Selection of seed potatoes.
GARDENING AFTER the "dead" month of January, late February has kicked off the gardening year.
Respite from rain has meant, at long last, it has been possible to start preparing the ground for planting.
And one of the most exciting of those preparations — and it never ceases to be that — is the purchase of seed spuds for "chitting".
Studies have shown the process of upending the seed potatoes in a tray has little effect on maincrop yields but on first earlies — which are to my mind the only potatoes worth bothering with — it has been proven to be effective.
It’s also part of the ritual.
Year on year, I grow potatoes for a variety of tastes and texture, including a couple of tried and tested favourites.
And, it is always worth seeking out garden centres that allow you to buy a few of each type at the same price per kg as a big bag. One such is Jubilee, at Newchurch.
My plot is 12 potatoes wide, which means buying batches of six gives me wonderful variety in a compact space.
I’m blessed with loads of ground but if you only have a pocket handkerchief plot or a couple of tubs or potato bags, then there’s no shame in buying a single spud of each type to give you a taste.
Just a few tips, of which experienced hands will be well aware:
Potatoes like rich ground and will tolerate being planted in soil which has just been manured. They like being well watered but not the soggy conditions which blighted 2012 and doubled prices in the shops because yields were so reduced.
Talking of blight, it’s never worth planting spuds in the same ground two years running.
First generation seed potatoes are guaranteed free of blight but if there are any "leftovers" — and there always will be — they stand a very good chance of passing on the highly destructive infection, which the amateur gardener can only control by chopping off infected foliage at the first sign before it reaches the tubers and turns them to smelly mush.
The affected leaf and stem should be burned, not composted.