Wednesday, 21 May 2008


Thoroughness. That's a quality I value.

I have a picture of myself as being thorough in the garden. I work systematically and methodically.

The evidence of last year's potato crop always creates waves of self-doubt in me. I carefully sift through the soil in August, lifting every potato tuber and ensuring that nothing is left behind.

Then, in the spring, the veneer peels away, as potatoes begin to grow everywhere they shouldn't.

Potatoes that are left in the soil are quaintly termed 'volunteers'. I can imagine my forbears, as 'Diggers' in the English Civil War cultivating parkland appropriated from the aristocracy, using the same language.

I cleared two raised beds of their overwintering green manure crop of field beans at the weekend and discovered all of these 'volunteers' growing away quite happily. One was slug damaged but the others were fine and eaten roasted when I got home.

So, strangely, the 'volunteers' made me think. We finished our last stored potatoes in February. They were getting wizened and wrinkled in their sacks. But here, in May, their siblings are pretty much as fresh as they were in August.

Perhaps I have to return to the old idea of the potato clamp for storing next time.

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