I think anyone who’s interested in gardening goes through a phase where they’re absolutely obsessed with the no-dig method. That’s fine, that’s normal. Less normal that for me, my obsession was triggered a week ago when I drank my gin a bit too fast and could not stop thinking about an idea that I’d had.
I’d been to Beamish museum, which I’d been wanting to visit for ages, mostly for vegetable-based reasons. And I wasn’t disappointed, look how pretty they are:
So after the gincident and after Beamish imprinting these ideas on me, I did a lot of reading on growing potatoes, aka my favourite thing to grow, using the no-dig method. Being a deeply lazy person, putting less effort in was something that really appealed to me, and there seemed to be lots of other advantages too. “Well, something to keep in mind for next year”, I thought.
But no. My idea was even crazier, and if I’m honest I think there’s a 70% chance it’ll fail completely. What if I put potatoes in now, as late crop potatoes, using the no-dig method?
The reason I think there’s a good chance it’ll fail is because frost is very much a thing, especially in Northumberland, especially in…y’know, winter. But hear me out, because even if it does fail, there are still advantages to at least giving it a go.
This is one of the lesser-photographed areas of the allotment because it’s not very visually appealing. It was going to be a herb garden, and then wildflowers, which we all know is my code for ‘ugh, don’t have time to cultivate this area properly’. So for the last few months, it’s been under black plastic. So this is where the potatoes are going, while the black plastic gets moved to another lesser-photographed bit of the allotment:
I feel like dramatic music should be playing here. I’ve never done anything with these bits and in an ideal world, I would – I’d have a shed and a greenhouse there or anything that’s not quite a large quantity of nettles, basically. But for various reasons (including perhaps not spending my entire life in Northumberland), I can’t do any of that at the minute, so black plastic would at least help. Meanwhile, here’s the future potato patch:
I struggled to locate seed potatoes at this time of year. I asked at one shop whether they had any suitable for late crop and the guy kindly explained to me that potatoes normally come into stock around February/March, which I sort of didn’t need explained to me, but when does that stop the patriarchy. Luckily, my local supermarket had some very cheap ones that are tiny and shrivelled, and I’m not optimistic about their survival, but lads they were 50p. So I grabbed the bulb planter, made holes, and put them in.
“Oh but Katie you have to cover it in six inches of straw, which is expensive, you’re an idiot”, is maybe what you’re thinking now. Well, I am an idiot generally, but in this case I already had straw donated last year by the council, who just decided to dump a load in front of the allotment, blocking the gate for weeks until I just claimed it as my own and brought it inside the fence.
The plan is to keep topping up the initial layer with grass cuttings etc and to keep it well-watered, so that has the benefit of being a handy place to put the grass cuttings with the benefit of having a slim chance of growing actual potatoes. And if it doesn’t work – because of the frost, or because the seed potatoes are terrible and past their best, then I’ll only be down 50p, I’ve kept the weeds suppressed in two parts of the allotment rather than one, and I’ll have learned a bit about the no-dig method ready for next year.
Like I said, I have no idea whether it’ll work, because I found plenty online about growing potatoes using the no-dig method, but never late crop ones, and the only thing I know about them is that it’s best to grow them in containers because of the frost. But later on, I might get some fleece which I’ll cut holes in, once the frost comes and if potato plants are actually emerging (it’d also help hold all the straw in place).
So that was what happened to me after I’d had gin, anyway. I’m quite excited because I didn’t really try anything new on the allotment this year. I’m trying to be a bit better at preparing for the winter with plenty of green manure:
I’m trying out different types on the former potato patches from this season to see which works best. I’m also planning on growing more garlic, as I’ve somehow managed to get through three-quarters of the garlic I grew this season, I guess because I like eating. FINALLY, beetroot and courgettes have been doing surprisingly well! I’ve let some of the remaining artichokes flower (which was fine, really, as I must have had about 20 edible ones this summer) and the bees are delighted.