How to grow Sweet potatoes in the UK

Ok first thing I’m not an expert, most facts regarding sweet potatoes you can find out by googling. There isn’t however, a great deal specifically for growing them in the UK.
I started growing them from a few plants 3 years ago (which is expensive) and now I’ve moved on to plugs which I’ve grown on with good yield and size. They cost £15 for 12 plugs which I think is a good price especially if you go in with others. I had 12 plants this year and found it was too much, 6 is probably a good number to manage.

I tried to cultivate slips from a few runts I found leftover last year but they only produced roots. I’m determined this year to store the tubers better and select healthier ones to produce slips from. The difficulty is to provide enough warmth and sun light for them over winter. Ideally they probably need to be started in March or early April but sweet potatoes don’t store that long. If I fail then I’ll look to get hold of an organic chemical free sweet potato from a shop, watch this space!
Anyway, whether you have plants, plugs or slips plant them on in 10ltr pots as soon as possible with a mixture of normal compost and ericaceous. I find sweet potatoes prefer a slightly more acidic ph!

Keep these pots in the greenhouse/somewhere sunny and warm until mid to late May. Sweet potatoes like loamy, sandy slightly acidic soil so prepare a bed with this in mind. They also require depth, not for the tubers but for the roots, and space because the vines will spread.
I’ve read advice to plant them in mounds but I found as the tubers grow they poke out of the mounds especially with watering. They need lots of heat and lots of water. When first planted use fleece or cloche.

I created a hedgehog which would have been great if we hadn’t had the hottest summer on record! It did however slow down evaporation, a polytunnel would be ideal!

Even with a heatwave you can’t have too much heat with sweetpotatoes, you just have to make sure they are well watered. They also respond well to a feed of sulphate of potash. The leaves can be eaten like spinach and have more health benefits/vitamins than the tuber itself!
Harvest time is advised when the vines start to die back and before the first frost. My plants have never flowered nor died back. I harvest from the beginning of September as they are more or less ready, you can try and promote more growth by fleecing and feeding but if you have 12 plants you have to get stuck in.
When you harvest try and dig around the plant as much as possible and gently prise the plant up. Any damage to a tuber will prevent storage. The main tubers will be directly under the stem

When harvested unlike most veg they are not at their best, they need to ‘cure’ to bring out the sweetness. They need warmth (over 15c) and a bit of moisture for 4-5 days or even longer. An ideal place is an airing cupboard but not many households have these any more. A bathroom is a good place due to the humidity unfortunately there is probably a toilet as well!

The tubers I have harvested are now in potato bags in a cupboard. I’m due a slicer and dehydrator next week so I’ll be making chips/crisps. I have also blanched and frozen some, great for babies!
I have also started some off to produce slips, this will be an ongoing experiment of which I will post the results on twitter. Please post comments below if you have further advice. Thanks

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Six on Saturday 30/6/18

When does Wimbledon start? That’s when it usually rains doesn’t it?

No rain for the whole of June for me, my allotment is in big trouble. If we get a hose pipe ban and the stream dries up that could be game over.

We don’t have water at our allotment to keep the cost down. I do have a 1000ltr IBC tank which dried up a few weeks ago. I have buckets, bins and barrels which I fill and take to the plot, my car is very soggy!

I’ve also put woodchip everywhere and mulched the veg with rotted manure. Every time I water I do a litte weeding as well, don’t want those drinking the water!

Anyway my six involves the allotment whilst it still looks ok

1- This flower wall was going to be for Strawberries but I changed my mind when I had Lobelia, Marigolds and Fuschias all germinating. It was a mistake adding Marigolds as they’re greedy and don’t really fit in with the aesthetics but still nice!

The boys have discovered they can pop the Fuschias!

2- Harvesting with the boys, my eldest isn’t great with veg but he’ll eat it if he picks or grows it! My youngest eats everything so I get as much fresh organic veg into him as possible!

3- My brassicas are doing well, not much soil prep as I find they prefer clay. After Purple sprouting broccoli, cauliflower and Spring Cabbage I now have a glut of Covina Broccoli and Purple cauliflower. They look good and because they like clay there is enough moisture locked in for the roots to find.

4-My sunflowers look great but I’m dissapointed with the height. They’re Russian Giants which could grow to 5mtrs. They have peaked at 6ft. The plants on my allotment had great soil so it is nothing to do with pot size. I had standard sunflowers last year that reached 12ft in the same pots. Size isn’t everything I suppose!

5- No idea why I have mixed Nasturtiums popping up in the plot. I only planted 1 plant last year and it was a red flower, love it though because they can grow up and around the sweetcorn. I also have Borage all over the plot from a few plants last year. My plot is fairly neat and controlled so it’s nice there’s a bit of anarchy 🤘

6- Blauschokker peas, they look great, taste horrible! I’ve pulled them all up and sown Early onward and Kelvedon wonder. These are quick maturing and will give myself and the boys nice sweet peas to pick and eat and probably a grub or two!

These peas join Cucamelons and Callaloo for things I’ve grown but won’t again

That’s it from me, I might see you next week with photos of straw!

Six on Saturday 16/6/18

Eyeore alert!! I really don’t want to start moaning about the weather again but it would be nice to have a little rain. I think we’re heading for the dryest June on record! We haven’t had rain for 2 weeks and I can’t see any forecast either. My allotment doesn’t have water and my 1000 ltr tank is nearly empty. I have beer barrels, bins and buckets which I fill and take to the plot. The poo car will have to be renamed pool car there’s so much water in it! Anyway my six this week are mostly to do with plants that like each other, it’s more the case that I haven’t been on top of things but hey ho!

1- I already posted the clematis and honey suckle but the honey suckle has flowered and smells amazing. I’ve added a photo to show how it’s taken over, it’s even on the washing line! It slightly covers the archway out so you get a hit everytime you leave the garden

2- In the same court yard as the honey suckle I have this climbing rose, I don’t know the variety but that also has a strong scent. The courtyard also has a large passion flower, I’ve also replaced 2 dead clematis with a jasmine and healthy clematis. My other half has ideas for this area so I have to stop using it as an allotment dumping ground!

3- Passion flower and Rose, again I don’t know the rose, it was here when I bought the house. It can go all along the front of the house but it’s too much maintenance. I cut it right back last year and a passion flower has appeared and intertwined with it. I don’t know where it came from but I’m not complaining!

4- The Blauschokker peas have taken a liking to the clematis. I didn’t realise how high these peas grow, they are way above the pea sticks and have gone over creating an arch, except this one! This decided to go the other way and latch onto the clematis arch. On the other side of the arch I had to plant a cucumber which a neighbour gave to me, I had no where else to plant it!. I’ll be quite interested to see how this develops!

5- I planted out my sweet potatoes, variety Beauregard. I had 12 plugs which I grew on in 5ltr pots. I find sweet potatoes prefer acid soil so I added alot of ericaceous compost. The tubers grow close to the surface but the roots like to go deep! I created this cloche which will give them extra heat. The problem is they need lots of water so I cut holes in the corrugated plastic and cut guttering pipes so they are slightly below the roof and a few inches into the ground. I added canes to stabalise them. I’ve given them a good feed of sulphate of potash so I’m quite hopeful they’ll do well. It’s very effective but the roof slopes so I’ll have to think of a way to save/use the rain. When it comes! Probably when I’m on holiday!

*I’m already thinking of cutting bottle heads to use a funnels!

*I tried to make slips last year but failed. I’ll try again this year

6-Early December I bought a bag of bulbs from Wilkos, the price was pennies due to the lateness and they needed the space for their quality xmas goods. I totally forgot what I had planted, I’ve had tulips, daffodils and crocus. I had these which came up with the tulips but have only just flowered, with a bit of googling I think they are Allium Moly?

That’s all folks, working today but hopefully back early to enjoy any strawberries/peas left by the boys. See you next week

Six on Saturday 9/6/18

We’ve been away this week at Center Parcs, the boy’s have loved feeding swans and squirrels by hand. Probably frowned upon by the naturalists but it’s still getting them involved in nature. My 2 yr old is obsessed with nature, bees, worms, woodlice and presently tadpoles, it’s a great simple age not affected by Pokemon! Anyway a bit late but I’ve managed to squeeze one in for this week, hope you enjoy

1- Plantain, I was advised by fred @frdvil that this weed can help sooth sore eyes. I have Blepharitus which is blocked tear ducts. My eyes are always red but I’ve lived with it. It gets worse with hayfever which I’ve started to suffer with over the last few years (tree pollen). I put the weed in boiling water and placed in the fridge. I cleanedmy eyes as normal in the morning with warm water then bathed my eyes with the cold plantain tea. It did work and my eyes were refreshed for the day, accompanied with anti histimine! This weed has loads of magical powers!

2- When we returned from holiday this was on my drive. I forgot I ordered it and forgot to tell the missus oops! This was a cherry tree and I’ll use it on the plot for mulch and for paths as well as for my compost. Hopefully there will be some left for next year. All bagged up and ready to go. Ps i did this last year and no crops were affected negatively. It suppressed the weeds, retained moisture and broke down into the clay soil

3- Abutilon, not sure which variety but I was given 3 cuttings a few years ago by a nice Italian lady across the road. Two made it and are now establised bushes. I love the flowers and both plants are at the front of my house so the lady can see that I didn’t kill them All!

4- I have to eat some strawberry humble pie. I had straw under my allotment and garden strawberries. I noticed woodlice were eating them and were living in the straw. I took the straw from my garden plants and cut back the runners and leaves. I made mounds for them so the fruit didn’t touch the soil. It turned out that the allotment strawberries in the straw still did alot better, my garden ones have been a disaster and have brown rusty marks. This could be that they’re older plants and the allotment ones are at a perfect age, or the straw needs to be kept dry. With my garden ones I have used cut up plastic modules to try and save the remainding fruit, we’ll see!

5- Free stuff! We all like a freebie, I won some seeds from Mr Fothergills for their longest bean competition, one was a pack of dwarf climbing beans. My allotment ones that I struggled to germinate still don’t look great, something may be taking a liking to them! Anyway Olly helped me plant them inbetween the normal beans. I also received an email from my local allotment society, alot of gardeners have lost spuds due to the weather myself included. They run a shop at the weekend and were giving away bags of potatoes. I took a main crop called Kingsman and Olly helped me plant them where my lost spuds should have been

6- My first Spring cabbage was harvested last night along with the other goodies. Steak night tonight so they’ll be a great accompaniment. I may not need steak, there were so many slugs in the outer leaves that there may be a meaty supprise when i cut it open!

That’s it for this week, lots of work at the allotment next week. Sweet potatoes need to be planted out and I need to create some sort of poly tunnel for them. I need to wood chip every where as well. See you next week

Six on Saturday – 2/6/18

Temperatures have risen and we’ve had a few tremendous storms. Streets have flooded and car alarms set off from the Thunder. It hasn’t affected any of my seedlings or plants thankfully!

It is also blight weather so keep an eye on your spuds and toms!

1- update on our sunflower comp. I did have them close to the edge of the pot and tied to the canes. I saw that others that were in pots and left to fend for themselves looked stronger and straighter. Without disturbing them too much I took them off the canes and placed them in tge middle of the pots. They get blown quite a bit but they are stronger for it. I may have to attach them at some point.Anyway Will has taken a slight lead 😒

2- Clematis and Honeysuckle, these plants are creating havoc, they obviously like each other but they’re growing everywhere and creeping across the archway. I get a soaking every time it rains as I walk passed it. Very pretty though and the honeysuckle smells great

3- Iris in the raspberries. I’m not sure why this is here, it adds a nice splash of colour to my fruit garden but I think it’s wasted. I may move it to my pond area

4- Phacelia, I love the stuff and so do bees. My brother in law visited the plot with Ols. My boy loves nature and the Phacelia I sowed early spring was buzzing with insects.

5- My purple Rhododendron Goldflimmer has finally flowered and it’s a shame because all the others have dropped theirs and I wanted a group photo. I’ve put them all in a photo anyway

6-The pond is looking good and we’ve got lots of shrimps already. Fingers crossed for more visitors. I really need some frogs to protect the Hosta!

That’s all this week, I’m away next week on holiday, hope you all have a great gardening week!

Six on Saturday 26/5/18

Here is my six on Saturday for this week and guess what they’re all flowers! Veg next week!

With the warmer weather and rain the garden has come to life, too much really as the weeds are in force. I still have bluebells which need to die back as well! Overcast and wet make good photography conditions I’ve learnt

1- here is my first, my favourite red hobbit Aquilegia. It was attacked a few weeks ago by greenfly maybe because of the cold spell, and the flowers had shrivelled. I sprayed it with bug spray and fed it and it has been revived. I love the colours and structure of it and it reminds me of that Alien film where everyone dies, can’t remember the title, it wasn’t great!

2- cornflower, I should plant more of these, they were from a pack of wild flower seeds about 5 years ago and they have survived all this time. Again structurally I think it’s great and love the contrasting colours (get me)!

3- Calendula, again like the cornflowers they keep on coming back, they add a great splash of colour to the borders, other than my azaleas I don’t have any other orange plants

4- White Aquilegia, I don’t know the correct name, these have already been shown by the Propagator, I’ve always taken them for granted because they were in the borders when we moved here in 2009. I now look at them thinking of a group of doves having a heated discussion!

5- Alliums, my alliums are in full bloom, all 2 of them, they look great though and I’ll definately be putting some more in for next year

6- My real view, the borders are wild and really need sorting. I really want to dig everything out and start again but for now I’ll just enjoy the natural look 😂

That’s it for now, have a great weekend and bank holiday everyone, some good thunderstorms on their way but lots of nice hot temperatures

Six on Saturday 19/05/18

Lots of weeding this week, weather was hot and sunny then cold at night. We had 3 degrees on Friday morning which upset my squash. My prized beans survived so I’m happy. There are a few disasters I want to share but hopefully not too depressing for you

1- I received my sweet potato plugs from Dobies. I potted them straight away with normal comost and a bit of ericaceous. I have a patch which was prepped in February and has had a black membrane on ever since. I’m looking to plant out early June. I have 12 plugs and the variety is Beauregard. I use the leaves like Spinach!

2- disaster 1, not many carrots germinated, not sure why but I’ve sown some more. I have 2 buckets at home where we sowed into compost. I also fleeced it and all the seeds germinated!

3- disaster 2, temperatures plummeted from 21 to 3 degrees on Friday morning. My beans and sweetcorn survived but some squash were not happy. I have lots of back ups just in case these don’t recover!

4-disaster 3, over half of my green/french beans didn’t germinate. I have 19 plants but need 40. I purchased a small tray from a plant seller on our market. I then potted them, there were 50 plants of blue lake beans all together! Whoops!! I noticed when emptying the unsuccessful beans there were tiny white maggots in the compost, could they be eating the beans?

5- cucumbers, tomatoes and peas are doing well. It will soon be snack time with the mini cukes and peas

6- we bought some garden furniture, I’ve cleaned the cardboard of selotape and staples and stored it for some no dig beds next year. I’ll also take the pallets to the plot for my new neighbour!

Anyway off to enjoy the wedding with a glass of pimms with some chopped up mini cucumbers. Hope you enjoyed it and hopefully more positive next week