PLANTING seed potatoes is always an exciting precursor to the start of spring — and this year the soil has warmed enough to encourage me to pop them in the ground earlier than that uplifting time when the clocks leap forward.
My potatoes chitted well for three weeks and now they are safely in a rich patch at Sandlands allotments, rubbing shoulders — if they had any — with my little leeks.
I am especially looking forward to experiencing the old French variety Ratte, having had a number of friends rave about their flavour and waxy salad texture.
I habitually use seed potatoes in preference to leftovers from the greengrocer’s, always following the mantra that using secondhand encourages disease.
But Alan Stroud contacted me, both sympathising with my leek size problem I have whined about (sadly with no answers), and with some garden 'wisdom’ that flies in the face of conventional opinion.
"Forty years ago, just after my father died, my mother was planting some potatoes. She was using the ones from the end of a sack.
"I scoffed and mocked her. Some weeks later, she asked me if I would dig them for her.
"I had to get a wheelbarrow. I’ve never seen so many potatoes.
"Since that day I have never bought a seed potato but always use the ones from the end of the sacks we buy during the winter from Radcliffe’s at Blackwater.
"My horticultural friends are appalled — but what can’t speak can’t lie."
While that might be a success story, his leeks — like mine — were not.
He said: "I thought it was just me but obviously it isn’t. If it’s any consolation I had exactly the same problem as you."
His leeks this year grew to probably only a third of their usual girth, his first partial failure with no sign of disease to blame.
"I started some off in trays in the polytunnel and some in drills in the vegetable plot," he told me.
"They both germinated perfectly and grew to pencil thickness quite quickly. I didn’t do anything different to any other year.
"The only thing I can think of is I did sow them too early, to be honest, and when they were ready to go out I didn’t have the space to put them out so they had to stand around for a while, a good month or six weeks.
"Whether all that time standing around, straining at the leash, made them lose impetus. I don’t know.
"Maybe a reader has the answer."
I hope so, Alan.