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Back Ache!!

When I had my faulty hip replacement, replaced last January, I asked the surgeon if he could fit a hinge across the base of my back at the same time, to give me more flexibility whilst digging, weeding and carrying out general gardening jobs. Well if he did, it certainly needs oiling today. At the beginning of last week, due to the weather forecasts predicting rain and the general drop in temperatures here, I decided it was time to lift the remainder of my main crop Potatoes, from the main bed on N2 Plot, before the area got too wet and rot started to set in. I stopped the digging/cleaning work on Bed 2 and began the task of lifting the Potatoes last Tuesday. To date just over half the Potato bed has been turned over down to sub-soil level and the Potatoes lifted. Due to the months of dry weather the clay soil is rock solid, with only a few centimeters of surface top soil being loose. Most of the Potatoes have developed close to the surface, (the roots being unable to penetrate downwards through the compacted clay), mainly in the top soil that I added earlier this year from my front garden project. Lucky that.

Potatoes Developed Close to the Grounds Surface
Most of the Potatoes Developed Close to the Surface Due to Dry Weather and Compacted Clay 8/September/13

Funny Looking Fellow

 I started the digging/lifting the Potatoes at the lower south end of the bed where the soil is in partial shade from the nearby hedgerow. The first meter or so of ground was well flooded during last Winter & Spring. The first plant I lifted in the bottom corner had been affected by blight and was of no use, with the tubers being well rotted in the ground. The plant, tubers and surrounding soil were placed inside a plastic bag for disposal. Moving along the rank no other plants were affected and due to the damp condition of the soil, which was fairly loose here, the potatoes were coming thick and fast with some huge sizes and up to 12 per plant. As I progressed up the slope the ground became drier and totally compacted underneath the plants, making lifting them and forking the soil over, difficult to say the least. The amount and sizes of the potatoes lessened somewhat as I continued up the bed. By Thursday I had swapped my potato fork for a spade which enabled me to slice the soil more easily, breaking it down as I progressed. The removal of weeds and returning Dandelions was done at the same time. Overnight rain on Thursday night with some fairly heavy showers on Friday afternoon softened the soil a little but not enough to make the deeper clay softer. Large clumps of clay and sub soil were lifting away together. Each one of these had to be broken down finer using the spade.

Cleaning Bed 2 Lifting Potatoes Main Bed
Half Way Down Bed 2 (Left) - Half Way Up Main Bed (Right) 8/September/13
Weather permitting the rest of the spuds will be lifted this coming week. So far most of the tubers are of good quality and only the ones from the lower reaches of the bed showed any signs of scab due to the acidic nature of the soil. About half a dozen tubers have been affected by slugs. So all in all the back breaking work has been worth it. I will certainly continue to sow Desiree in future, for their quantity, size, all round cooking quality and a general resistance to slug damage.

Some of the Harvested Desiree 8/September/13

 With the recent change to cooler, still sunny, but not hot, weather, my Runner beans have finally started some prolific production from the top of the plants. About 10 pounds were picked yesterday and are now in the freezer. My French climbing beans have just about stopped production now, should have sown more this year. Sweetcorn on Plot N1 has mostly been harvested and used but the second sowing on N2 Plot is still producing excellent cobs. Most of the Brassicas and Leeks have perked up since the onset of the cooler conditions and some rain, with the Black grapes almost ready to harvest, probably this coming week. Taking a break from lifting Potatoes on Friday morning, my overwintering Onions were sown on N1 Plot with another 2 rows to be added this week.

Caterpillars Eating Sprout Plants
Caterpillars Feasting On My Sprout Plants 8/September/13

Lots of caterpillars have been hatching over the past few days, mainly the offspring of Cabbage white butterflies that have been fluttering around abundantly recently. A word of warning check your brassicas now. I spent half an hour today removing caterpillars from my Sprout and young Cauliflower plants.

Tomatoes Slow To Ripen
Tomatoes Still Ripening 1 At A Time 8/September/13

Bumble Bee on Marigold
Large Bumble Bee On 1 of My Marigolds 8/September/13

 There's always tomorrow!!!    



  1. Our soil was easier to manage after the rain. As for backache. I get an achy back when I stand in one position for too long such as when I'm preparing the runner beans for freezing!

    1. We haven't had enough rain since the beginning of the year to make a difference to the soil structure. I know what you mean about aches and pains when standing still, I usually get cramp in my fingers or legs when prepping veg.

  2. Great potato harvest - thank goodness I don't have clay soil - it does sound like backbreaking work. I am sure I planted some King Edwards all the foliage has gone so I will have to have a furtle round for them. I still have loads of unripened tomatoes - I am gradually picking them to ripen in the greenhouse now as I think we've run out of hot weather!

    1. Hi Elaine, I feel like its been all digging again, but its the only way to loosen up the soil at the moment. Like your King Edwards, I've had to scrape around to find a few plant roots where the foliage has gone missing from, in patches. Looks like colder weather as you say, another few weeks of sun and warmth would have been helpful.

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