As a first year allotmenteer with very little previous gardening experience I am still on a very steep learning curve. In my quest for allotment knowledge I seem to have acquired a wide selection of gardening books which I tend to dip in and out of on a regular basis. In fact, if it wasn't for the porcelain chair with the wooden seat and the sink in the corner of the room, my downstairs "reading room" could very easily be mistaken for the reference library at Kew.
I have found "The Kitchen Gardener" by gardening guru Alan Titchmarsh (BBC Books) to be particularly helpful. It is well set out and crammed with useful information and it includes a working calendar and an extensive directory of vegetables and fruit. Through this book I have been guided by the wisdom of the mighty omnipotent Titchmarsh at every step I have taken so far on the long leafy green path towards allotment enlightenment. This book has been my allotment bible. When unsure as to what to do for the best I find that, like some born-again evangelical gardener, my mantra is "What would A.T. do?".
But now, at the risk of being struck by a bolt of lightning, I find myself questioning the sacred text of Saint Alan. When describing routine care for potatoes His lesson is, "Except in a long dry Summer, you shouldn't need to water potatoes". Amen.
I planted my first early potatoes at the end of March and later varieties over the subsequent few weeks and, there being no drought, I blindly followed Alan's teachings and did not water them. By the beginning of June I noticed that my potatoes were quite puny compared to those on neighbouring plots. Some plot-holders were even harvesting some pretty impressive crops of potatoes by that stage and mine were no where near being ready. I had followed the Word of Alan to the letter; where was I going wrong?
At about that time I received an email newsletter from an allotment forum website to which I subscribe. The jobs for June listed in the newsletter included the task of giving "copious amounts" of water to potatoes. I sneered at such idiotic advice. Was the author of the newsletter some heathen soil druid who had not heard of the teachings of Alan? I mentioned this to one of the experienced gardeners who has a plot opposite mine. To my surprise he agreed with the newsletter and said "You can never give enough water to potatoes; they are greedy for it".
On my next visit to my "reading room" I did some research and found that every book, apart from The Gospel According to Titchmarsh, advised that potatoes be given plenty of water. The word "copious" was used over and over again.
Since then I have been watering my spuds. The first earlies still look quite pathetic but the others seem to be catching up. Last week I was curious to see if my first earlies had produced anything. If not, I would dig them up to make space for some leeks which need planting out. I found a couple of handfuls of small potatoes which I am pleased to report were delicious.
I'd be interested to hear if anyone else agrees with Alan's advice on watering potatoes.
Wednesday, 30 June 2010
Monday, 14 June 2010
We have had a busy couple of days on the allotments this weekend. The official opening ceremony for the site took place on Saturday morning with local civic dignitaries in attendance. Proceedings included the ceremonial cutting of a green ribbon followed by a reception with cakes and tea. And then on Saturday and Sunday afternoons we took part in the village Open Gardens Festival and opened the allotment gates to anyone who was interested enough to come and have a nosey around.
As you can see from the photos below, I recruited some junior gardeners to help make plot 25 ready for inspection. They added a few marigolds to the flower border at the plot entrance and then they made a new veg bed and planted a few broccoli plants which I had left over from the main bed before taking a well earned rest.
There has been a steady stream of visitors to the site all weekend with nothing but positive comments to make about the way that the site has been transformed from the muddy brown field of bare soil it was just a couple of months ago into a garden bursting with crops. I have heard that some have been inspired to add their names to the waiting list for plots and one local councillor mentioned to me that they were so pleased with the progress of our new allotment site and the enthusiasm of the allotment association members that they were looking into the feasibility of extending the allotment site into an adjacent field.