Help: Potatoes not growing!

Weirder and weirder: my first early potatoes haven’t grown. At all.

I put them in in March, just before that ghastly late cold snap. The maincrop ones (which I put in a month later) are just starting to show above ground. But of the first earlies, no sign.

I dug one up and it had a few spindly roots (and a few small slug holes), but no shoots. This is absolutely unprecedented. I’ve never had potatoes simply not grow.

Was it the frost? I’ve never known tubers underground to get frost damaged, but is it possible? Has anybody else every experienced this? Would love to hear from you if so. I’m baffled as to what’s going on.

What I really want to know is this: will they grow if I wait long enough? Or are they dead and ruined?

Posted on 4th May 2013
Under: Potatoes | 8 Comments »


sweetcorn, potatoes, squashesCame back from a holiday fortnight in the USA to find my vegetable plot bulging with produce. The rain has brought massive crops of everything, including weeds.

My, but you Americans live well. We toured New England, Montreal, Toronto and Niagara then drove down to Cape Cod for a few days. It was all beautiful and affecting (I saw a real, live groundhog! Up close!). Haven’t enjoyed myself as much in years.

As usual, I felt profoundly grateful to be a citizen of the 51st state (or as we might prefer to see it – winks – the 1st state) and privileged to have a historical, biological and political connection with our cousins across the pond.

I’m never embarrassed to say: God bless America (and, er, Canada).

Posted on 15th August 2012
Under: Cucurbits, Potatoes, Sweetcorn | 12 Comments »

Carrots: Third time lucky

early Nantes carrotsIt breaks my heart to see the carrots so tiny at the end of June. They should be edible (if small) by now.

This is my third sowing – the first two failed because the soil was too cold. Normally I can get good germination in early April. This year I had to wait until late May.

Goodness, but things are behind this season. In one respect at least, we’re doing well: There’s no shortage of water. Er, definitely no shortage. It’s hammering down 24/7.

I got a letter from our allotment management reminding us that the hosepipe ban still applies: ‘Unfortunately, Veolia Water is unwilling to lift its restriction.’

Unfortunately? Nobody’s too gutted, pal.

first new potatoes of the seasonIn more heartening news: I dug the first new potatoes today. Perfect size, perfect taste, perfect crop: they’ve kept us waiting, but all this rain is apple mintmaking beautiful spuds. I’ll be eating them tonight boiled with apple mint and decadently buttered. It’s a small delight, but a perfect one: New potatoes, fresh out of the ground, are one of life’s little treasures.

Posted on 22nd June 2012
Under: Potatoes, Roots, Summer | 6 Comments »

St Patrick’s Day = potato planting

Orla potatoesI am a non-conformist. Not a rebel, note – rebellion’s for idealists and fools – but more a square peg in a round hole. Wherever I am in life, I never seem to fit.

I used to hate this. As a young man, I despaired about it. Young people live in terror of being ‘different’. When you know beyond all doubt that you are a total weirdo, being a 16-year-old is purest shit.

I’ve embraced my outsider status over the years. For good or ill, it’s me. I’m simply not mainstream, and there it is.

On the other hand, I enjoy flirting with convention – and I’m religious about planting my first early potatoes on St Patrick’s Day.

In common with folks up and down the UK, I was digging shit and planting potatoes this weekend – and loving it.

It’s a weekend of promise and optimism, and a job to be savoured. Hurry up, Summer!

Posted on 18th March 2012
Under: Potatoes | 6 Comments »

Harvesting in the weeds

mixed allotment produceSo here’s a small selection of vegetables produced on the ‘unacceptably weedy’ Soilman allotment. And there’s a shit load more where they came from.

Weeds there may be, but I’m getting a bumper harvest. In fact, there’s usually a correlation between the amount of weed and the size of my harvest. In a good growing year, you get a lot of weed. Surprise!

I’m over the warning letter now. Have moved from irritation to resignation. If folks insist upon being cunts, there’s not much I can do about it.

huge onionInstead, I’m busy drying my monster onions and preparing for the big potato harvest tomorrow. It’s a month early because we’ve had a major attack of potato blight this year. My maincrop spuds lost the last of their foliage about a fortnight ago – so I’m not expecting a best-ever potato crop.

Still, I’m excited… because a preliminary dig in among the Golden Wonder mounds revealed some monsters. Looks like they’ve done OK, even with blight.

Posted on 20th August 2011
Under: Alliums, Cucurbits, Potatoes, Roots | 11 Comments »

Mixed supper

mixed vegetables from the allotmentQuite a mixed bag tonight. I appear to have grown Britain’s biggest beetroots to go with the exhibition cauliflowers. I may have to make that weird summer salad the Greeks like so much – you know, the one that’s a mixture of cooked and raw veg, purple because of the fresh beetroot. Rather nice.

This is turning into an extraordinary year in the vegetable garden. From a very inauspicious start, I’m getting bumper crops in almost all departments.

The ghastly weather helps, of course. Rain sucks, but it makes fierce vegetables.

Posted on 17th July 2011
Under: Cucurbits, Flowers, Potatoes, Roots | 4 Comments »

One potato, two potato… oh

new potatoes "Orla"So I thought my new potatoes might be ready. So I dug up one plant to see.

This is the result: one egg-sized potato and one pissy rabbit turd. This represents a return on my planting investment of a half potato.

Some return.

There are no words up to the task of adequately describing my disappointment. Digging the first new potatoes is usually one of the highlights of my vegetable growing year.

Obviously not this year. The only consolation is that it’s now pissing with rain pretty much 24/7, so after the drought we’ve had I might at last see things catching up a bit.

Posted on 12th June 2011
Under: Potatoes | 5 Comments »

Arty farty spuds

arty potato picture

I just liked this picture. It has absolutely no advisory merit whatsoever, but it came out nicely (by mistake, naturally).

So there.

Posted on 2nd July 2010
Under: Potatoes | 3 Comments »

Planting the first earlies… at last

Planting first early potatoesI’ve waited for this for what feels like a year. I’ve been desperate to get the bloody potatoes in, but Life has conspired against me for weeks.

It was a lovely afternoon, but Nature is slow to bestir Herself this year. I saw my first daffodil on Wednesday (a pretty mangy specimen), but of Spring there is still barely a sign. No Forsythia, no Camellias, nothing. Have you seen any?

Folks keep saying a hot summer follows a cold winter. But the summer of 1963, following the ‘Great Freeze’ of 62/63, was apparently unremarkable… so I’m not holding my breath. This Global Warming thingamajig ain’t all it’s cracked up to be – in the UK, at any rate.

Posted on 21st March 2010
Under: Potatoes | 11 Comments »

New Soilman: Real work for the weekend

Right, it’s all change. No more non-gardening, non-blogging and non-doing.

This weekend, a multitude of jobs WILL get done:

  • Planting raspberries (maybe even staking them and rigging wiring for support)
  • Planting First Early potatoes
  • Planting onion sets
  • Digging up remaining Jerusalem artichokes and replanting a new row
  • Digging over roots bed
  • Weeding
  • Hoeing
  • Saving the planet and getting the girl

All in a day’s work for New Soilman (it’s like New Labour: full of promises and relaunches, but always the same old bollocks).

Posted on 19th March 2010
Under: Alliums, Fruit, Potatoes | 14 Comments »