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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)


Chitting potatoes

Wilkinson wouldn’t be the first place you would think of to get seeds and the like, but in the last few years the amount of aisles devoted to gardening in these town centre stores makes it as good as any other garden centre chain. It might not be the best place for the “proper” gardener, but if you are looking for ordinary seeds and gardening paraphernalia then you can’t beat it.

As luck would have it our monthly trip into Carmarthen coincided with Wilkinson’s first delivery of seed potatoes and shallot/onion sets. The range wasn’t huge, but it had the varieties that I grew last year (potatoes – Rocket (first early), Desiree (main crop) and Maris Piper (main crop) and onions – Sturon), which have done us well in terms of volume and storage. As self-sufficiency is one of our aims, then we may as well continue with these for now. The price of a 3 kg bag of seed potatoes (£2.98) is far cheaper than many of the seed catalogues and garden centres (£3+ for 1.5 kg) and the quality seems much the same.

Last year I didn’t buy my first early seed potatoes until well into February, and they went into the ground in mid-March. This year I want to get them planted sooner, and also try a few in the polytunnel to get a really early crop. Similarly, the main crop was planted later than I would’ve liked at the end of April, so if I can get them in earlier they may be able to put on more growth before the dreaded blight invariably hits them in mid-season.

It is said that to get a crop up to 4 weeks earlier, you can “chit” your seed potatoes. This means allowing the seed potatoes to develop shoots before planting. There is nothing very technical about this, you just need to spread the seed potatoes out in trays, with the most “eyes” (tiny points on the skin) pointing upwards, in a cool frost-free place out of direct sunlight. Egg boxes are good for this as the potatoes can snugly sit in them without toppling over. I’ve put ours in boxes in a shed next to our house, so hopefully it won’t get too cold in there. However, we’ve had a few frosts the last few days so each night I cover them with layers of fleece so they don’t get frost damage. They can then be planted (weather permitting) once the shoots are an inch or so long.

Looking at my diary from last year I planted the shallot sets in mid-February, and the onion sets in early March. These turned out fine so it’ll hopefully be more of the same again.

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