So, finally, spring has sprung. We’ve had almost a week of daytime temperatures in the twenties, and a glorious weekend of summer-like sunshine. The kids have been playing in the sprinkler, and we have finally cracked open the bedroom window at night. The non-native trees have that lovely light green sheen on them, and there are flowers on all kinds of trees in the orchard. The berry cage got a nice cleanup, and the blueberries and currants are in full bloom.
I mulch with wool around the bushes, and straw over the top. A good use for the wool we take of the meat animals.
I am looking at the poor ships panting in their big woolly coats and thinking “I must call the shearer…”
It also means that working the garden suddenly becomes very urgent. While we’ve had a consistently warm spring up until now, it’s the soil temperature that matters. And because we’re so exposed out her in the middle of the Taratahi plain, that’s remained quite cool. But in the last week or two the grass in the paddocks has really taken off, and that is my queue to get moving. So we hired a large rotary hoe, and went at it.
A creature of habit, I am, so I always start with my potatoes. And my deadline for getting them in is the 15th October. That’s the count-back date if you want new potatoes for Christmas. So yesterday I dug my six trenches and dug out my seed potato from the clamp.
Two rows of Pink Fir, four rows of Agria. Same procedure as last year. I love the nutty flavour of Pink Fir, and that’s pretty much what we eat in the summer half of the year. They don’t need peeling, you just scrub them and cook them. They take a little longer to cook than modern potatoes because of their dense flesh, but they’re worth it!
The Agria is our go-to potato for roasting, chipping, boiling or frying. It does all things equally well, and we like the flavour. Over the years we’ve experimented with other varieties but we can’t find any we like as much. Combine that with the versatility of Agria, and it’s a no-brainer, really.
So, I dig a trench. Then I put my seed potato in that trench, a foot apart. And by that I mean I drop a potato in, put my foot in front of it, and drop another potato at my toes. Then I put little sticks at the ends of each trench, and one in the middle. That way, when I fill the trench in I can see where my row is. Then I plant radish seeds on top. By the time the potato tops come up and it’s time to heap the rows, the radishes are ready for harvest.
As you can see from the above I save my seed potato. I store potatoes over winter in a straw clamp, and at this time of year I dig it out. It’s getting too warm now to store them there anyway, and in fact, with the unusually mild winter we’ve had, some of the potatoes on the outside of the heap had started growing. So, ridiculously, after planting my potatoes I cooked new potatoes for dinner!
I pick the largest and best formed potatoes for seed. With the Pink Fir, I try to pick ones that have grown straight. The variety has a tendency to grow knobbly, which makes them hard to clean. So I pick potatoes that have straight, simple growth for my seed.
We either didn’t eat enough potato over winter, or it was a bumper crop last year. This is what I have left over after planting:
Big bin of Pink Fir, a bucket of Agria, and in front is the remaining yams. I planted four yams last year, we’ve eaten about half of what grew, and this is about half of what is left… Crazy productive, yams.
In other news on the garden front, The Man had a week off and built me a new garden shed. This time he didn’t get a kitset tin shed, he built a wooden one. Every joint is reinforced, and every wall is braced. I joke that it will be our tornado shelter.
And finally, if anybody wanted to know why eggs are such a symbol of spring?
Our hens and our ducks are laying madly. We are eating a lot of oven pancakes and toad-in-the-hole right now. We’re also selling on some duck eggs and the green Araucana eggs that seem very popular with kids. Green eggs and ham!