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Chitted Potatoes

Our chitted potatoes waiting to be planted

Another weekend of glorious weather. This doesn’t feel like spring, it’s more like summer, 21C and tshirts in March isn’t typical for the time of year in these parts so we made the most of it and had a really productive couple of days in the garden and on the plot.

Wellyman put in the posts and wire supports for the new espalier apple tree. These are the sort of jobs that invariably take three times longer than anticipated and before you know it a whole morning has been swallowed up by something that seemed so straightforward. Usually Wellyman discovers the drill has no charge, the drill bit he needs is the one that broke last time and the various screws, bolts, nails required are the wrong size. Not this time though, maybe we’re just getting more adept at this DIY thing but it all went really smoothly, which was just as well because we had an appointment to collect some beanpoles.

Hazel beanpoles

Coppiced hazel beanpoles from Moreton Wood in Herefordshire

I posted last autumn about National Beanpole Week and how there has been a resurgence in people managing coppice woodlands and selling the products. National Beanpole Week runs from 21st April to 29th April this year but because we wouldn’t be able to make these dates I had managed to find a woodland in Herefordshire where I could pick some up early. It wasn’t exactly local but it was such a beautiful day and Herefordshire is a lovely county that it wasn’t a chore to drive that little bit further. Moreton Wood is classified as ancient woodland with records going back 400 years but in the 1960s the deciduous, native trees were cleared for conifer plantations. The couple who now manage the woodland are slowly restoring it, removing the conifers and allowing broadleaved, deciduous trees to grow again. The practice of coppicing dates back to the early medieval period but declined from the 19th century. It seems to be making something of a comeback as people realise that coppicing is a great way to produce a fast and reliable source of timber without needing to replant and that it has beneficial effects on the woodland ecosystem. At a time when every company is jumping on the eco-bandwagon this really is a sustainable business. We came away with some great, sturdy posts about 8ft long which will be perfect for their job and they were only 50p each.

Baby pea plants ready for planting

Baby pea plants ready for planting

Back at home we carefully carried up to the allotment the chitted potatoes with their fat, stubby shoots and some small pea plants for planting out. The potatoes are Charlottes, a very versatile potato that is excellent as a salad spud or left to grow a bit bigger and can then be roasted, particularly tasty with a little bit of butter and chives chopped on top. Wellyman dug holes for each tuber and I put some compost and a handful of comfrey pellets in the planting hole before placing in the tubers, being careful not to damage the shoots, especially as you backfill.

Then came the pea planting. Is there another piece of gardening kit more annoying than plastic pea netting? It has a life of its own and trying to cut it, making sure you cut in a straight line and don’t go off at an angle leaving you with an oddshaped piece of netting that is no use to anyone is easier said than done. Getting exasperated doesn’t help but that’s also easier said than done. We got there in the end, with sections attached to canes so the newly planted peas have something to scramble up. I think only trying to use fleece to cover your plants on a windy day and discovering a kink in the hosepipe at the opposite end of the plot to where I am, can match pea netting for annoyance.

Forced rhubarb stems

Forced rhubarb stems

Just before we left I checked the rhubarb I’m forcing and we should be able to pick our first stems and the first produce of the plot this year, in the next week. So everything is taking shape. Exciting times ahead.

For more information on coppicing and finding a wood local to you visit Coppice Products.

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