Winter may have seemed long, but summer is definitely on its way! If you make a promise to yourself every year to do better in the garden, but never quite manage it, now is the time to get to work! Here are some basics to get you ahead of the growing game for the coming year.
Assuming that your lawn has already had its first mow and you have had a general tidy up and prune, you can start thinking about what to sow. And with the cost of living going up constantly, there has never been a better time to grow your own fruit and veg!
Potatoes may not seem like the most exciting things to grow, but they are pretty low maintenance and reliable, which makes them great for beginner or less confident gardeners. Buy seed potatoes from your local garden centre, or keep sprouting potatoes – those sprouts that are annoying when you are peeling are actually the beginning of a whole new plant. Keep the sprouting potatoes in a warm, dry place and leave them until the sprouts are around 2 cm in length. Once the sprouts are long enough, you will need to cut bigger potatoes into 5cm chunks, making sure that each slice has at least two sprouts on it. Give them another couple of days in your warm place before you get planting!
You should aim to plant potatoes in spring (March-May). Prep the ground by raking through compost and breaking up the soil (potatoes prefer loose soil). Plant the potato chunks about 30cm apart in 10cm-deep holes with at least one sprout facing upwards. Cover and give them plenty of water.
You should see plants popping up within weeks. At around five weeks, or when the stems are around 20cm in length, you need to create ridges in the soil to make hills around the stems. Rake the soil in towards the stem to create a hill around each stem. This gives space for new potatoes to grow above the one that you planted. Every week, as your plants grow, add to the hill so that most or all of the leaves are covered. After a few months, you will notice that the leaves, which were once green and lustrous, are dying back a little and turning yellow. 2-3 weeks after this happens, you are ready to harvest!
Although potatoes often produce edible tubers within a couple of months of planting, the longer you leave them, the bigger harvests you will yield, so try to be patient and wait until the leaves have turned. Enjoy your potatoes mashed, chipped, roasted or boiled with a big dose of smugness that you have grown them by yourself!
If you lack confidence in the garden, it can help to get a professional gardener in to get you started. They can help plant out your vegetable patch and give you advice on how best to maintain it. For more tips, follow Trust A Trader on Twitter or Facebook.