These are the days of miracle and wonder, as Paul Simon once sang. The garden is starting to produce, and all the fastidious work sowing seeds, potting on, planting out, weeding, hoeing and slaughtering snails, begins to pay off.
One of the key moment is the lifting of the first root of New Potatoes. It is something that was treated with due pomp and ceremony by The Old Man and required the type of careful prodding and inspection one would normally expect only of a midwife. The Old Man would have counted the days since planting, checked the growing conditions and attempted to calculate the exact best day to start digging. But he traditionally only planted one type of potato (probably Wilja or Desiree), meaning that those dug in June were new potatoes, anything after that were main crop.
For my part, I am always seduced by the choice on offer at Pennard Plants Potato days so I buy various types for different end products. But every year I am unsure about when they are likely to be ready. The sages of the internet gardening fraternity say you need to start harvesting when the potatoes have stopped flowering, but this May / June has been so dry they seem to have barely blossomed. And this has been a very different this year for other reasons:
- The potato patch (and veg patch) is only a few strides from my back door in the new property
- Due to a lack of supply we had to go for Swift first earlies instead of the usually reliable Belle de Fontenay
- In an even more radical break with normal procedures, earthing up has been done not with earth, but with grass clippings, thanks to reading an article by Alyce Fowler.
So the timing of when the first spuds would be ready was even more of a guessing game than normal. However, the three variables noted above were more likely to help rather than hinder. Point one makes it less time-consuming to check them, point two suggested that the they would be ready earlier (or else why give them a name synonymous with fast) and point three, after some initial misgivings, was the most beneficial of all. With the dry weather, I was able to simply lift a portion of grass clippings to expose the golden orbs that indicated the potatoes were ready.
And so we enjoyed our first potatoes of the season along with the first kale of the year too. The kale should have been ready much earlier, but it was a victim of unknown assailants – like the peas and salad. But, on the whole, there is enough greenery to suggest a good growing season beckons.