Warm enough for potatoes

After the muted garden tones of winter Spring is showing us what colour is all about. From delicate pinks and hues of creams and yellows, to bright acid orange-reds all off-set with a bright blue sky. The garden year has started with a KERPOW and a WHAM-BAM in real Technicolor.

I’ve been able to get out and about to enjoy some of the sunny blue sky days, principally preparing the ground for the years coming crops. It’s busy, busy, busy.

The soil is dry, the top inch or two is starting to crack and open up. A worrying sign of lack of rain. I must order some bales of straw to help mulch and keep what moisture there is in the ground where it should be.

I normally plant potatoes around Good Friday, a very  traditional date. There are various reasons, more likely conjectures, for why this is a common date it mainly seems that it was when people literally had a day off and so could manage the soil preparation and planting. It’s also around the time when the last heavy killer frosts are receding so the likelihood of the frosts burning the tender new shoots of the potatoes is less likely. Not very romantic but oh so practical.

The other “theory” I’ve heard muted many a time is to plant the potatoes when the ground is warm. But how do you know when it’s warm enough? Well you could go out and buy a soil thermometer, but what dd folk of yore do without such garden gadgets? They sat on the ground and not just any old how but supposedly with their pants down. Fancy testing the soil with your bare behind?

Me neither – so I’ll just guess instead 🙂

I’m away for Easter so planting day has arrived a week early. I won’ t do a show and tell with the potatoes – they are all wrinkly and shrivelled and frankly not very photogenic. I’ll pop them in the ground with a few inches of soil on top and wait for the first green shoots to emerge and then it will be a combination of earthing up and covering up to stop the light getting to the developing potatoes.

Roll on summer for the taste of homegrown new potatoes, you know the ones I mean, the ones that almost melt in your mouth, maybe with some butter and a sprinkling of chives or mint.

Instead of un-photogenic potatoes I’ll share some colourful photos of flowers that I took today – Tulips and Hellebores and the flowers on the Magnolia tree. The tree is at it’s peak and the white and pink of the flowers almost shimmer against a bright blue sky. The scent from the Magnolia is heady and perfumed, almost sweet.

The show put on by the Magnolia won’t last long, soon the leaves will be collecting on the ground, waiting for me to clear them up and behind them there will be the fresh acid-green shoots of leaves. It provides a canopy of green for us in the summer, somewhere to shelter from the rays.

So here’s a burst of sunshine for us all.


  • Love this post! You caught me with that gorgeous close-up of the hellebore. Next thing I knew I was laughing like mad at the dedication of a gardener who would set their bare behind on the cold spring soil. Thanks for this “burst of sunshine!”

    • Thank you, that’s very kind. I was getting frustrated with the quality, I know my big camera and lenses would do a fab job, but I loved the colours so much I had to share them 🙂

  • WOW! WOW! They almost captured my heart, my mind… they are so beautiful. Than k you dear Claire, have a nice weekend, with my love, nia

  • Claire, that top photo of the hellebore is a real stunner, and the rest of the Spring garden is simply glorious! I’m feeling very grateful that you shared your Spring with us. Ours in the Pacific Northwest seems far from arrival, though it can’t possibly be. (can it?) I’ve rarely seen rain like this! We will be so happy, delirious, to see the sun again! Have a lovely Easter Clare!

    • We could do with some of your rain here, but I know what you mean when you look outside and it’s ANOTHER grey day! I hope the sun is around the corner. And thanks for the thumbs up 🙂

  • Good morning .. I love your energized words “kerpow” and “wham bam” .. so true! Those flower photos are just decadent!!! Your season is way ahead of ours! And I must go out and buy some seed potatoes .. yum, sounds so delicious, melted butter in potatoes! And ha ha ha about sitting on the ground!! 🙂

    • Hi there, I guess that’s how I feel right now – energized by what I see around me, so many hopes for the garden, who knows what the reality will be!!

  • Beautiful photos! The magnolia trees around here bloomed early due to two weeks of crazy warm weather, and then right when they were at their peak we had a frost. So now the magnolia trees are covered in brown flowers! So sad!

    • How disappointing about the Magnolias. We’ve been lucky this year as they have bloomed and we haven’t had one of our usual storms. I remember one year the tree had just gone into full bloom, we enjoed it for one day only as the next day – wham a big windy rainy storm shredded the flowers. Living by the sea has it’s drawbacks. Nature!!

  • Have always asipred to owning a magnolia – not sure how it would do out here. And I chuckeld at the image of a bare bottomed country person testing the soil…well, I suppose it´s one way of doing it!

    • I wonder about a Magnolia where you are, they are early bloomers so you might be ok as it would flower before it got too warm. Oooo err I just said bloomers 🙂

    • Thanks Sharyn. Of course they might try it if they thought of it, lets hope for the sake of everyones sanity and decency they don’t hear of it!

  • It took me forever to read your post as I kept stopping so long to admire your photos!! How beautiful nature is!! Have a wonderful weekend!!

  • ok so i’ll be the tacky one and ask if people REALLY used to “drop trou'” and sit in the dirt to assess soil readiness? (or were you telling us about composting?!?)

    • Ha ha, I have no idea if anyone has ever actually done it. It’s just one of those funny things I’ve heard/read about. I can’t eveer imagine doing so myself, I garden in a public space!!!

  • Lovely pictures! True, spuds aren’t very photogenic, but lovely all the same…

    Sadly I suspect my garden is too damp for root vegetables, so if I were to grow spuds I’d have to create a rather tall raised bed so they wouldn’t rot.

      • That might be an option if I can find a part of the garden where it won’t be too much of an eye-sore… Maybe with some peas sown around the cages they won’t be so noticeable? You’ve got my imagination going there! Thanks for the hint.

        My problem is also clay… I’ve got 8 inches of (heavy) top soil and then it’s pure clay, so if I wanted carrots or similar I’d also have to do that “on top of the garden”, so to speak.

        • That’s a great idea, I think peas would work, or maybe sweet peas or climbing nasturtiums. I guess anything that would help disguise the cage.
          Good to meet a fellow clay gardener, it has it’s pluses like rich in nutrients but is tough when you want roots like carrots and parsnips!

          • Also, I will NEVER have to get out the garden hose to water plants… (Also, the water table is about 1½ foot under lawn level, meaning drought is not a risk.)

            I was thinking peas because they’d fit into the vegetable garden and yield a crop, and also they’re harvested around the same time as the potatoes, so I wouldn’t feel guilty ripping them out. -Whereas sweet peas can continue to bloom until early September if you dead-head them, so I’d feel rettible ripping them out before that!

            (Also, I have both perennial and annual sweet peas in several places around the garden, so I won’t be lacking in those anyway. And nasturtiums seem unwilling to grow here, though I can’t understand why; when I was a kid they were fool-proof in my mother’s garden, but in my own they will only produce a couple of leaves and that’s it.)

          • It sounds like peas would work, both for you and the garden! Besides I don’t think you can ever grow too many peas, and finding another place in your garden is a bonus
            Strange about the nasturtiums, I’ve never known them not to grow, I now tend to rely on self sown up at my allotment, but you are lucky to have perennial sweet peas, we used to have them in an old garden in London and you have reminded me of how lovely they are

  • Love the flower close-ups! Normal potato planting time here is end of May, but I gambled and started mine early. Since I plant in a cage, it is easy to cover and the old sprouted potatoes aren’t much of a loss if I lose them all anyway 😉 A gardener must experiment sometimes after all!

    • I definitely agree about experimenting and taking risk, sometimes we benefit and all goes well. Who know’s you may be eating potatoes a month earlier if it works 🙂

  • Such a great set of photos accompanying your post today, Claire. Really beautiful. I’ve read a few others who’ve mentioned planting on Good Friday and have tried to recall whether my Grandfather did the same. As I recall, he planted primarily on the full moon either indoors, in late Winter/early Spring or outdoors, once we were past danger of frost. I’ll have to ask my Aunt, Zia, if she recalls. Oh! Grandpa kept his pants up whenever he was working his garden. 🙂

    • I’m relieved to hear your grandpa kept his pants up in the garden 🙂 Interesting that he planted by the moon phases, it’s something I’ve never got round to trying

  • thank you for your spring time flower delights claire, so refreshing where here the grape leaves are turning red and dropping onto the terrace 🙂

    • You’re welcome, for the last few months bloggers like yourself in the southern hemisphere have kept my spirits up with pictures of bountiful produce and beautiful flowers, so it’s nice to return the favour

  • oh thank you for this burst of colour and spring. Thank you for the laugh too. I’m a pretty dedicated vegetable gardener but think I will pass on the bare bum idea. hee hee.

  • The blooms are just wonderful! They are particularly beautiful as close-up photos! I have never grown potatoes. I presume you need quite a bit of space! It’s very tempting, however…I do love potatoes. I doubt i’ve ever eaten one from the garden! You have a good planting schedule going, Claire! Debra

    • You are right they do need space if grown in the ground, but you can grow them in cages or large sacks which does save on space but might not look so attractive ! Hope you have a great weekend Debra

  • Our weather is a bit tipsy turvy in Toronto, 26C one day and then -4C the next! The poor greenery doesn’t know what to do! Even so, we don’t dare plant anything in these parts before May 24th weekend!

    • My goodness that is a huge difference! I’m guessing that your summer growing season is a short but hopefully a warm and sunny one in Toronto, which in turn must prove a challenge to gardeners

      • Hi, our growing season is May 24 to early October. We generally have to anticipate a frost by mid October, so the garden is pretty much done by then.

        • Our first frosts are around the same time too, but by then the temps have usually dropped and all the summer crops have well and truly stopped growing

    • Hi there your grandparents obviously knew a thing or two!
      And thanks for the award, I must get my act together and write a proper thank you, it’s so kind of you to think of me 🙂

  • Happy Spring to you too! Just drop dead gorgeous photos. Those closeups should all sell as reprints, a true hallmark moment. Really amazing.

    • That’s so kind of you 🙂 And there was me cursing the fact I didn’t have my big camera and decent lens and debating whether to publish the photos on here!!

  • Spring flowers and dreams of freshly dug potatoes! An unlikely yet, ingenious pairing. Gorgeous post Claire!

  • Such beautiful photos that spring seems to be permeating my room and I am in Autumn!
    You are truly talented!

    Choc Chip Uru

  • I am inspired by you to plant some potatoes…maybe sweet potatoes as they are my favorite…or little fingerling potatoes as I love them just as much…or maybe some Yukon Golds…hmmmmm. I guess I love all potatoes. Your photos are so wonderfully Spring!

    • I’ve never tried growing Sweet Poatoes, I think they can be a bit tricky here with the lack of real warmth that they need to grow – our summers a relatively short. But I must give them a try, at least once. And I know what you mean about choice there really are too many to choose from!!

  • What wonderful pictures. I don’t think I’ve ever seen the flower of the potato. And thank you so much for sharing this great beauty.

    • Hi Kevin and thanks for the compliments, I don’t think I should take the credit though, seeing as it’s was nature at work!
      And thank you for the thumbs up – sunshine on a spring day, perfect 🙂

  • Forget the potatoes these photos are a sensation.. so rich and so In Your Face with beauty.. beautiful captures Claire! c

    • Ha ha thanks Celi, yes IN YOUR FACE colours sums the tulips up, I think the hellebores are litle on the shy side of life what with facing downwards all the time. Now I need to pop over and see what you bought!!

  • You have really captured the creamy loveliness of the magnolia in those beautiful photos! I am hovering about planting out the oca I have been gifted and whether it is too soon. But around Good Friday sounds like an excellent calendar hook to do it, so maybe I will do them then. Lovely post 🙂

    • Thank you, the magnolia is now starting to lose its leaves, it’s a shame it’s such a short lived expereince. And thank you fo rreminding me that I have some Oca, I won’t be able to get min ein the ground until mid April (I’m back to France for a few weeks), I’m looking forward to my first attempts at growing this veggie!

  • You mean to tell me those all grow where you live, Claire? Wow, I’m definitely in need of a vacation or new place of residence… we never get anything even close to this. I absolutely adore magnolia.. bought one little branch for my kitchen and they lasted 3 days.. sigh xoxo Smidge… ps glad you’re not checking the temperature of the soil like that;)

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