Planting out the early potatoes is a statement of intent – and yields dividends later in the season
Time for some chit chat: our potatoes are in. Dad would be proud, though he only grew King Edwards. He wasn’t one for turning, didn’t want different varieties for this and that. If he found something that worked for him, he stuck with it. We tend to differ that way.
I often agonise about growing spuds, they take up extravagant room, spread luxuriantly. But the allotment gardener I most admire, who quietly encouraged us at the sticky start, always grows them. And he’s one of my garden gurus.
Along with runner beans, peas and rhubarb, new potatoes flavoured my childhood summer: fragrant, almost nutty, with just salt, a sprig of apple mint, simply boiled and served with butter. I was sent to the veg patch in the late morning to lift potatoes for our weekend lunch.
I loved the reveal: pushing the fork or my hands in, unearthing garden magic, taking about as much as we can eat for the meal and no more. Dad would later deal with maincrops.
We buy seed spuds for the plot at a potato fair: just a dozen or so, made up of three or four varieties. I chit them until they wither and sprout and look a little alien. This year we are growing Arran Pilot, Pentland Javelin, Duke of York, Rosabelle, all earlies. I am not looking to leave them long in the ground.
The soil is still heavy. This is our first dig of the year. We cut a trench almost the length of the plot and carefully consign our wrinkly treasures to the earth. Sprouts facing up of course.
We cover the roots, leaving most of the soil still stacked on the side, to fold in later. We stand back and admire our handiwork. The cold’s hold is broken. It feels good to do the digging. A statement of intent.
Allan Jenkins’s latest book Morning: How to Make Time is now out in paperback. Order it for £7.91 from guardian bookshop.com