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February: Sorting the beds.

Sorting the beds.

First of all do a check. If you’ve grown potatoes last year, dig the bed over and remove any stray potatoes you might find.  The temptation is to simply let them grow and have done with it but this is most terrible bad form. They can cause disease, and if you want to win ‘The Best Allotment’ stray potatoes growing amongst the cabbages simply won’t do.

It is time, however, for chitting - and this is something I have always done, even when the BBC suggested it wasn’t necessary. It is a kind of punctuation; something to do that starts the season. I use old egg boxes and simply leave the potatoes in the light in a cool spot. It is quite simple - once the enzymes start to convert starch in the potato into sugar, the buds - or eyes if you will, burst into life, and the potato goes all soft.  Potatoes are another good reason for warming the soil - a well manured plot, dug into pits, and my first Earlies will be in the ground by the middle of March.

Then, root crop beds need hoeing again, and again, and again. My Grandfather always used to say hoeing the carrot bed was the best way of not arguing with Grandma. She was a very formidable woman, and Grandad always had extra special carrots!

The reason for all the hoeing is carrots split easily, and the removal of obstacles to growth is an important first step - especially where the soil is stony. The same goes for parsnips. Once you are happy with the crumbliness - and it should be like a cake mix - cover it with black plastic for a few weeks to get the soil as warm as it can be. Thence you can sow in drills in March.



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