Last week, I wrote about silver linings and small successes. But there are also the unexpected harvests. The produce we dig up with amazement. The crop that comes out of the blue and puts a spring in our step for the rest of the day. I enjoyed just such a surprise on Sunday.
For many gardeners, the rain was a harbinger of pests (like the legions of slugs) and diseases (such as the dreaded blight). The cold spring and wet months have also meant poor germination and caused roots to rot. I read about how friends, acquaintances and experienced gardeners lost their crops and feared I would suffer a similar fate.
I did lose some: the carrots and beetroots were the first to go, failing to germinate, and by mid-June the young cucumbers and spring cabbages succumbed to the slugs. By July I was worrying about the tomatoes and potatoes. In the brief lulls between showers, I inspected their leaves for the tell-tale signs of blight. The tomatoes held their own but by the end of the month the potato haulm was looking very sorry for itself. Although there were none of the brown patches I was dreading, most of the leaves had been shredded by voracious slugs and the remaining ones looked sickly yellow. And then the stalks started to rot.
After consulting numerous books and websites, I was still struggling to diagnose the problem but removing the haulm and hoping for the best seemed to be the general advice for for ‘at risk potatoes’. With space at a premium in my tiny garden, I agonised about this. Should I follow the generic advice or empty the three large trugs cum planters to free up space for another crop? As the problem did not appear to be blight, I decided to take the risk, but I hedged my bet. I added more compost to the trugs and planted out some lettuces. To avoid the slug damage the potatoes had experienced, I wrapped silver foil around the trugs. This tip from the lovely G. proved surprisingly effective and was considerably cheaper than investing in copper rings.
As we finished the first batch of lettuces, the time came to dig out the soil, mix in fresh compost and prepare the planter for winter kale. With no expectations I sank my hands into the dirt and pulled out a golden Maris Piper. I inspected it for damage and rot but it looked fine. It was not a full palm-sized maincrop potato but a very respectable size nevertheless. My fingers dug around and another one popped up, and then another. I continued to excavate and was astounded that the potatoes kept coming!
In total the trug, planted with three tubers at Easter, yielded three pounds of maincrop potatoes. It may not be a record harvest but as I had not anticipated any and had actively managed Mr M’s expectations downwards, I was over the moon! I bounced around like a child, delighted with my surprise golden crop.
We shall be digging out the remaining two planters in the coming weeks. They may yield a similar crop or they may not. Either way, I am extremely grateful to know we shall taste a few more home-grown ‘tatties’ this year.