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I must wait until July for new potatoes

At last! The potato patch is dry and workable enough to get the seed potatoes in.

Those who read this column regularly will remember that I’m growing my own spuds for the first time in many years this season – ‘Swift’ for what I thought would be an early crop, and two other varieties, ‘Toluca’ (early maincrop) and ‘Purple Majesty’ (maincrop).

Since putting them in seed trays to ‘chit’, however, the ground has only just become fit to plant them.

So, although they have produced textbook shoots, the earlies are going in about a month late... but because of their maturing dates, they will still produce a staggered crop, throughout the summer and autumn. Although I doubt if I shall beat my brother-in-law to the first boiling of new potatoes this year.

I shall now wait eagerly for the first sign of new shoots appearing. Although the weather has turned cold again, the soil warmed up well after the couple of more seasonal days we saw last week, so it shouldn’t be too long, but I need fleece at the ready as I fear we might still be in for a late frost or two.

I expect to see the first new potatoes from ‘Swift’ around the beginning of July.

Seed potatoes are planted 10-15cm deep, and earthed up as the shoots appear. Earthing up gives them a greater volume of soil to produce new tubers in, improves aeration and drainage, and helps to prevent the new potatoes working their way through the soil and turning green.

Early seeds are spaced about 30cm apart, maincrop around twice this distance. Rows should be at a distance of 60-80cm.

* I shall be in St Lawrence’s Church, Surfleet (the one with the leaning spire) next Saturday, Sunday and Monday, selling raffle tickets for the Celebrate Surfleet Village Fete on September 8. Come along and have a chat – bring your gardening problems if you have any.