Purple Cored Carrots


Check out this eye catching vegetable, a strikingly purple carrot going by the name of “Purple Sun”. Unlike some other varieties its purple pigment goes from skin to core meaning it’s jam packed with anthocyanins, these basically are what cause the antioxidant effect blue berries and black currents have. The pointed roots of this carrot with rounded shoulders are a great improvement on the older purple carrots, producing uniform roots with strong disease resistance, its purported to have a superb sweet flavour too. These can be harvested as baby carrots or grown onto full size.

30cm (12″)

15cm (6″)

Sowing Months:
March to June

Full sun


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Preserving Peru’s Potato Heritage

Knobby, round, smooth, oblong, purple-mottled – Peru is home to thousands of potato varieties. Researchers are teaming up with local farmers to exchange know-how to protect the country’s diversity of spuds.

Project goal: preserving the diversity of potatoes and securing food supply

Implementation: The International Potato Center collects, analyzes and conserves seeds and plants of all potato varieties in the world by relying on farmers’ knowledge. The documented genetic diversity of the potato is meant to help identify robust varieties that can withstand different weather conditions

Biological diversity: Peru has more than 4,000 potato varieties. In addition, there are a further 1,000 varieties from other countries

Brownish grey, knobby and no-frills – that’s usually what potatoes are like, right? Not in Peru where the tuber comes in all colors and sizes and, at times, in curious shapes. The country is home to more than 4,000 potato varieties. Potatoes are one of the most important foods worldwide. The tuber was first imported to Europe by Europeans traveling from Peru – though only a few varieties grow here. The International Potato Center (CIP) wants to save this diversity of tubers as climate change increasingly demands more resilient varieties. The potatoes of the future are currently stored in the cool storage rooms and gene banks of the CIP while their counterparts are flourishing in the high mountains of Peru. Researchers are working closely with the local population by providing them with purified seeds for better harvests. In return, the scientists are drawing on local knowledge about potatoes and which varieties are best suited to changing soil and weather conditions.

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Plants Sense Water To Grow Roots In The Right Direction

Maize hydropatterning - 10 June 2014. The Hounsfield Facility University of Nottingham

Scientists have discovered how the presence of even small amounts of water can influence the structure of plant roots in soil, a finding that opens up new possibilities to improve water and nutrient foraging for important food crops.

Significant improvements in crop yields are urgently required to meet the 50% increase in world population by 2050. The degree of root branching determines the efficiency of water uptake and acquisition of nutrients in crops. Understanding the regulation of root branching is therefore of vital importance.

Using an advanced form of X-ray imaging BBSRC-funded researchers from The University of Nottingham, working with several international groups including colleagues in the USA, have discovered that root branching is profoundly influenced by the distribution of water in soil. An ability to precisely determine where water is in soil, which is different from a touch-reaction, affects the positioning of new lateral roots. Lateral roots (LR) form on the side of the main root in contact with water, but rarely on the dry side.

The researchers have called this novel process “hydropatterning” and showed that it is common to the experimental model species Arabidopsis as well as the important food crops maize and rice. Their results are published today in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

Professor Malcolm Bennett, from The University Of Nottingham’s School Of Biosciences, who led the UK team said: “We have discovered that plant roots can sense small differences in water availability across their diameter. Root branching is a target of hydropatterning, with lateral roots only forming on the side of the main root contacting water in soil. Identifying the genes and signals that control this process opens up new possibilities to improve water and nutrient foraging in crops.”

Professor Sacha Mooney, also from The University Of Nottingham’s School of Biosciences, added: “Research in this area has traditionally been hampered by the opacity of soil preventing us actually visualising root behaviour in situ and in three dimensions. This is an excellent example of how the latest imaging technologies such as X-ray micro Computed Tomography can help to provide new insights into important biological mechanisms.”

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Peter Piper Just Picked His Peppers

pepper 3
So following on from my previous post on Tomatoes here’s the Pepper seeds I’ve picked as well. Last year was all F1 peppers so this year is all Heritage/Heirloom ones, as it stands I’ve got 5 Chilli Peppers and 6 Sweet Peppers. I plan to do only chilli peppers in the hydro system and sweet peppers in soil but we’ll see. I believe I read that chilli and sweet like a different PH value so if that is the case I’ll be more inclined to use the chemicals to grow the chillies.

In regards to the Hydroponic setup, it’s a drip system, a 10 pot Wilma as it’s known. It’s an expensive system to buy and run and a few harsh chemicals are used in the process of growing the plants so doesn’t really follow my sort of organic ethics. Its not something I went out and bought, it was a gift and would be a real shame not to use. I used it last year and had some really good results in my opinion, it’s also nice to have an semi automated system where you know you can say go away for a week or two and your plants are constantly being watered and fed.

One of the upsides of hydroponics is apparently it uses 90% less water than you would in a normal pot. Obviously all of the synthetic salt based nutrients I am giving them is all being taken up by the plant so there is nothing going down the drain or any chance of say “run off” into the ground. Also although the pump is wired into the mains in my situation it’s also possible to run it off of a solar panel too.

Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Co (Chilli):
Cayenne Long Thin Pepper
Pasilla Bajio Pepper
Purple Jalapeno Pepper
Thai Red Chili Pepper

The Real Seeds Catalogue (Chilli):
Lemon Drop Hot Citrus Pepper

Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Co (Sweet):
Italian Pepperoncini Pepper

The Real Seeds Catalogue (Sweet):
Orange Bell Early Sweet Pepper
Amy Sweet Hungarian Wax Pepper
Slovakia Sweet Pepper
Semaroh Early Sweet Pepper

The Heritage Seed Library (Sweet):
Soror Sarek

I’ll be posting more information about each individual variety when it comes to planting them. Theirs going to be some tasty meals knocked up out of this lot, really can’t wait to try them.

Tomatoes Coming Out My Ears


I’ll start by saying when it comes to food I love variety and as they say “variety is the spice of life” so I’ve ordered all a large selection of seeds this year for the family but that said only a single plant of each variety will be grown in the green/glass house. I’ll be giving away all the other spare plants I produce to friends (let me know if anyone is interested). I’ve mainly stuck to the small cherry/plum type this year as my Dad commented on how he liked the little sweet ones you get so thought I’d also buy a number of F1 hybrids as well this year to grow alongside the Heritage/Heirloom open pollinated type.

Thompson and Morgan:
Sweet Aperitif (F1)
Sungrape (F1)
Sungold (F1)
Suncherry Premium (F1)

Heritage Seed Library:
Pink Cherry
Small Pear Shape

Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Co:
Red Fig
Jujube Cherry
Wapsipinicon Peach
Blue Berries (Wild Boar Farms)

Nickys Nursery:
Garden Peach

So the one I grew last year that all the family loved was “Small Pear Shape” from the HSL so that’s one I’m doing again this year. It might well be that “Red Fig” from Bakers Creek is the same type, it certainly looks similar, I certainly won’t be disappointed if I end up with two plants the same though as they are so moreish. As silly as this might sound to some I also got “Jujube Cherry” as it looked quite similar shape to some of the “pear” tomatoes from last year, not all of them were pear shaped some looked more like a grape so thought I might end up with something similar. I want to see which of these 3 similar looking types taste the best.
I grew “Garden Peach” in 2012 and loved that too, amazing tastes and textures, hopefully it still tastes as good as it did the first time around. Alongside this I’ll be growing the “Wapsipinicon Peach”, apparently it has the same fury skin and I want to find out which tastes the best out of the two.
I loved the look of the “Blue Berries” from Wild Boar Farms, I hope the colours come through as they appear on the photo, to be honest I’m not holding my breath. Anyway I just felt I should have at least one “purple/blue” flavonoid pigments, if nothing else but for those added antioxidants known as anthocyanins.
The “Pink Cherry” from the HSL was sent as an alternative to a “Fox Cherry” I was hoping to grow, apparently it’s just as good so fingers crossed on that one, nice surprise if it does well.

Now onto the F1s, they all sound really delicious with some of them classed as the “tastiest tomatoes available” and winning taste tests etc. I’m sure they’ll all produce well with their hybrid vigour and likely have added disease resistance too. Seriously can’t wait to sample these alongside some of the older tomatoes I’ll be doing, be interesting to see how they compare on all levels. That said “yield” is very unimportant to me, I’ll be decided solely on taste really with texture a close second and plant health taken into account of course.

I really don’t have space for any more but I may also consider buying a few plug plants of “Wladecks” from “Delfland Nurseries” as I loved them last year too but can’t get seeds any longer. They are huge sized beef steak tomatoes that literally snap the truss under their own weight. If you decided to grow them too plan to support the truss somehow, it’s highly likely to break.

I’m going to start seeds off in Root Trainers as I love the root balls they produce, I may end up doing a side by side comparison with Jiffy Plugs (peat pellets) if I end up buying any. Let me know if that’s something you wish to see done?

Exploring Permaculture Farming Methods In England

I found this documentary really excellent. Its definitely worth watching the full thing but I found it particularly fascinating (at 20min, 24seconds) when the lady speaks about her farm having 20 different species of grass on her pastures. She goes on to explain how this enables her to have a constant ground cover all year round and due to how dense the roots are it holds and binds the soil together preventing the hooves tearing it up. Really quite amazing information on how biodiversity of grass species is the key to farming cattle year on year without the ground being damaged by the animals them selves, lets the farm continue on without being affected by things such as global oil prices too.

“Wildlife film maker Rebecca Hosking investigates how to transform her family’s farm in Devon into a low energy farm for the future, and discovers that nature holds the key.

With her father close to retirement, Rebecca returns to her family’s wildlife-friendly farm in Devon, to become the next generation to farm the land. But last year’s high fuel prices were a wake-up call for Rebecca. Realising that all food production in the UK is completely dependent on abundant cheap fossil fuel, particularly oil, she sets out to discover just how secure this oil supply is.+

Alarmed by the answers, she explores ways of farming without using fossil fuel. With the help of pioneering farmers and growers, Rebecca learns that it is actually nature that holds the key to farming in a low-energy future.

This documentary was first shown in 2009 on BBC2 as part of the Natural World series.”

Allotment 2014: Potato with Weed Suppressing Foliage and Blight Resistance


Next summer as part of my plan to deal with my perennial “weeds” (out of place invasive plants) is to plant a cover crop of potatoes on the allotment, my main aim really is for it to act as a weed suppressant throughout the year by crowding out (blocking light to) the weeds.

The variety I’ve chosen is ‘Sarpo Mira’ for it’s continual proven excellence with it’s Blight resistance. Considering that something as devastating as blight could completely destroy my efforts to keep the weeds down I recon doing one variety is my best option, I need to maintain good dense foliage for as long as possible.

Under normal conditions I’d say grow more than one variety of potato, as in don’t put all your eggs in one basket. One year one disease or pest may be prevalent and the next another, in my opinion to ensure and maintain a good healthy overall yield it’s best to have a diversity of them, each with their own merits. Also to help us eat seasonally I’d say plant one’s that you can harvest over a longer period. Obviously I’m ignoring all that kind of sound advice here in favor a dense foliage, even canopy and it being harvested over a shorter period to minimise the ground being left exposed to the elements and to benefit me in the future “digging in” of the Green Manure crop I’ll be following the potatoes with.

This allotment site I’ve been given has been left for so long it’s literally had a huge network of perennial weeds growing throughout and although I’ve done a relatively good job of digging a lot of them out in parts I’ve still got a huge way to go. The pulling and digging out will be a constant battle for a number of years but I’m not complaining, they are not all bad, often they are Dynamic Accumulators of nutrients too (more on that in the future).

My plans are in Feb to put in a mulch of Pine Needles (from friends/family Christmas trees) to try and acidify the soil a little bit. I’ll be doing a lot more digging out of weeds in the early spring, put in a ton of compost I’ll get at very low cost, it’s made locally from wood on the dairy farm (not organic unfortunately). I’m also going to put down half a ton of excellent quality ‘Virgin Top Soil’ (enriched with organic compost) that I’d got for almost nothing as part of a deal on some Biochar I purchased in bulk. I do have a problem with a bit of a Alkaline leaning soil and adding things like “Rock Dust” or “Biochar” makes that problem worse but these were products I had before getting the land. That all said I think I’m going to brave it and add them both in repetitively small amounts with the compost and topsoil and hope it evens it’s self out a bit. It’s a bit experimental (risky) in a sense but the added benefits of each of these products I think is worth chancing it on.
I will then plant the seed potatoes and along the way “earth up” (cover tubers) with the other half ton of that Topsoil. Come the end I will then basically harvest them from the point of view that I’m firstly weeding and secondly picking those tubers out, so kind of ‘killing two birds with one stone’.
I’ll then be lightly cultivating the soil, working it to a fine tilth, adding the worm casts I should have made in bulk by then PH and Nutrient testing the soil and adjusting were needed/possible. Finally planting a mixed Winter Green Manure crop to protect, rest and prepare the ground for next years harvests.

I’m be practicing “crop rotation” principles and not be planting potatoes in this ground again for another 4 years which is a bit disappointing in a sense but there are other parts of the garden for that as well as containers and even things like yams etc. I think crop rotations merits speaks for it’s self though so it’s a no brainer (makes sense).

I think that’s about it for now, hope the posts aren’t too long or anything, just thought I’d let you all know what my plans are for 2014. Let me know what you all think if if you have any idea’s for me.


Only ever tried an Orange Carrot? Why?


In some regions of the world you can still naturally find white, yellow, red and purple carrots, this is the spectrum of colors carrots used to have but today in most countries carrots tend to be just orange. Why is that then?

Allegedly they are orange for entirely political reasons: in the 17th century, Dutch growers are thought to have cultivated orange carrots as a tribute to William of Orange – who led the the struggle for Dutch independence – and the color stuck. A thousand years of yellow, white and purple carrot history, was wiped out in a generation.

Although some scholars doubt if orange carrots even existed prior to the 16th century, they now form the basis of most commercial cultivators around the world. Presumably crosses between Eastern (purple), Western (white, red) and perhaps wild carrots led to the formation of the orange rooted carrot sub species. Turkey is often cited as the original birthplace of the hybrids (or mutations) of the two groups.

Whatever the origins, the Long Orange Dutch carrot, first described in writing in 1721, is the forebear of the orange Horn carrot varieties so abundant nowadays. The Horn Carrot derives from the Netherlands town of Hoorn in the neighborhood of which it was presumably bred. All our modern, western carrots ultimately descend from these varieties.

In fact the different colour pigments have have different health benefits also, colours like Purple are reported to have more antioxidant effects (anthocyanins). I will post more on that soon but for now don’t just stick to what the supermarkets or veg shops are providing, create something new yourself.

So why not try something different next year, break the mold and get something you can’t just pick up somewhere. Brighten up that plate a bit and enjoy all the variety in colors on offer.

The Read Seed Catalogue may be somewhere to pick up those seeds (and support) but they are widely available now really.

“The Three Sisters” – Companion Planting

The ancient Native American technique of growing Corn, Beans, and Squash together in an arrangement called the Three Sisters is the ultimate in companion planting and helps increase harvests, naturally!

Corn acts as a support for climbing bean vines, the beans fix nitrogen in the soil for the high feeding requirements of corn and squash, and the squash provides mulch and root protection for the corn and beans! After cooperating beautifully in the garden, corn and beans form a complete protein when eaten together!

Try and think about these things when planting your garden next!

Picture from Threes.com

Tomato Tip – Pinch out those Side Shoots

Tomato Tip

Essential advice for growing cordon (vine type) tomatoes, nip/pinch out those “suckers” (side shoots).
As the image says, leave the side shoots on “bush” type tomato plants!

Images scanned from both “The Practical Encyclopedia” by Sue Phillips and “The RHS Encyclopedia of Gardening” by Christopher Brickell. Edited images to change potentially misleading title.