Now is the time to start chitting potatoes. This is when you carefully place your seed potatoes with most of the eyes facing upwards so that the sprouts start to develop before they are planted.
This potato has already started to sprout but the shoot is very pale. Now it is in the light any new sprouts will be green and much sturdier.
The term ‘seed potato’ is something of a misnomer as they are not seeds but tiny potatoes. Although it would be possible to collect seed from potatoes they would take longer to develop into productive plants. Moreover, they would not be ‘true’ to the plant from which they had been collected as they would be the result of sexual reproduction and combine characteristics from both parents (including some unexpected, and perhaps unwelcome, characteristics from past generations). By using tiny potatoes we are able to make clones of the original parent which means that the plants are exact reproductions of the one from which it was taken.
I was therefore able to choose a variety (Arran Pilot) which I know will have a waxy texture which is perfect to serve in a salad and another (Red Duke of York) which is more floury and suitable for roasting. They are both ‘first earlies’ which are the quickest to be ready to harvest. I expect to harvest both of these before the end of the summer term. ‘Second earlies’ and ‘maincrop’ potatoes on the other hand will probably be ready in the summer holidays or when the current cohort of children has moved on to the next class.
The Potato Council has a project called ‘Grow Your Own Potatoes’ which sends potatoes and growing bags into schools for children to grow. Sadly, registrations are closed for this year. However, it is still worth taking a look at their website which is full of materials about growing and weighing potatoes.
If you plan to grow potatoes in bags you will only need a few. I managed to find bags of six in Yorkshire Trading. It is no doubt an expensive way to buy potatoes if you are adding up the cost of each potato. However, I have purchased two varieties for less than a larger bag in which all of the potatoes would have been the same. If you can’t find any small bags why not put a shout out in your school news letter or website. You may well have a gardening parent or grandparent who would be more than happy to donate a few seed potatoes.
- find out and describe how seeds and bulbs grow into mature plants
- identify and describe the funcions of different parts of flowering plants: roots, stem/trunk, leaves and flowers
- (The World ELG) make observations of plants, explain why some things occur and talk about changes
- (The World 30-50 months) develop and understanding of growth, decay and changes over time
This photograph of my bees was taken on Sunday 24th January. The bees should be forming a cluster deep in the hive; instead they are as busy as they were in the summer. They are not alone; there reports up and down the country of wildlife from daffodils to slow worms, which is out of season, confused by the mild weather.
This muddies the water somewhat when looking for signs of spring with younger children! However, whether signs of spring are very early or at the expected time, noticing them can be a wonderful opportunity to involve children in ‘Citizen Science’. This is when data is collected from a large number of ‘ordinairy’ people and used by scientists. A good example of citizen science is the Big Garden Bird Watch (this weekend and until February 2nd in schools) which has been running for nearly forty years and has been used to track the changing fortunes of British birds.
The Woodland Trust also collects data from as many people as possible about the first signs of spring and autumn. They ask that people look out for certain signs such as the first snowdrop flower or the first ladybird and record them on their ‘Nature’s Calendar‘. They then use this information to track the progress of spring accross the country and to monitor long term climate changes. If you live in the UK I think that this would be a lovely thing to do with your class and perhaps involve families too
Bare winter branches of a crab apple against the winter sky
Tonight the weather forecaster was predicting the coldest night of the year so far. We are clearly in the depths of winter. Nevertheless, it is not too early to take your class out to look for the first signs of spring.
In fact, because it has been such a mild winter some signs of spring are already well advanced! Above is a flower bud opening on a Kerria Japonica. Below, some daffodils, well on the way to flowering.
It is interesting though, that although some signs of spring are much more advanced than one would expect in an ‘average’ year, others refused to be rushed.
These snow drops are just poking their heads above ground; exactly as I would expect in the middle of January. I wonder why some plants are more affected more by variations in the weather than others?
These hazel catkins are also at about at the same stage as I would expect for the time of year.
On the other hand, this rhubarb is at least a month further on than usual!
If taking children out to look for signs of spring the chances are that you will encourage them to take photographs so that they have a record of the changes. Do consider taking a sound recorder too; I wonder if there will be any change in the bird song in the weeks ahead?