Chitting update

Little or no progress with chitting my seed potatoes

Currently there still seems to be very few signs of action on the chitting front which is a little disheartening but not entirely unexpected I suppose. I wish I could remember some details of the previous (and first) time I grew potatoes but that was some years ago and my memory isn’t what it used to be… I think!

This looks like a fairly respectable seed potato but it just doesn’t have any signs of activity yet. They have only been chitting for 2 weeks now so I can only assume the problem is with my impatience and not some bigger problem with the seed potatoes.

Of course the chiting arrangements in my garage (some egg boxes not too near the windows) might not be the best setup but I’m sure they worked well last time around which was a few years ago now.

Next weekend I had planned to start a second batch of seed potatoes on the chitting process so it would be nice to see some signs of activity by then.

Planting the leek seeds

These are not mine obviously!

The leek seeds (Apollo) arrived from Marshalls Seeds as part of the initial delivery in January along with the seed potatoes and some Growmore so I’ve been impatient to get them planted ever since.

Unfortunately as I don’t have a proper greenhouse and the weather up here in the North East of England can be slow to warm up, I plan to use the garage windowsills  so I don’t want to start too early. Luckily this is also delayed by the fact that work keeps me busy and away from the garden so I can’t get to these until next weekend I think.

Staggered Planting

Another favourite subject of mine this year is staggering the planting time so I’ll be doing the leek seeds in two batches spaced at least 3-4 weeks apart. It may not make much difference with  leeks in the long run as they  stay in the ground for quite some time but at least it spreads out the enjoyment of planting the seeds!

Seeds in a roll

I’m not sure where I got the original idea from but after deciding to expand the veg beds late last year, I thought  it would be a good idea to save the cardboard tubes from the middle of the toilet rolls for use in the garden.

I’m amazed how many I managed to save between December and February but there are absolutely loads even though as far as I can recall we didn’t have an outbreak of dysentery in the period.

How will it work?

My theory was two-fold and goes something like this:

  1. I can fill the cardboard tubes with seed compost and stack them all together in an old chocolate tin left over from Christmas with drainage holes. They can start off indoors like this and just  plant them out in the tubes  at the right time to minimise root disturbance – the  tube will eventually rot away.
  2. I can also use the cardboard tubes as an aid when “blanching the leeks as they develop. I thought, why not just slip another roll (or half roll) over each growing plant so that I can  build up the earth around the plant with less risk of getting soil in amongst the leaves.

However after reading about an experience of  mould appearing on cardboard/paper based seed starters I’m starting to have small doubts. Presumably this can be prevented with good drainage and proper ventilation but I’ll be keeping my eyes out for this in the future.

Wood chip is the way forward

I can’t believe I’ve never used wood/bark chips in the garden before! After setting up the 3 veg beds it very quickly became clear that I didn’t have enough old paving slabs to reuse when making the paths around them.

My first reaction was to leave the unpaved areas as compressed soil and hope that regular use would mean that weeds did not take over. It wasn’t long before I realised that wasn’t going to work as a permanent solution for weed suppression.

Instead I added 3 bags of bark chips to a recent online order of compost (from Creative Garden Ideas) and threw a couple of them down (after clearing any obvious weeds of course). The result was a major transformation quite out of proportion to the amount of time and effort I had put in.

There was an added bonus as a result of using pine bark chips, my veg beds now small a little like a pine fresh toilet!

High street vs Online

I saw a few great books in a bookshop recently and almost bought this one in particular but a small voice told me to hold off and check on the web. I didn’t need the book immediately and you always seem to get a better price on the web.

Practical Self Sufficiency by Dick and James Strawbridge

Sure enough as soon as I got home, I checked on Amazon and found that the same book was available for only £12.70 (plus p+p) instead of the £20 that the high street bookshop wanted from me!

You do the maths but it’s clear why the high street chains are suffering especially given the great service I’ve always found from Amazon. Needless to say I will be buying this book online later this year and certainly making use of the associated Practical Self Sufficiency website.

Chickens are something for the future… I think!

There are very rough plans for chickens in the future but probably not at the present house. Many people know someone who has kept chickens in a suburban garden and I’m no different but it’s obviously a very different story when they are your chickens in your garden!

After the initial nosing around the web, I think that this seems a fairly practical option for starting out with and it looks nice too which is a bonus I reckon

Midi Dell chicken house and run (by Smiths Sectional Buildings)

There is a raised living area to give shelter underneath the house and to deter vermin problems. Some carrying handles run throughout the building to enable easy mobility and they also double up as daytime perches for the chickens. There is a solid wooden floor in the house area with loose perches that lift out for easy cleaning the ark. The nest boxes protrude from the rear of the ark and the back board hinges down for external egg collection. There is access to the chicken run from a large wire door and access to the ark through a lift off side panel.

What more could they want apart from regular food, proper care and attention plus a guarantee that there will be no foxes sniffing around?

The current plan is probably to move house at some point in the next few years to get somewhere with a larger garden. As a result we could have any chicken house/run in a specific spot most of the time but allow the birds out when possible and still move the run occasionally to give them a change of scene. 

In general this makes sense to me at the moment but of course I’ve never raised chickens before (or any kind of productive livestock) so I could be completely wrong. There’s only one way to find out though – give it a go!

It’s chitting time… or is it?

imageThe chitting of my seed potatoes started just over a week ago but as you can probably see there seemed to be no progress yet – I know it’s too soon and I’m an impatient fool but I can’t help checking and would look more frequently if I could!

I’m hoping I’m not too late with this given some of the advice I seen but at the same time even if I’m too early I’ve not found any reliable advice on what to  do in the event of a cold snap when I want to plant them out. Perhaps it will all even out in the end…

Many of the books I’ve seen talk about chitting in a fairly general way but don’t go any further than telling you to do it. For example, most  don’t cover when you might expect to see the first signs of activity which is fairly important for an impatient semi-beginner like me. There also seems to be very little information on how long the whole chitting  process should take but like most things in the garden it will just “take as long as it takes” and I noticed that no one offers advice on speeding it up.

The seed potatoes I’ve bought for this year are Charlotte (a second early or so I’m told) and very popular with home growers it appears. I have great hopes for them and I’m just hoping that my expectations are met in some small way when it comes to harvest time.

These  were bought on-line from the Marshalls website and the delivery arrived very promptly but I was not particularly impressed with the quality because I’ve had about a 10% loss due to mouldy or damaged tubers. Of course I have no idea whether this is a good result or if I’ve been sent a duff batch.

As it turns out this is not such a big problem because we don’t have a huge amount of space and will only spare 1 of the 3 veg beds for potatoes this year.  There  will only be a couple of rows with about 8 plants but by staggering the planting times I’m hoping to spread out the harvest with any luck rather than get a glut of new potatoes all at once.

I’ve tried to deal with all eventualities and will be chitting in two batches by starting a second batch about 3 weeks after the first. I’ve also put a small plastic cloche/cover on the intended veg bed to warm the soil and keep off any frosts. Presumably I could keep the cover on once I’ve planted them out if there is any remaining risk of a frost but nothing I’ve read mentions it.

Once there is something more to report I will post some pictures and I plan to document the slow progress all the way from chitting to plate!

Four simple questions


With so much to choose from it seemed almost impossible to narrow down the options of what vegetables to grow. After a little careful thought I soon realised that my first task was easily identified though – just go through a few reliable gardening books and note down which plants were labelled as “easy to grow” or “good for beginners”.

Predictably there were too many  final choices and they were most of the usual suspects that many gardeners tackle when starting out. However that list was easily  cut down to size  by the simple guiding principle that says “don’t bother growing something you won’t eat”.

As we only have 3 small-ish veg plots, the final list ended up as Potatoes, Leeks (from seed) and Onions (from sets).


This is easily solved because I am only working with 3 fairly small veg beds this year – not much I know but that is 2 more than I’ve ever had before so I’m happy! Two of these beds are wooden sided raised beds from a kit which have been set up on top an unwanted section at the bottom of the garden. These have been carefully prepared over the last few months, filled with nice new compost and left to settle although I did pop in some cabbages last autumn (don’t ask, they’re not doing much) and I also had a failed attempt with spinach when all I got was some more greener for the compost heap.


I suspect that this might be the tricky part because we live on the north east coast of England which is not known for the tropical climate. The growing season is noticeably shorter up here and plants are definitely slower to get going. My main concern will be fighting off the impatience so I don’t start sowing or planting out too soon.


Arguably the hardest of the 4 questions… I’ve grown some veg in the past but never more than one crop per year and certainly not every year so why is this year different? Can it all be down to a mid-life crisis? Have I really not got anything better to do with my time? The most likely explanation is that it seemed like a good idea at the time and now I’ve set myself the challenge I don’t want to admit defeat without giving it a go!

Getting started or just prevaricating again?

So what should be the first thing you think of doing once you get the idea for growing vegetables and pursuing a vaguely greener lifestyle?

Obviously there is all the planning to be done, preparation of vegetable plots, ordering of seeds, composting, digging/weeding and such like. Not forgetting the multitude of choices available which complicate the decision for what to grow and when to get start planting!

It all seems a little daunting at first so why not take the easy option… start a blog instead! It keeps you warm on a cold winters evening when you can’t get out to the garden (or can’t be bothered) and also focuses the mind on the various issues.

We live in the north east of England in a fairly normal suburban semi-detached house with a garden and neighbours on both sides. Over the years I have dabbled with growing vegetables occasionally with varying results. I can recall a fair success with potatoes a number of years back but if I’m brutally honest last years spinach was a bit of waste of time.

Most of my attempts have generally grown fairly well but eventually things suffer  because “real life” gets in the way to stop plants getting watered or weeded. Notice how it’s the plants fault and not mine?

This time though the outcome  will be completely different – for one thing I’ve got a blog to maintain as well so my  theory is  that I have to keep up the garden work otherwise there will be nothing to write about on the blog! I’m sure my logic is sound…