We finally started planting tatties today, having been delayed by prolonged snow, frozen ground, sodden ground following the thaw and a broken rotavator. The ideal planting time would be mid-April, but we keep a few weeks grace up our sleeve. The main thing is to allow the main crop potatoes to have had at least 20 weeks in the ground come the tattie holidays in mid-October. And, speaking of holidays, it was a Bank Holiday today so I had the OH and the boys on hand to get the job started.
With the potatoes laid in their furrows, I used the push plough to start turning the ridges over the tubers. Two or three passes with the plough are required to make a good start ridging up the potatoes. We plant first earlier 30cm (12 inches) apart, second earlies 38cm (15 inches) and main crop 45cm (18 inches)—essentially a wellie boot apart, then a wellie plus three inches in front, and then a wellie with three inches behind and three in front. The rows are set 35 inches apart because that’s the wheelbase of the 1950s tattie lifter we sometimes use to harvest the crop. Each row is 50 metres (54 yards) long.
An alternative to using the push plough are hoes, either my heavy digging one or the slightly lighter ridging hoe wielded by the Other Half. When we used the hoes, I worked above the furrow, split the downhill ridge and pulled the soil uphill. The OH worked below the furrow and pulled the remaining half of the ridge downhill. I’d start and she’d wait until I was a yard ahead before following me down the row. Both plough and hoe are hard work, both take about the same amount of time. The main advantage of using both methods is they use different muscle groups and involve different postures, so when one gets backbreaking we can switch to the other.
Passing motorists, walkers, cyclists and horse riders all slow, look, look again, and shake their heads before moving rapidly on. Occasionally, older people stop and reminisce about grandparents working like this in the old days, then mutter “but you wouldn’t get me doing that”. Strangely, no one every volunteers to join us—even if we insist it really is good fun!