Gardening Magazine

Planning for the Kitchen Garden

By Notcuttsuk @notcuttsuk

Planning for the kitchen gardenPotato 'seed' chittiing in egg boxesAlthough the soil may be too wet to dig, seed potatoes need to be purchased now along with onion sets, shallots and garlic bulbs. Seed potatoes should be placed in egg boxes ‘rose end’ uppermost and allowed to ‘chit’.  The rose end of the potato seed has the most embryonic shoots or ‘eyes’ and chitting encourages these to sprout. Keep your potatoes in a cool, light place where they cannot be damaged by frost. By keeping them as cool as possible, strong, sturdy shoots will grow rather than long, spindly ones encouraged by lack of light or being kept too warm. A utility room or windowsill in a spare room is ideal for this. There are many varieties to choose from, maturing at different times through the summer and autumn. First earlies, or new potatoes, begin to crop at the end of June if grown outside – earlier in a poly tunnel or under polythene. Begin digging when the flowers on the plants are fully open – the first harvest may be small, but just a couple of rows of potatoes will provide plenty of tasty tubers for summer salads. Often they need little more than a quick wash to remove the soil and boiling until they are tender. Serve with butter and mint or mix with mayonnaise or vinaigrette for a delicious addition to salads. Second earlies and main crop varieties mature later in the summer and early autumn and can be stored in a frost free, dark place in boxes for winter eating. If you are trying potatoes for the first time or you have limited room, grow just one variety of first or second earlies – once you taste your home grown crop you will be spurred on to grow more!

Onion sets, shallots and garlic bulbs should be kept in their packets in similar conditions until you are ready to plant them once the soil conditions are suitable. Shallots and garlic can be planted towards the end of February if the soil is warmed with cloches, but early plantings can be at risk of ‘bolting’ (producing flower buds instead of tasty bulbs) if there is a cold snap in the weather or the ground becomes very wet. Planting in warmer soil up to the beginning of April will still give good results as the bulbs are at less risk of being checked by cold weather. Shallots will be ready to harvest in July, a couple of months before onions. The mature bulbs should be dried well before storing in nets or made into onion ropes. Shallots can be preserved by pickling and onions can be made into marmalades and chutneys.

As well as seed potatoes, onions and shallots, your local branch of Notcutts will have a huge range of vegetable seeds, so use the down time during wet weather to make your cropping plan for the vegetable garden and research the varieties available at where you can also read Mr McGregor’s latest blog.  

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