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Growing pains

PUBLISHED: 10:39 25 March 2010 | UPDATED: 16:58 20 February 2013

Diary of a Suffolk allotment holder

Tried and tested spuds can offer rich rewards


Was that a chink of blue sky I spotted the other day? Spurred on by the thought of spring arriving any minute, and the appearance of seed potatoes, onion sets and shallots in my local shops I rushed out and got mine. Well, actually just potatoes because I planted onions last autumn and theyve been doing nicely over winter, snug and warm in their net tunnels. That doesnt mean I wont be planting more, however, and trying a different variety.
But back to potatoes. Theres a lot written about growing old, heritage varieties of vegetables, but unless you're incredibly well organised and get round to ordering some of the lesser known and grown types, the choice comes down to whats on offer in the shops. Inevitably that tends to be the more familiar names.
Theres nothing wrong with this, of course, and it often means that gardeners have grown them successfully for generations. At the end of the day thats what most vegetable growers want abundant crops in return for all their hard work.
Ive plumped for Pentland Javelin as my earlies, Charlottes as my second earlies and the lovely red Romano as my main crop, the latter chosen because its said to be blight resistant. Blight was big problem on my allotment last year and Im determined not to repeat the experience! Id welcome any advice on this problem.
Im chitting my potatoes in the shed, which means exposing them to light so they develop a shoot. This will give them a good start when they go in the ground in a few weeks and hopefully lead to a higher yield.
Nows the time to start sowing some vegetable seeds under glass leeks, for example, which Ive had great success with in previous years by growing them in pots and then planting them out.
Meanwhile, Im plundering the depths of the freezer for the runner beans and beetroot I froze at the end of last summer and wandering around the supermarket wishing I didnt have to buy their stuff. Running an allotment with a full-time job on the side will never make me self-sufficient, but Id like to get an awful lot more out of the ground!

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