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Welcome

Sow The Seed follows the ups and downs of me, Helen and my husband, Simon - a couple trying to live a simpler life in south-west Wales.

I hope this blog will not only be a good reference and diary for us over the coming years, but will give helpful advice and tips for people trying to do the same thing, or dreaming of doing the same thing.

Find out more on how we got here.

What’s Happening Today

Tasks: Sowing; pruning; weeding; pottering

Harvesting: Cucumber, lettuce, radishes, strawberries, broad beans, potatoes

Eggs this year: 394 (hens) 317 (ducks)

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Potato harvest

The good spell of dry weather we had over the bank holiday weekend came just at the right time for harvesting. Not only was the local farmer able to cut his wheat field at long last, it was also the perfect time to dig up both the onions and the potatoes.

After being struck by blight, I left the potatoes in the ground for a few weeks before harvesting – this serves two purposes. The first is to try and stop any blight spores that may have been on the surface of the soil contaminating the whole harvest when you lift them and put them into store. And secondly, it helps the skins toughen up a bit for storage.  The best time to lift potatoes that you want to store is on a sunny day. If like us you’ve got a fair few to lift up, then start in the morning as this allows time to let them sit on top of the soil to dry and harden their skins a bit further.

As with any root crops it’s not until you start digging them up that you see whether any damage has been done to the roots. We knew there would be a few blight infected ones (they go all mushy and very smelly), but we were pleasantly surprised the blight hadn’t got too much of a hold – cutting the tops off when the first signs of blight were seen has definitely helped. However, many of the potatoes had potato scab (looks like a brown corky scab on the skin). Both the Desiree and the Maris Piper had been affected. However, while this looks a bit unsightly, and wouldn’t be accepted in any supermarket, they are perfectly fine to eat. I have also subsequently read that both these varieties are susceptible to scab on new ground, so it was kind of inevitable we would get this.

The other problems included some slug damage and some possible damage by mice (although we’re not sure if this was just greedy slugs). Whichever it was it always seems that they target the biggest and best looking potatoes, not the tiny ones that are no good to anyone!

After leaving the potatoes on the surface of the soil for a couple of hours, we bagged them up. We use hessian sacks which we got from a local agricultural store that sells loose peanuts for the birds. They were happy to give them to us for free, so it’s always worth asking before buying any especially for potatoes. We tried to grade them as we were going – not by size, but by quality. This means that we can use the potatoes that have a bit of damage first and hopefully the good potatoes will be able to last longer into next year.

Onion harvest

It has also been time to get the onions up for drying and storing. The leaves had naturally fallen over a few weeks ago, and had just started to turn brown. It’s quite easy to pull up the onions, usually a good tug will do or a bit of help from a small fork. We then just placed these on the soil, before putting them upside down in wire racks (to let the air flow), which we can then move in and out of the polytunnel if rain threatens. They usually take a couple of weeks before the leaves have turned brown and crispy and ready for stringing up. All the onions seem to be in good shape, and variable sizes which I think is better than them all being prize-winning sizes, which aren’t always good for use in the kitchen.

So that’s the first two key crops harvested for over winter storage. As the nights start getting colder, we will have to start thinking about storing some of the other root crops. I want to try and store some carrots and beetroot in sand trays, but this isn’t something we’ve done before so we’ll need to do a bit of reading up first.

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