Monday, January 24, 2011

In the Garden, at last

I spent today in the garden.

For a whole host of reasons, this was the first day I've been able to spend gardening for several months.  The main reasons were weather and health.  My health took a bit of a dive back in September and by the time I came out from underneath it, winter had very firmly set in.

forsythia cuttingsThis winter here in south west France has been both cold and wet.   My own measure of how wet it has beeseedlings2n is by looking at how dry the roads remain....  Normally, here, the roads dry out every day, but this winter, they have remained wet for days and indeed, weeks on end.

But back to my day in the garden......

One of the last things I did before collapsing in a heap last autumn was to take some cuttings.

The Forsythia cuttings are looking healthy enough and I'm hoping to get enough shrubs to make a short hedge to give some wind break to parts of the vegetable garden.

seedlings Some of the seedlings that have been overwintering are happily existing in the  unheated cold frame.

One of the jobs I did today was to chit some potatoes.

I start my potatoes about 8 weeks before I'm intending to plant them in early April.   An elderly gardener I knew many years ago always told me to plant potatoes on Good Friday.  Of course, Good Friday is always at the same point of the moon cycle so I guess this was his version of moon planting.   At the time I lived in Wales, in the UK, and now that I have moved to the warmer climate of south west France, I still follow the advice but have moved the planting date 28 days I intend to plant my potatoes on 25th March.   I should be setting out the potatoes next Friday, but today is ok!!!!

Chitting potatoes is a method of promoting strong growth of shoots before planting.    I set the potatoes in egg boxes with the eyes uppermost and place them on a shelf potato chittingby a window in my unheated workshop.  The window actually faces south, which is not ideal, but it is what I have.  North facing(away from the sun) would be chits in windowideal. Remember I'm in the northern hemisphere so if you live down under, your ideal window will be south facing.

I will leave these potatoes in the window for a week or two and then inspect them, removing some sprouts to leave just the 4 or 5 strongest ones.   You need to cut out the shoot and dig a bit of a hole to get the eye out so that it doesn't simply shoot again later.

Some people argue that this is a waste of effort but I believe that by choosing the strongest shoots and also, considering the position of them, you can give the plant the best chance to produce a nice healthy crop of potatoes.

As for the rest of my day.... well, pruning a large old linden tree took me a lot of time.  I only got as far as cutting out all the shoots coming up from around the base of the tree.... but there's always tomorrow.   I'm thinking of pollarding it.  It looks like it was done a few years ago, but that must have been before I came here six years ago.


Food, Fun and Life in the Charente said...

I have my potatoes, but as I only drive back to France at the end of March I think I will only be chitting on arrival, so planting probably will be at Easter this year! Diane

Kate said...

Nice, very nice. I hope your cold frame flourishes. It was such fun helping you make it.

chaiselongue said...

Welcome back to the garden, Ian! Good to see you're blogging again. It's an exciting time now, with all the spring planting, sowing and planning. I remember in Wales everyone used to plant potatoes on Good Friday - which could be at the end of March in some years. Here they are planted by the same moon in February, because we need to get them growing before the weather gets too dry.

Ian said...

Thanks to you all for welcoming me back
I'm looking forward to getting my garden going again now.