Friday 31 January 2020

Sweet Potato Edible and Ornamental Trio

I received a News Update from Thompson & Morgan revealing their Top 10 new additions of the best plant introductions launched in the their 2020 Spring Catalogue.

No 1 to 8 are all flowers and as much as I like flowers on the allotment I like to grow things I can eat

No 10 is the Low in carbs and high in fibre NEW Winter Squash Potatoes Duo that I blogged about in October and then again in December last year

No 9 is Pretty and tasty NEW Sweet Potato Edible and Ornamental Trio
- Colourful and tasty sweet potatoes
- High in antioxidants
- Heavy cropping for great results
Compact varieties are perfect for growing in large patio pots. Our photos show how pretty these ornamental sweet potatoes are, but you'll have to taste them to believe their flavour. Heavy yields mean you'll be surprised at harvest time too. Perfect additions to sunny borders, their compact growth makes them ideal for large patio pots too. The trio includes Tahiti, Tatakoto and Makatea.
TT. 20cm (8in). Harvest: Sept-Oct. Full sun.
Now sweet potatoes are something I like to eat, but something I have not tried growing in the past. My bother-in-law had a try a few years ago from slips and didn’t get a very good yield form what he planted and concluded that for him the cost was prohibitive and he didn’t try them again.

However a few years on and Thompson & Morgan are selling plants not slips at less than half price, so it has to be worth a go.

3 x 105mm potted sweet potato plants for £9.99 saving £10.98
6 x 105mm potted sweet potato plants for £17.99 saving £23.95

Delivery by the end of May 2020

They are also potted and not slips. The web site does not make it clear if all 3 are in one pot or in separate pots and if so what size or if it’s a bulb of soil in plastic, so it’s going to be interesting to see what arrives when it arrives and I will photograph the condition they arrive in and post to the blog for your information.  

Information from Thompson & Morgan’s Sweet Potato Edible and Ornamental Trio page


The Treasure Island Series comes from an innovative breeding programme producing Sweet Potato plants as ornamental edibles. The attractive foliage can be harvested as nutritious salad leaves until early autumn when the plants are lifted for their crop of delicious tubers.

This was something I didn’t know about sweet potatoes

These compact plants look equally at home on the patio as they are in the vegetable plot, making superb foliage plants throughout the summer. Height and spread: 1.5m (59").
Sweet Potato Trio comprises:

Sweet Potato 'Makatea' - Bright green, heart-shaped foliage and orange-flushed tubers in autumn.

Sweet Potato 'Tahiti' – A striking variety with eye-catching dark purple tubers.

Sweet Potato 'Tatakoto' – A winning combination of Ivy-shaped foliage with purple-skinned, orange-fleshed tubers.

How To Grow

Gradually acclimatise sweet potato plants to outdoor conditions over 7-10 days prior to planting directly outside once all risk of frost has passed. Sweet potatoes require high temperatures of 24-26°C (74-78°F).

Planting them through black plastic will provide extra warmth in cooler climates. When growing sweet potato in particularly cold areas they are best grown in greenhouse borders or under cloches.

Plant sweet potatoes 30cm (12") apart, leaving 75cm (30") between rows. Grow sweet potatoes in rich fertile, light sandy well drained soil. They prefer an acid or neutral soil in full sun. Prepare the soil in early spring by adding plenty of well-rotted manure or garden compost to the soil to improve its structure and fertility. Water generously after planting.

More Info

Water sweet potato plants regularly and hoe between plants to prevent weeds from establishing. Provide a thick mulch of organic matter around the base of the plants to help conserve moisture and reduce weed growth. Spread the stems out around the plant and cut back to the growing tips to encourage more lateral stems to develop. Harvest sweet potatoes in late summer approximately 12 to 16 weeks after planting, when the foliage begins to turn yellow and die back.

Culinary note: Culinary uses of sweet potato are similar to potatoes - boil, steam, bake, fry, mash or batter fry as 'tempura'. The leaves and tips of young shoots can be cooked as a spinach substitute.

I found additional information on the Thompson & Morgan web site on How to grow sweet potatoes in the UK. It’s very informative and expands on the information found on the Sweet Potato Trio (Treasure Island Series) web page

Thursday 30 January 2020

Mentioned In Dispatches II

Thompson & Morgan asked their favourite bloggers for their top tips for an article called Top Tips ForAllotments” and yours truly is featured.

Below are my full answers to their questions 

How To Plan Your Plot 

I started my Allotment Journal off as a Blog page in 2012 when I got my first half plot. On the top of my blog are pages, Plans for Mill Green Plot 1 , Plans for Mill Green Plot 1A and Sowing and Planting Plan

How To Make Your Allotment More Productive  

I have a drawing of both of my plots and I use those to plan and rotate my beds. With a growing number of beds becoming available in 2020 the dynamic will change next year. My Journal / blog keeps my reviews for the past and To Do List for the future. It also keeps the catalogue of what's in my seed boxes and what I plan to grow each year.

How To Decide What To Grow On Your Allotment 

When I first got my allotment we had a family meeting to work out what I should grow and that logically works out to be what we like to eat. 

How To Choose between old favourites and New Varieties 

I'm the kind of allotment owner that likes to try new and old varieties and I have been fortunate with seed sales and also being sent new varieties by Seed companies to trial. I also like to try growing something new, last year was Kiwano, this year are two varieties of melon.

Top Tips To Get The Most From Your Allotment

With regards advice and care tips to ensure best crops and max enjoyment of the allotment lifestyle, read what it says on the back of seed packets and also look on the suppliers web sites and take notice of the growing advice. 

Do little and often and never let a weed see a Sunday if at all possible. 

The allotment should be your happy place where no worries exist and it's cheaper than therapy. 

If you start digging you will always attract the interest of at least one robin who will keep you company, listen to your waffling but never answer any of your questions. Then comes the day when you crack making compost and you never realised that attracting so many worms would put a smile that large on your face.  

 I could not help myself when turning and filling up the Daleks.

Wednesday 29 January 2020

Bio Green FireFly & Candles

One of the nice things about keeping my gardening journal in the form of a blog is that over the last eight years and three allotment plots is that the readership has steadily increased and that it has become popular and is mentioned in dispatches by the likes of Thompson & Morgan, Marshalls, Waltons and Mr Fothergill and that various manufacturers and suppliers of seeds, plants & gardening equipment ask me to trial and review new varieties of vegetables and new gardening products.

I’ve been attending the Gardening Press Event annually for the last five years and I tend to get gardening press releases sent to me for information purposes, plus the industry now knows that bloggers are a useful resource to assist in marketing new products and companies.

On October the 7th 2019 I received a press release from a gardening marketing company saying:-

Here's a handy (and pretty) way of keeping small greenhouses frost free. If you need any more information, please do not hesitate to get in touch.
NEW PRODUCT: The Firefly helps keep small greenhouses frost free

Sub-zero temperatures are the traditional enemy of delicate greenhouse plants – but now there’s a cost-conscious and environmentally friendly way to keep Jack Frost at bay.

The Firefly, from the gardening experts at Bio Green, is a decorative frost guard made from terracotta. Its heat source is an eco-friendly candle – made from biomass not paraffin - which burns for up to 48 hours and produces enough heat to keep a small greenhouse or cold frame above freezing.

The FireFly both saves energy costs and makes an attractive addition to a greenhouse
Bio Green’s Matt Evans said: “Keeping frost at bay is a perennial issue for gardeners. In 2010 the UK experienced an astonishing 90 days below freezing. Whilst we can’t predict what the winter will bring, it makes sense to be prepared and this pretty and affordable frost guard really does the trick.”

The FireFly’s mushroom-shaped lid stores heat from the candle so that scented oils, when poured into its integral glazed bowl, can be heated by the candle below.

The FireFly weighs just 2KG and can also be used in any room in the house to burn essential oils.

I contacted the marketing company as I had never heard of Bio Green and I was interested in the FireFly and wanted more information especially as I was already using candle heated Terracotta pots to keep my small Norfolk Space Saver Greenhouse frost free

I have to say the FireFly looks a whole lot more posh & decorative than my home made heater. The mushroom-shaped lid has two functions; it stores the heat from the candle and then radiates that into the surrounding air, or alternatively the glazed recess in the top can be filled with a wide variety of scented oils. 

The sales brochure also suggests that the FireFly can also be used as an attractive eye-catcher on a balcony or terrace.

Early December I received a reply to my request that at long last the FireFly has arrived in the UK – and just in time for the big freeze. If I still would like one to trial to send them my address and they would make the magic happen which it did just before Christmas

Included in my trial pack was the Bio Green Brochure, three candles and a covering letter from Matt Evans the UK Marketing Manager for the company. The FireFly was shipped in another cardboard box and as you can see the terracotta pot and lid were well packed. The candles were inside the pot, now when you purchase the product currently it does not come with a candle

Bio Green FireFly Candles are made from biomass and are a truly sustainable alternative to paraffin. No petroleum is used to make FireFly candles and the rainforest is left untouched, which is a good thing at the rate they are burning it.

No raw materials are used that could otherwise be used as food or animal feed. Conservation of resources and CO2 avoidance are convincing arguments in favour of FireFly biomass candles.

·         CO2-neutral and sustainable
·         Burning time min. 48 hours per candle
·         Conservation of resources and CO2 avoidance
·         Biomass candles

As I said the FireFly looks a whole lot more posh & decorative than my home made heater, the mushroom-shaped lid has two functions; it stores the heat from the candle and then radiates that into the surrounding air.

An alternative use is as a table heater/lamp for the summer evenings, is as an attractive eye-catcher on a balcony or terrace, table. Using the glazed bowl in the top filled with a wide variety of scented oils or Citronella to keep the bugs away..

I firmly believe that the Firefly should come with at least one Firefly Candle to get you started, and it appears in talking to Matt Evans that this view is feedback that they have already heard from those that have seen the FireFly in the UK at Glee Birmingham in 2019.

Now would be a good time to tell you a little bit about who Bio Green are, based on conversations and emails I’ve had with Matt Evans their UK Sales Manager.

Bio Green is a family business formed in 1984 manufacturing gas heaters in Bischoffen an area in central Germany, and they are still a family business today run by Alfred and Jan Brusius.

Bio Green were voted the number one gardening brand in Germany in 2018 & 2019 in the 'Winter Protection' category. and the Awards can be seen on their brochure. Obviously Germany is their largest market but, they also supply France, Holland, Belgium and Scandinavia.

In 2019 they made inroads into America and opened a warehouse there last year, and in 2020 they are looking to make the same inroads into the UK despite Brexit. They currently bring all UK products in from Germany but plan to open a UK warehouse in the near future once the UK business is big enough repeating the success found in America.

Historically Bio Green have only supplied the UK online and mail order companies, such as Two Wests and Elliot, Keengardener, Harrod, LBS Horticulture & Suttons to name a few. 

Matt’s aim is to get Bio Green into bricks and mortar retail. Bio Green now have listings with Hillier's, British Garden Centre Group, Home Hardware & Wynnstay plus

Where will you be able to purchase Firefly and the Firefly Candles?

Amazon will be selling them shortly, the 1 to 3 months is because unlike the candles Amazon don't have the stock in their web site just yet. The other thing to consider is the Recommended Retail Price (RRP). 

As with all things gardening it will pay to shop around. The RRP in the News Letter was £29.99 Amazon have them tagged at £34.99 

Suttons are already selling the FireFly in a Sale below the RRP of £29.99 at £24.99

I have placed a Link on the image of the 2019-2020 Bio Green Brochure in the left hand side information panel of this Blog so you can see what other interesting products they are bringing to the UK despite Brexit. I'm looking forward to getting to play with some of these products as they start growing the distribution network and more of their products hit the UK 

Product Evaluation 

I know that candles and terracotta pots work because I understand the theory and I have been using them for at least the last six to seven years with 8 hour tea lights under, what I don’t know and have never actually bothered to measured is just how warm these devices actually get too.  

I know it’s too hot to hold in the hand once alight for some time, which is why I’m guessing the mushroom lid to the firefly has a handle.

For my day time job as a Structural Engineer and Party Wall Surveyor, I happen to own a Digital Infrared Handheld Temperature Non-Contact IR Laser Point not unlike the one in the photo left and I will be testing both my original and the BioGreen Firefly heaters to see just how much radiant heat they put out after an hour of use.

Give it a few weeks and as soon as I have seedlings and potatoes chitting in the Space Saver greenhouse that need frost protection.I will have a play and report my findings on the blog and a comparison between the FireFly and the home built version so keep an eye out for the review or use the BioGreen or FireFly labels on the left panel to find all postings and updates.  

Tuesday 28 January 2020

Mentioned In Dispatches

Waltons the company known more for their Garden Sheds, Log Cabins, Garden Rooms and Summer Houses and not so much for their Garden Fencing, Greenhouses, Playhouses and outdoor Living products, sent me a copy of their January Blog newsletter.

The newsletter includes articles by their favourite bloggers and I’m one of those featured in Waltons favourite January blogging stories, which I have to say is quite an honour. Here are links to all those featured this month.

If you’re still looking for 2020 Resolutions, try Rachel’s green goals on Sustainably Simple. With easy swaps & more!

Moving house? Spruce up your abode and find 10 ways to add kerb appeal (and value) on the Waltons blog

If you love houseplants, this is the upcycling tutorial for you. Fresh from My Thrifty Life's Cassie, her indoor nursery is a quick and easy project for any budding DIY-er.

Fancy some winter gardening inspiration? Then check out No Dig Home. With a thriving allotment, check out what green-fingered Steph has been harvesting.

How are you keeping the gardening spirit alive this winter? Life on Pig Row's Andrew, suggests going against the grain and forcing strawberries! Curious? Read on

Do you know what the three forest garden essentials are? Anni at Anni's Veggies tells us the answer, and more in this reflective winter post.

How do you keep your seed collection tidy? Cadalot's Alan's cataloguing system has taken six years to craft, and we think it’s something to behold!

Looking for a cheesy spread that’s suitable for Veganuary? Then Annabelle’s herby cashew concoction is the perfect solution. Learn more on The The Flexitarian.

Monday 27 January 2020

How Curious

I found this plant in my greenhouse, but I don't recall sowing any seeds in that pot!

Sunday 26 January 2020

Seven More Raised Beds Built

The weather has been very cold and we have had a good deal of rain in January but looking at the weather forecast for Sunday Morning there was only 15% chance of rain/ My daughter asked if I would like to borrow her husband for the morning and she would look after my wife and I obviously said yes.

We managed to screw seven raised beds together and have stacked them on the last two raised bed that have been dug and weeded. It's amazing how much clearer the plot is looking now that the timber is together and in one place.  We also laid the weed membrane between the two stacks of raised beds and wood chipped the paths between and behind the bed towers.  

The area in front of the stacked raised beds has been cleared of the weathered secondhand weed membrane that I was using to suppress the weeds and the heavy duty tarp has been laid down in an attempt to reduce the amount of water seeping through to make the soil more workable. 

A quick serious selfie of Andy and myself in front of this morning's work as I was trying to learn to use the new phone camera. 

A not so serious selfie after working out the camera on the new phone 

Leafs from the water butts finally decanted into the temporary holding cage made of the bottom of bread baskets. 

Good progress on the to do list for the month and the plot is looking clearer and more tidy with each visit. So good to see real progress and I'm hoping to borrow my son-in-law again shortly as we work well together and I think and hope he enjoys it ! 

Thursday 23 January 2020

Rose Arch off Freecycle

Nice little find on Freecycle just a couple of miles down the road from a very nice lady who bought it then moved property and does not have a use for it in her new garden.

I have a good idea what the Gherkins will be growing up this year. Next year I will move it to the entrance to the plot and perhaps grow some flowers up it.

Using the code on the box it appears it came from Argos and cost £15

I do like to keep an eye on Freecycle and have had some very useful items off it including the majority of the paving slabs that I have for my paths on both of my plots.

Monday 20 January 2020

Sunday 19 January 2020

Two More Beds Dug and Weeded

Yesterday it was cold and I spent the afternoon cutting some more weed membrane for used under the wood chip paths. This morning when I went out to scrape the ice off the car windscreens it was -2C. By the time I made it to the allotment at around 8:45 it was -1C and there was a thick layer of frost everywhere and the rain water in the wheel barrow had frozen and there was a layer of ice about 10mm think on top. 

The builder who has been converting the old office / industrial units building to residential have built for want of a better description a single story brick building to house services equipment to the development. 

They have built it off the concrete slab that was already there and it does not have an independant foundation and they chose to build in front of the dog leg 225mm wide wall that has a 20mm crack in it and has moved and rotated. 

I'm not surprised the whole thing was supposed to be completed mid last year and in fact one of our plot holders have bought one of the top floor flats. Seeing the quality or lack thereof of the construction work and their method of limping along for the last five years I would not touch a property in there with a barge pole!.  

Electric cables and other comms cables have been sitting on top of the boundary wall since they set up the site, but for the last few weeks they have been dangling over my storage area and shed at the dog leg in the wall. My chair and wheelie bins were covered in 9 bricks and mortar snots from the brickwork. 

I was not best pleased when I saw what they had done, especially as I have no hose or water to wash off the snots and clean up the area. 

I did manage to attract their attention and finally they found someone who could speak English, which was the same guy who promised me the cables were going to be built into the wall and it would all be done last Monday. 

I reminded them that they said the cables would be gone two weeks ago and that I wanted it sorted straight away or I would take matters in my own hands to remedy the situation returning the ends to them. Who was I kidding as if I would cut them I could electrocute myself, but I had to appear bonkers and angry enough to actually do it.   

My daughter has not often see me loose it, and I could see on her face that she was a little shocked. We went and got on with digging the outer bed and I saw the cables being played with and pointed it out to her. It was funny how it went from the cables were not long enough to them suddenly being able to resolve the problem, so they must have found some slack in the cables somewhere.

Where as I would have normally disposed of their plastic debris that had blown over and onto my plot it was gathered and returned over the wall.

View from the dog leg on the wall looking up the plot at the end of the morning work The yellow tarp will be the next area to be turned over and the two long blues boxes in the area that will be the bed to the right of it will need to me moved and stored somewhere until I can erect them as a fruit cage. 

View from the side of the Greenhouse looking out towards the rest of the allotment. The newly dug beds have been left uncovered for Beautiful the Robin to help himself to anything he can find, and for the frost to help break up the soil a little more.  

Next visit I need to take my drill and screw the frame in the bottom left of the picture together and perhaps pre drill a number of the other long boards ready for assembly. 

Once again thanks to my daughter Emma for coming to help on the plot and my daughter Kelly for being at home Sunday morning and making sure my wife was up OK and had her morning cup of tea and was settled in before she went out for the day.

Friday 17 January 2020

Storm Brendan - The Aftermath.

Because I'm our allotment site rep I received an email from our allotment management company idverde that a greenhouse ended up in the back gardens that are behind our allotment, but the person who found it had captured it and took it apart and saved it. The taking apart made me think it has to be a Blow Away Greenhouse/ Polytunnel and turned out I was right. There is a reason they are referred too as Blow aways by allotment holders.  

So last night I went down in the dark after work in the rain to look to see who's tunnel/ greenhouse was missing. I managed to put the plot holder in contact with the person who captured it and stopped it causing any more trouble so that man and Greenhouse can be reunited today. 

A visit on Saturday to recover items and tidy will be in order methinks as I could see missing items on my plot but it was too dark and wet to go hunting last night. 

Anyone else have problems with Storm Brendan?