Chitting Seed Potatoes

Seed potatoes are readily available from garden centres and seed merchants from early January offering many different varieties to chose from. Produced to be disease-free they offer the best possible start with growing your own potatoes. Chitting seed potatoes simply means encouraging them to sprout before planting, you can start chitting seed potatoes approximately six weeks before you intend to plant them.

seed potatoes

To chit seed potatoes simply stand them in egg boxes or trays with the eyes facing upwards towards the light, keep them in a cool, light and frost-free place. They will soon produce short dark green shoots (chits) which will help give an earlier crop when planted, if the shoots are long and pale they need more light.

chitting seed potatoes
Potato eyes

Potatoes can stay in their trays until planting conditions are right, usually from March onwards ready for lifting around June time. Main crop can go in a few weeks after earlies and second earlies, they’ll be ready for lifting anytime from late August through to the end of the year, depending on variety.

My seed potatoes are set out to chit in egg trays now, once again I’m growing second early ‘Charlotte’, a salad type easy to grow and delicious!

Planting Raspberries

Snacking on juicy raspberries warm from the sun is a true joy, Plot 5 now has a raspberry bed and I can’t wait to pick the very first berries, the variety I planted on my allotment is ‘Polka’ which is autumn fruiting. Space is limited on my plot so I can only plant one type and in my experience this variety offers a long season, often cropping until the frosts.

planting raspberries

Top Tip: A little extra effort should be afforded when preparing to plant raspberries, clear the site of perennial weeds before planting as these are difficult to control once raspberries are established due to shallow and delicate roots. 

planting raspberry canes

Raspberries can be planted during the dormant period between November and March provided conditions are right, avoid frozen or waterlogged soils. Separate each cane by gently teasing the roots apart, you may well find shoots beginning to form from the base of the canes or roots. Avoid deep planting, as a guide look for the soil mark on each cane (roughly 2 – 3 inches deep if you’re unsure) spreading roots out before covering over. Plant canes approximately 18 inches apart, I’m a bit naughty and squeezed mine in closer than that. Feed in spring and mulch to control weed growth and reduce the need for watering, try a 50/50 mix of compost and ericaceous compost (raspberries like a slightly acidic soil) or well rotted manure.

planting raspberry canes

Autumn fruiting canes benefit from a bit of support (most books tell you only summer varieties need it), posts and parallel wire around the canes would be helpful, no need to tie canes in. To prune cut all canes down to ground level in February, autumn fruiting varieties flower and fruit on the current season’s growth, fresh spring growth will produce fruit that same year.

Raspberries are rampant when they become established sending suckers out some distance, it is difficult or perhaps impossible to prevent them popping up in unexpected places so be mindful of their position on your allotment. You could try burying roof tiles on their sides to contain them but they still find a way! Raspberries are shallow rooted which makes them easy to remove should you need to control them.

I planted my raspberry canes near a large area aimed at encouraging pollinators so it doesn’t matter so much if suckers appear, but I will be strict with the other side facing the pumpkin patch!

How to Grow Garlic

Garlic adds wonderful flavours to home cooking and has amazing health benefits. It’s so simple to grow, just keep some back each year for replanting and you’ll probably never need to buy it again.

garlic

Ideally you should use seed garlic for planting which come in packs of 2 or 3 bulbs, it’s not actually little seeds that you are going to plant but pre-grown bulbs from disease-free stock. The usual way to purchase seed garlic would be via a seed merchant catalogue or specialist websites, garden centres are also good places to look.

There are two types of garlic, hardneck and softneck. Hardneck varieties produce a flower stalk called a scape in summer and these should be removed (simply snap them off at the base) to encourage the bulbs to reach full potential, the scapes are delicious in a stir fry. Hardneck varieties are more tolerant of hard winters and perfect for autumn planting. Softneck varieties prefer milder conditions and are usually best planted in spring, they produce bigger bulbs with more cloves and tend to store much better than hardneck varieties.

When to plant garlic:

I tend to plant garlic during November or December, but it can be planted from October right up until early spring. Reasonably well-drained soil is perfect for autumn planting, if your soil tends to be too claggy try starting garlic off in small pots of compost instead, leave them outside your back door (anywhere they won’t blow away!) or use a cold frame or unheated greenhouse. Plant your pots of sprouting garlic out in early spring once soil conditions are right.

garlic, planting, allotment

How to plant garlic:

An open sunny site with free draining soil is best for planting. Split the seed garlic into individual cloves before planting, each one of these cloves will grow into a new bulb. I space each clove 6 inches apart, as a rough guide I stretch my thumb and forefinger apart and place the clove on top of the soil. Once I’m happy with my rows I make holes with a dibber and place the cloves in the holes, pointy end facing up. Cover over with soil, the garlic tips should be around an inch below the surface.

Newly planted garlic can be disturbed by birds and digging cats, to combat this problem I mark rows with string and short canes to act as a deterrent, if you have raised beds try covering with chicken wire.

garlic

When to harvest garlic:

Garlic is ready to harvest when the leaves turn yellow, this is usually early summer, depending on planting time and variety. Lift from the ground gently using a garden fork.

garlic

How to store garlic:

Allow the bulbs to fully dry out before storing, I use my greenhouse for this process. When the bulbs are fully dry they’ll be papery white and rustle when touched. Plait them together if you wish using the stems, or place in a net bag for storing. Trim excess roots. Store garlic somewhere cool and dry such as a shed or garage.

How to Propagate Strawberries From Runners

My strawberry plants were mere babies when planted in spring so I wasn’t expecting great things from them in their first year, then red ants decided my strawberry patch looked cosy (sandy soil in that particular area being the reason) and decided to move in. I lost half my plants down one side of the bed and the majority from the middle, deprived of water from the ants tunnelling activities. My strawberry harvest this year was sparse to say the least. The remaining plants have since doubled in size and currently producing lots of runners which are baby strawberry plants on a long stem. Free plants!

strawberry bed

These runners will fill in the gaps in the strawberry bed, and it really couldn’t be simpler to do. Each baby plant is getting all it needs to grow from the parent plant, in time they will produce roots of their own and this can be sped up with a little encouragement from you.

To propagate strawberries from runners follow the two simple steps below:

strawberry runner

  1. Place the base of each baby plant on the surface of the soil where you’d like it to grow, drawing soil lightly around the plant to keep it in position, you can also ‘peg’ the plants down by placing a small stone on the long stem. Don’t be tempted to snip off the long stem connecting the baby plant to its parent at this point.
  2. Keep the baby plants well watered, once well rooted into the ground simply snip off the stem connecting it to the parent plant and any other stems coming from the leaves of the baby.

It really is that easy. You can chose to just allow the runners to root wherever they please or simply manoeuvre the long stems to a more desirable position, as I have. If a runner has firmly rooted into the wrong place carefully lift using a hand trowel and replant, keep well watered until recovered.

strawberry runner

Runners can also be potted up and grown on until needed which is handy if you’re planning on starting a new strawberry bed or giving them away as gifts, just follow the steps above using small pots of compost.