Attempting sweet potatoes

This year I’ve been trying to focus less on ‘novelty’ vegetables and more on things that’ll actually grow and that I’ll eat. I think I came to this conclusion after running out of recipes for the hundreds of kilos of oka I dug from the ground*. That said, I like a challenge, so decided on sweet potatoes. They’re being grown commercially in the UK now, although that’s in the ‘south’ of England, a strange and mysterious region** very different from Northumberland. I want these sweet potatoes to live. I’m going to try almost everything I can.

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They arrived in the post as rooted plants rather than slips, which makes them a little more hardy. They looked quite healthy, Marshalls Seeds was quite reliable there. These are the Beauregard variety, meant to be suitable for growing in the UK.

I used the fleece tunnel, which used to house the carrots which have since gone to Seedling Heaven (why are carrots so horribly difficult to grow? I’m blaming the soil, it’s always the soil’s fault), and I put various cuttings from the paths in the allotment around the five plants to try and keep them warm. I watched videos on YouTube that told me to do this, I didn’t have the idea myself.

So fingers crossed. If things go well I should get 2-3 potatoes per plant, and if they live, they should grow a LOT.

The beans, peas and sweet peas around the obelisks still seem to be doing well. I tried out some peas I’d bought from Homebase, but they died soon after I’d planted them, and proved considerably less healthy than the Lord Leicester peas towards the top of the right-hand picture. I’m sometimes a bit sceptical about heritage veg because I sometimes think there’s a reason it’s not grown so much these days, but that’s not the case here, I really like them. I’m hoping to save some of them to plant next year too.

Wildflowers are slowly starting to make an appearance – I planted a lot of wildflower seeds this year but I think the weeds might have defeated a fair proportion of them. I’m still pleasantly surprised that the celery is all looking healthy. I planted celery as an afterthought last year and didn’t expect it to survive the frost, but it’s looking better than ever.

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Potatoes and parsnips continue to look promising and alliterative. I’ve never successfully grown parsnips before and am worried that when I come to harvest them, there’ll just be nothing under the leaves, but so far, so good.

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And finally a view of the allotment from the corner I’ve ‘set aside for wildflowers’, aka ‘just left for the weeds this year’. The green tunnel’s home to some tomatoes at the moment, and I’ve planted broad beans in that patch to the left of the potatoes, by the Lucozade bottles***. Sweet potatoes underneath the white fleece tunnel yonder. Your humble allotmenteer lies exhausted in a small heap, having successfully avoided all other chores today.

*It wasn’t hundreds to be fair, and I quite liked the oka because it was easy to grow, covered a lot of ground and tasted good.

**In which I was actually born, but we don’t talk about that.

***Bottles contain water rather than Lucozade, I’ve not been feeding my plants energy drinks in a desperate attempt to get them to live.

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