I cannot remember what name was given to March in the French revolutionary calendar. Something to do with potatoes, I imagine: this is the month to buy, chit, and plant your first earlies. I understand that traditionalists would put things off a little longer, and certainly it is true that seed potatoes will rot in cold, wet ground: also, the young haulms are vulnerable to frost.
potatoes should be small, sweet, and soon, and if this year is anything
like the last, they should be lifted and eaten before the rains come,
and the attendant blight. Raised beds will warm up more quickly than open ground; the latter can
be prepared with black plastic, which also suppresses weeds, and, of
course, sacks and containers can be put in a sheltered position - and
moved later, if appropriate. Even if you prefer to plant later, it
might be best to buy now: last year was just as bad for the big
producers as it was for the rest of us, and stocks of some varieties
will be limited. Egg boxes on the windowsill, then; rose end uppermost,
and for first earlies, don't rub off any of the chits. Plant ten or
twelve inches apart (twice that, for maincrops) and about six inches
deep - and remember to earth up, when they start to grow. This
suppresses weeds, and prevents sunlight reaching the tubers, which makes
them go all green and toxic.
And for the confirmed traditionalists....Head gardeners used to decide whether the ground was warm enough for planting by dropping their trousers, and lowering their bare bottoms onto the soil. The law being what it is, one cannot wholeheartedly recommend this course of action.
This is also the time of year when the rising temperatures help compost decompose, leaving room to add more. Doubtless I am preaching to the converted, but if you have not already got a heap or a bin, do please try to fit one in somewhere. There are few more effective, or more personal ways of making your lifestyle sustainable. Also you get better vegetables.
Our thanks to Jon Gunson of TTL for sharing his knowledge of spuds.