Growing pains. Diary of a Suffolk allotment holder

PUBLISHED: 11:43 25 March 2010 | UPDATED: 16:42 20 February 2013

Our resident allotment holder Jayne Lindill has high hopes of a decent early crop

Unearthing the secrets of spud success

According to one certain celebrity gardener, among this months tasks is turning the compost and spreading it liberally around the plot.
Hmmmmm. Is that before or after I clear the foot of snow dumped on my allotment?
Im not denying climate change, but I still fully expect January to bring snow and frost thats likely to last well into February. Surely a gardening expert writing an article for a national magazine would expect the same? Even if here in balmy East Anglia weve become accustomed to mild winters, things are very different in other parts of the country.
Where am I going with this? The point is, as anyone who grows their own knows, micro climates play a huge part in gardening. The best tips I get for success on my allotment come from my generally quite a bit older fellow allotment holders and the staff in my local hardware and gardening shop. Ask them which varieties of plants they sell most of and theres a big clue as to what should grow well on my allotment. Ive been mooching around the shop over the last couple of weekends, turning over the seed packets, overjoyed when I find something I can plant soon. Its about this time of year many of us get really itchy green fingers, so its a relief to see seed potatoes appearing in shops.
Potatoes are rewarding to grow. There are so many varieties to choose from and so many ways to grow them in the ground or in special containers its possible to have potatoes all year round.
Last year I grew earlies, second earlies and main crop potatoes with mixed success. Despite choosing resistant varieties, potato blight attacked the early crops and although we managed to rescue some, it was disappointing to have to discard so many after so much digging.
Ive learnt a lot about soil hygiene from this episode and Im hoping a hard winter will have killed off anything nasty lurking in the soil, but Id welcome advice from more experience spud growers on how to avoid blight.
As we emerge from winter, one trick I might try this year is to warm the soil before sowing by covering sections of the allotment with plastic sheeting. After such a severe winter seeds will need all the help I can give them to get going.

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