Thursday, March 15, 2007
Tatties ‘chittin’ in Scotland
The weather might still be bitterly cold here in the Scottish Borders, but you can always tell spring is getting closer when the first of the year’s big events start taking place.
First up was Potato Day, staged earlier this month by the Borders Organic Gardeners group. This annual event - a similar Apple Day is held in the autumn - attracts several hundred people to persue a wide selection of seed potato varieties which they can buy to grow in their own gardens.
A few of the potato varieties on sale are of the larger commercial nature you find in your supermarket, but on the whole, they are varities which have been around for a long time but which are not popular with supermarkets because of their colour or size.
This year Ally and I bought old varieties such as Arran Pilot and Homeguard which date from around the time of the First World War.
Currently, ‘oor tatties’, as we’d say here in Bonnie Scotland, are doing what gardeners call ‘chitting’. This means we have them in old egg boxes, with the end with most ‘eyes’ facing upwards, waiting for the first signs of their tiny shoots starting to sprout.
Once that happens, a few weeks later will see us planting them out in our small vegetable plot. In the three years we have been in our present house, we have had mixed success when it comes to vegetable growing.
Our first year saw most of our crops eaten by rabbits and pigeons. But the last two years have seen us fare better, with good harvests of tatties, leeks, onions and strawberries.
Last summer I decided to ensure our strawberries and raspberries were protected from the unwanted attentions of various pests by building a fruit cage around them.
True, it does look like something London Zoo would be proud to have in its aviary section to house eagles in, but, hey, what’s the point of doing something by halves?
The next step will be to dig the vegetable beds over again, before asking our kindly farmer neighbour for a trailer load of cow manure to dig in as compost.
This will be mixed with our own home-made compost, which has included uncooked kitchen waste and garden trimmings for the past 12 months.
I learned a valuable lesson last year about making your own compost - if you are going to throw eggs into it, make sure you crack them first. Trust me, year-old eggs suddenly breaking open on a hot May day have a smell that’s difficult to describe in words.
Daffodils and crocuses are already in bloom in many places across the Borders, including a few in our garden.
By the looks of things, it won’t be long before the lawnmower has to come out of storage either.
But I have to admit that it is true what they say about vegetables and fruit you grow yourselves tasting better than what you buy.
And if I spot any more rabbits or pigeons trying to eat them this year, I’ll be finding out if that adage holds true for eating things you shoot yourself as well!
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