Sunday, 1 August 2010


It's been a slow year for the veg. Spring was cold right up until late April and even then the wind kept swinging back to the north, bringing a chill from Faroe, Iceland, even the Arctic.

And there hasn't been what you'd call a lot of rain, although we are a long way from being under drought conditions as some further south are.

The carrots are a good month behind schedule - let's hope the Autumn King variety lives up to its name - while the salad crops are in the process of bolting and the beetroot has been a virtual dead loss.

So it came as a whopping great relief this morning when I took a gamble and lifted the first potato plant of the year, finding a clutch of firm, pale cream tatties begging to be scraped and put in the pot.

That is where they are now, with the smell of roast pork filling the kitchen, our own cabbage in another pot, a few small neeps ready to be roasted alongside the joint and a handful of baby carrots, thinned out from the rest of the crop this afternoon. I love Sunday dinner.

We've the best part of two-thirds of an acre set over to potatoes and turnips, the hope being that there will be enough to feed us and to make a decent contribution to the pigs' feed as well.

Last year I planted 100kg of seed tatties by hand. Well, when I say I, I mean it was me, my son Will, stepson Pat and Sal's brother and sister-in-law Martin and Kathy, who were foolish enough to believe that a trip to Westray was in any way a holiday.

This year I planted about double the amount in a patch of the bottom field where the sows had spent most of last year. Well, when I say I, I mean Jimmy and Alistair from down the road did the ploughing, rotovating and allowed me to help with the actual planting, sitting behind the tractor on a precarious sort of stool affair above a sort of plough thingy and next to a tub for the potatoes and a chute to drop a tattie down every time the little bell on a wheel at the back rang.

The snag was, as Alistair advised me, that the bell often gets clogged up and won't ring. There was nothing for it but to take a leaf out of the Captain Mainwaring drill manual, so I was bumping along trying not to fall off while muttering: "One-two-three-plant-two-three-plant-two-three," and so on.

Still, the result is a lovely patch of dark green plants that have not yet, touch wood, succumbed to blight or mildew. And, of course, the pot of fresh new tatties that will go down a treat with a hint of salt and a little butter.


Yorkshire Pudding said...

Hi Malc
Is there anything better to eat than fresh new potatoes with a melting wedge of butter and a little salt? I doubt it. My own potatoes have been brilliant - no slug damage or scabbing and most delicious - variety: Pentland Javelin.
Two posts in three days? Slow down old chap!

smart said...

... Martin and Kathy, who were foolish enough to believe that a trip to Westray was in any way a holiday.

This fool would happily be on Westray helping you with the spud planting any day of the year. We had a wonderful week on the island - our next trip can't come soon enough.

Congratulations on the first 3 years and good luck for many more years.


Richard said...

I've finally grown pots for the first time this year. I've not much room and only planted 5 to see how they went but I've had two plants up so far and I'm well pleased. The beans haven't been too bad either. Digging part of the lawn up next year for more veg. I grew up with Dad forever in the garden growing stuff and selling it on the door and it was getting to me that I'd never had the chance to continue because of the lack of space. Ironically, now I'm in what my best friend calls "ASBO housing", I've actually got a reasonably useful bit of garden. Result!

Zig said...

mmmmmmm yum! Swap you with my glut of courgettes and cucumbers (what WAS I thinking of?!).

Katherine said...

Oh, I'd come and help you plant tatties on Westray too! Your last two posts have made me heave happy sighs for you both. Congratulations on doing what you do!

Frith said...

When I look at my 3 yards of 'taters and think of your 300 (was it?), the word "back strain" takes on a whole other meaning. I read a gardener's blog the other day, wherein she extolled the virtues of growing delicate and expensive vegetables because anything else didn't make sense. Why grow it if you could go to the market and buy it? But for me, growing the very pedestrian potato for the first time ever, has been a complete thrill. (Perhaps I need to get out more?)

Malc said...


We had new tatties again last night - with chicken tikka. Pentland Javelin is a good variety. We've planted Colleen and the Hungarian Sarpo Mira - a vigorous, fast-growing variety that outgrows blight.


Looking forward to next June already.


"Result" indeed. Few things give me as much satisfaction as growing veg.


Gladly. Our poor courgette plants have so far produced two pathetic little fruits. I didn't even bother with cucumbers this far north.


Thank you. All help gratefully accepted.


Potatoes should always be part of any veg rotation system, mind you, anyone with an Irish background would say that. If space is limited, grow an exotic or salad variety that's expensive in the shops.