, hedgerows full of berries and the delightful bright red strawberries, poking from under the luscious green leaves, means that summer is well and truly upon us. There are a few gaps starting to appear in a few of the beds, mainly in the brassica bed. The romanesco cauliflower, while producing massive leaves failed to form a head. The broccoli “green calabrese” grew really well and were delicious, and we are still harvesting the kohlrabi, kale and are fingers crossed for the two massive red cabbages “red drum head”dominating the bed.

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Brassica Bed

Its time to start planning autumn and winter veg, and whats going to be on the plate for this years Christmas dinner. I transplanted some carrots “Rainbow F1”which had been started in a pot, to the bed beside the rhubarb. I also sowed some of the same seed in a deep container to compare the difference.

Something new to me and the plot, that we are trying for the first time this year is Radicchio “palla rossa precoce”. They have been described to me as a mix between a lettuce and a cabbage, with a tangy slightly bitter flavour, which grows particularly well this time of year. They are better sown directly where they are to mature. Seedlings normally show 1- 2 weeks after sowing, weather dependant, and plants normally reach maturity around 60 – 70 days also weather dependant and is harvested whole like an iceberg lettuce.

Thinking ahead and trying your best to time when to harvest your crops, and to replenish the ground and plant out new crops, is not easy but something which is important to maintain a continuous supply of fresh fruit and vegetables. To fill the gap where we were had previously grown the broccoli, I had already started some Autumn cabbage seeds “Pointed Sweethearts” that I will soon be hardening off and planting out. I have also made another sowing of Kale seeds as its been a firm favourite this year and im starting to get the room for a few more plants.

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Autumn Cabbage Seedlings
This month we sowed the last of our crops for the greenhouse, our gherkins “F1 Adam”. I started the seedlings in a heated propagator, to maintain a consistent temperature. Then when the seedlings started to form their first true leaves I potted them on into their individual pots. They are currently residing in a mini greenhouse, in my sunny South east facing bay window and are doing well.

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Gherkin Seedlings Adam F1
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First tomato of 2016
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First pepper 2016

One thing that we had been lacking up at our plot was a permanent compost bin, and we were using builders sacks to store our vegetable waste and

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Gherkin Seedlings Adam F1
materials. While not easy to turn the compost over, and sticking out like a sore thumb in a rather nice overgrown end of the allotment, they had to go! So I got some long screws a few old wooden pallets and some left over wood and banged this together. Its defiantly not going to win any architectural awards or fans on pinterest , but its sturdy and serves a purpose and has tidied up, which was a rather ugly end of the plot we dont like to talk about.

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New Compost Bin
Till next time grow fans when hopefully we will be starting to harvest our maincrop peas.

Peas Out !

Greenhouse Construction, Proper Job !

 

GrowGaff MK1
GrowGaff MK1

 

The greenhouse is complete and not a minute too soon. We ordered and cut to size, the panels for the greenhouse, we used 9mm clear PVC, while not cheap, it is strong and will with stand even the hardiest of thugs, hurled stones.

Greenhouse glazing
Glazing the Greenhouse

I had been growing some tomatoes and peppers in the bay window of my flat, to get them started to move to the greenhouse, upon completion. Unfortunately due too the of the delay completing the greenhouse, they were starting to outstay their welcome. Basically they were touching the ceiling and taking up at least 1/4 of my living space. Then came moving day and we realised that they were to tall to fit in Conors van. Out came the secateurs and off with their heads. This was unfortunate as we lost alot of the few flowers that we had. When moved into the greenhouse I was sure a good spout of sun, would soon have them back to their best and well… im still waiting on that sun.

Greenhouse

 

The flowers on the peppers are doing much better, probably due too the natural pollination from the insects that they were being starved off while situated within my fat, and were lucky as there seems to be a good population of bees hanging around our plots this year. In fact just this evening as I was doing a bit of watering that I noticed the first 3 peppers, on separate plants starting to grow, so it will be important to keep well watered and fed weekly.

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Pepper Plant Starting to Pepper
After 3 failed attempts to germinate successful sweetcorn, with just a measly 1 out of 36 successfully hitting the surface, I eventually gave in and had to buy some plug plants. Im not against this at all, but I was trying to do a whole season without. The main reason I prefer to grow from seed is simply the cost, plug plants can be dear which is why I was delighted to see this many healthy Sweet Corn “Hanna” for £1.50 on sale at Homebase. Whilst going to be a bit behind, im going to place the plugs under cloches when they have been properly hardened off and when the weather has turned in my favour.

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King Edward Left, Maris Piper Light

We have started to harvest our potatoes, with the main crops we lifted the poorest looking plant from each variety, and while the sizes of the spuds was poor the amount and quality were good so we have decoded to leave them another week or two and hope for better weather. Our first earlies, Pentland Javeline and Aaran Pilot, while also disappointing in yield made up for in taste. This will all come in a potato summary when were finished with the main crop.

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Pentland Javelin Left, Aaran Pilot Right
This past week ive been fortunate enough to have had some free time and we are well caught up on major tasks, which has given my brain time to wonder and start too look for improvements that were going to make to the plot. With all the good stalks,roots and discarded elements of the veg that we are consuming, starting to pile up we think its important that we set up a proper compost solution. We had to bring in a lot of compost and manure this year to improve our ground, and these are products that we can make ourselves, with a bit of hard word, and help get us on our way to self sufficiency.

Allotment Update June 2016

Hello growfans, you may have noticed that we havnt blogged in a long time, truth be told we have both been very busy. We havnt neglected the plot tho. While I sat in France during some of their worst flooding in recent times, back home in Belfast from what ive heard,and from a few dodgy looking tan lines, I believe it was almost tropical. Everything started to grow massively, espically the weeds and you know what they say “1 week away, takes two weeks to catch up” in fact I dont know if people say that, its just how long it took me, so you heard it first here folks.

Just these last few days have we started to sample the goodness from all the hard work with, out first harvests of broad beans, and kohlrabi. Im going to do as separate blog about the kohlrabi, as I was experimenting and made a                                                                                     slaw I was particularly pleased with. 2016-06-12 11.09.09

The potatoes must have grown about 1 foot in a week, and are now far too tall and starting to fallover in places. The first earlies look strongest, and fingers cross some of the growth had been used underground growing some fat tubers. They have just flowered so  roughly 3 weeks from   now they will be ready to eat.

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When the potatoes are fully dug up and devoured, ive decided to use the space for growing fruit, and im putting in some canes, of variety’s that work well with alcohol, sloe berries, gooseberries and one im particularly looking forward too, one all Ikea shoppers will know, Lingon berries.

The strawberries are starting to ripen, and I will be putting down a layer of hay soon, to stop the heavy strawberries rotting on the damp ground, and helping to protect them from pests.

The legumes bed is growing strongly with all the peas and beans growing nicely. 2016-06-12 11.13.37 I also have a few quick cropping salad vegetables growing in this same bed. Firstly butterhead lettuce and pak choi. As I thin out the seedlings im potting them up to plug any gaps or to simply fill up space and maximise my yield. These also made great little gifts as they will grow enough to eat in the small pots they are in, or are easily transplanted into a flower bed.

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We realise that the blog was unavailable for a period of time and for this we apologise, we will be working hard on the technical aspects of the blog, including how it shows on android and ios devices.

Lets hope we get back to the good weather soon, and I can top up my farmers tan, and watch my dinner grow.

Mid April Update

Mid April 2016 Updateseedlings collage

Whilst being a firm believer in “A little rain never hurt anyone” there are some jobs that are impossible or just plain, too dangerous to do in wet conditions. It has not stopped raining in Belfast for nearly 2 full weeks now, and our plot is very muddy and slippery underfoot, in some areas. Both of our water butts are full to the brim. We are planning to put some wood-chip bark down to help with this, and also to help suppress the weeds and grass between our raised beds.

I am also in the process of erecting a new greenhouse and want to build a good solid and level base for the structure. The greenhouse will be sitting on a slope, so I will dig out and drop the back end before laying a weed-proof membrane. I will then level the ground and lay flag stones on a level bed of quarry dust, and point the joints by brushing in a concrete and sand mix. I will walk you through this when I finally get a dry day to do the work, its planned for this weekend.

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Potato Drills

I finally decided that the ground has warmed enough, due to the first signs of the upcoming war every gardener starts to face this time of year, and your clean worked ground starts to fill up with countless variety’s of weeds. Having managed to get a couple of dry hours one evening after work, we dug drills for the spuds lined with some well rotted manure, and laid the potatoes out to their correct spacing’s. See our potato blog. Potato

We are also busy looking after our many variety’s of seedlings, growing in their various containers. Due to the dull, overcast days, some of the seedlings had started to get a bit leggy so I was making sure to bury them as deep as I could when I was transplanting them to larger pots. I’ve been growing my seedlings in a few different ways this year, mainly because the greenhouse is not yet ready. My main light source in my flat, is an easterly facing bay window, while not ideal, it is still able to produce strong seedlings when blessed with good weather. To give the seedlings every advantage that I could, I purchased a small mini 4 tier greenhouse that I planned to keep my seedling in. I raised the mini greenhouse to the height of the window to maximize light exposure, and place all my pots and sets in watered trays to keep the seeds well watered. On warm days you can see the condensation on the inside and the seedlings seem to be doing very well. Temperature differences to come when new thermometer arrives. I also purchased a small heated propagator, for the particularly heat loving seeds, mainly peppers and chilies. Both seedlings planted on the same date, in both the heated propagator and the mini greenhouse seem to be growing very evenly so we will see when it comes to looking at their roots.

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Fingers crossed that the weather turns soon, and we can get a couple of good full days working hard, to get the now overdue greenhouse up, and get it working for us.

Potatoes

Potatoes

One of if not the most popular vegetable grown and consumed throughout Ireland and the UK. The unofficial National Vegetable of Ireland and the star of dishes stretching from chip vans to fine dining restaurants.

Whilst some people ask “why bother growing potatoes” when they are so readily available and inexpensive. True, they do take up a fair bit of room when planted, but it is possible to grow them, successful in containers and pots. Last year we were only working half the plot so we planted a large crop of spuds as they are really good at breaking up the ground with their roots leaving the ground good for the following years planting. Also growing your own, means that you get to choose what characteristics you want from your potato, either a delicious waxy first early salad potato like the Arran Pilot or a main crop roasting potato like the Golden Wonder or Kerrs Pink.

 

Potatoes
Potato Drills

 

The easiest way to grow your own potatoes is to purchase bags of seed potatoes. These seed potatoes are grown specifically to be virus resistant. Different variety’s of potatoes develop at different stages of the growing season. All of the variety’s of potatoes will go into the ground on the same day, traditionally on St Patricks Day on the emerald isle but this year as it falls on a Thursday it will be the weekend before or after.

First Earlies – On a typical growing season it usually takes around 10 – 12 weeks from planting to harvesting, and often when the plants stop flowering is a good indicator that the crop is ready. Popular UK variety’s of first earlies include Arran Pilot, Pentland Javelin which is what we have chosen to plant this year, or Duke of York which is a great all round new potato.

 

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Pentland javelline

 

Second Earlies – Again on a typical growing season second earlier will usually take between 13 – 15 weeks from planting to harvesting. First and Second early crops grow well in containers or pots and this is the approach we are going for this year as we still have a few structures to go into our plot. It also means that we can move them about when needed and we can try and cram them in every available spot. Popular second early variety’s include, Charlotte which is the variety we have chosen as we had great success with the previous year, Kestrel and Ratte.

 

Charlotte Potatoes
Charlotte Potatoes

 

Maincrops – Maincrop potatoes prefer being grown directly into the ground. They will need more space and the tubers often grow much larger then early variety’s. These are normally ready to harvest around 20 weeks after planting, Some of the more popular variety s include, Maris Piper which we will be purchasing in the near future, King Edward and Desiree.

Chitting – About 5 – 6 weeks before I plan to plant out my spuds im going to start the chitting process. This basically means standing the potatoes on their end with any eyes facing upwards on a tray, or anything that will keep them elevated and dry egg, boxes and seed trays are often used for this purpose. The chitting potatoes need to be left in a dry well lit and cool area, windowsills are ideal. Some people suggest that chitting doesnt benefit the growing process, but were going to do it anyway as nothing says Spring is coming that a windowsill full of seed potatoes.

When we come to planting our own potatoes were going to show you how to prepare the ground and look at some differing techniques for growing your spuds and how to care for them along the way.