Ketchup and Chips

No, your eyes do not deceive you! This is a plant which produces tomatoes AND potatoes. That’s a whole meal in one; ketchup AND chips!

ketchup and chips

Once thought of only as a horticultural phenomenon, the TomTato® is now a reality. Despite reports of ‘Frankenstein food’, the TomTato® is 100% natural and is created by grafting, a natural process which has been carried out on plants for many years.

Experts in the Netherlands take a baby potato plant and slice the top off it; they then do the same to a baby tomato plant, and finally clip the 2 together. Compatibility (both are members of the Solanaceae family) means that those 2 plants then grow together as one!

ketchup and chipsIt took many years to get the TomTato® project just right though! We had to consider many things. Firstly, we needed an early tomato and a later cropping potato, as you don’t want to lift your potatoes and ruin your ripening tomato crop! Next, we had to make sure we chose just the right varieties; we needed a strong stemmed potato, which could take the weight of that bumper tomato fruit crop above! Plus, of course, we had to consider flavour- the tomato on the top of the ‘Ketchup and Chips’ plant is super sweet, with an exceptionally high brix content (measure of sweetness in fruit and veg), and a tangy flavour. It is remarkably high cropping too, 100’s of fruits per plant. The potatoes on the bottom are just as delicious; and can be boiled, mashed or roasted!

We launched the TomTato® to much fanfare in 2013, and twitter and facebook went mad for this crazy new food crop! Young and old were fascinated by this plant, which wasn’t just a novelty, but was space-saving, productive and exciting to grow!

Secure your TomTato® plants now for delivery next Spring. Hurry whist stocks last!

Michael Perry
Michael works as Thompson & Morgan’s New Product Development Manager, scouring the globe for new and innovative products and concepts to keep the keen gardeners as well as amateurs of the UK happy!

How to store Vegetables

Which vegetables will store and how long will they keep?  This is an annual dilemma faced by many gardeners. Often the need for storage is caused by gardeners being too generous in their sowings and planting and creating their own ‘gluts’ and ‘surpluses’. Why plant 200 onion sets if you only use a single bulb per week?


how to store vegetablesSowing little and often reduces the wastage and ‘glut’ of the most popular subjects – lettuce, spinach, radish, spring onions, beetroots –  some of these, particularly the leafy vegetables, are unsuitable for storing anyway, as they quickly go limp, lose their freshness and visual appeal. The most important thing to remember is ‘Fresh Is Best’, that is why you are growing your own in the first place – for their taste, freshness, quality and nutritional values. Freeze surpluses of shelling peas and sweetcorn, as they quickly lose their freshness and taste once picked. Frozen peas are one of the few vegetables that are worth buying in the supermarket as they are harvested and frozen very quickly so maintaining their taste and nutrition. Broad Beans, the green seeded varieties are less prone to discolouring in the freezer. French and Runner Bean varieties freeze exceptionally well.


Brassicas, winter cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, kales, savoy and winter cabbage are best left where they are growing, although need to be netted against pigeons. They can be dug up leaving the soil attached to the roots and hung upside down by tying with string suspended from a beam in your shed. They will store for a good couple of months.


Storing Onions and Shallots


how to store vegetablesLift the bulbs on a dry, sunny but windy day and leave them on the soil surface to ‘set’ skins. Do not rub these off. Carefully remove any soil from the roots, and store bulbs in slatted trays, used tights, or polyproplene onion nets, or tied in ropes and hung in the shed.


Maincrop beet, carrots, swede, turnip, parsnip can be left in the soil, although soil pests and rodents may take advantage, and prolonged severely cold soil temperatures can affect the root texture and reduce quality and flavour. We suggest lifting some of your roots and twist off the leaves and store in layers of barely damp multipurpose compost, sieved soil or sand in boxes. Keep cool but frost free. Place a blanket over the boxes to keep dark. Roots in boxes should not touch each other to avoid rots spreading and to allow easier air movement and moisture between the roots.


Leeks and Trench Celery really are best left where they are and lifted as required. Soil can be earthed further up the stems to protect during harshest weather.


Storing Potatoes


how to store vegetablesSound, dry, fully ‘set’ skin tubers are best stored in hessian sacks or thick paper bags and covered with a blanket to blank out any light. Potatoes must be stored in cool but frost free conditions in the dark and will store for many months.


Important reminders  – Store only blemish free, sound good quality produce. Check these regularly and remove any showing rotting or disease symptoms. Never store in polythene as sweating will quickly encourage rotting. Sheds/ garages should be cool but frost free, although use of blankets for insulation and darkness may suffice. Ideally some air circulation is beneficial for storing most crops.

Colin Randel
Colin Randel is New Vegetable Product Manager at Thompson & Morgan. With over 44 years experience and winner of Gold medal Chelsea displays, there is no one better suited to vegetables that Colin. Also RHS Vegetable Trials Committee Chairman and works alongside Sarvari Potato Research Trust.

Rock Dust

Rock Dust

I remember vividly seeing on television the literally earth-shattering images of the Mount St. Helens volcano erupting in the United States in 1980.  This gigantic explosion caused the collapse of a large portion of the mountain together with the ejection of millions of tons of volcanic dust which settled over eleven US states.  In the immediate vicinity a wasteland was created with the land buried in a massively destructive deep layer of ash, however in further outlying agricultural areas, some remarkable effects were reported from a lighter deposit of the rock dust.  Farmers noted a huge increase in yields — even to the extent that abandoned and unproductive orchards suddenly started producing viable crops again.

What had happened as a result of the eruption was nothing short of a natural ‘re-mineralisation’ of the land.  For thousands of years peoples have settled on the slopes of volcanoes (sometime with disastrous results, as in Pompeii) due to the exceptionally fertile and productive soil, rich with minerals and trace elements.  Glaciers are another natural method by which soil was created and made fertile. During the last ice age the crushing action of ice on volcanic rocks ground away the strata to produce many deep rich soils, that still feed human populations today, 10,000 years later.

For those of us who grow substantial amounts of our own food, keeping the soil replete with macro and micro-nutrients (or trace elements) is an important way of making sure that we also ‘mineralise’ ourselves for health and well-being.  A tiny but very significant percentage of vegetable and fruit crops is made up of minerals, but most modern fertilisers replace just the basic NPK (Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Potassium), neglecting the vital trace elements, such as magnesium.  The taking of crops from the land without efficient replacement of these nutrients, together with natural leaching from the action of weather, means that many soils are now nutrient deficient, which in turn implies that the whole food chain is similarly depleted.

Recently I discovered that rock dust can now be obtained that does the job of a ‘mini Mt. St. Helens eruption’ when spread on the soil — it puts back the mineral goodness that plants and ourselves need to thrive.

Rock Dust

Rock dust

In the spring I top-dressed a bed for my maincrop Kestrel potatoes using about a handful per sq.m of rock dust, raked in prior to planting.  I did see a very noticeable increase in plant health and vigour — the tops appeared ‘super green’ and lush, but the yield from one root, at well over 2 kgs, I thought was definitely impressive.  Next spring will see me ‘dusting’ the kitchen garden once again!

Rock Dust

Spreading Rock Dust at about one handful to the sq. m

Rock Dust

Raking into the surface prior to planting

Rock Dust

Potato Kestrel in growth

Rock Dust

Yield from one root of Kestrel grown on the re-mineralised ground

Phillippa Lambert
Phillippa Lambert is a landscape designer based on the Isle of Wight at a unique site in the Undercliff of the Island — a favoured microclimate sheltered by enormous south facing cliffs. In 2002 Phillippa and Stephen Lambert came across the ‘lost’ gardens of a Victorian mansion dating back to the 1820s, managed to acquire part of the site, including the walled garden and ornamental lake, and have since worked on their restoration. The result is not an ‘expert’ garden and does not try for technical perfection in any sense. ‘Make do and mend’ is the keynote — most plants being raised from seed or cuttings— and self-sufficiency is the motivation for all the growing in the walled garden. In essence, this site goes back to the philosophy of ancient gardens in sustaining the body as well as the soul. Read more at Lakehouse Design.

National Chip Week – 18th-24th February 2013

It’s National Chip Week and what better time to think about ordering potatoes?

Potatoes are easy to grow and extremely satisfying – and you don’t need a massive garden to get a good crop! There a lots of varieties to choose from and it can be a bit daunting, especially if you don’t know your earlies from your maincrops. You’ll find a wealth of information on our website to help you choose the right potato variety.

Celebrate National Chip Week - grow your own potatoes

Potato selector guide

Potato Selector Guide

This comprehensive guide tells you when to grow the different types of potatoes and then goes on to list the varieties available and how best to cook them.


Video – How to grow potatoes

Take a look at our ‘How to grow potatoes’ video for expert guidance on getting the best results from your seed potatoes.


Potato recipes

These mouth-watering recipes will give you some inspiration once you’ve grown and harvested your potatoes.

Click here to see our full range of seed potatoes

Rebecca Tute
Rebecca works in the Marketing department as part of the busy web team, focusing on updating the UK news and blog pages and Thompson & Morgan’s international website. Rebecca enjoys gardening and learning about flowers and growing vegetables with her young daughter.

Gardening with children

Gardening with children

From a small seed a mighty trunk may grow. Aeschylus.

Working in horticulture brings with it a certain responsibility – that of everyone else’s gardens! Friends, family, passing acquaintances and even complete strangers will freely ask your horticultural advice at any given opportunity – and that’s ok. I rather like it!

This week I received an email from my sister, who has twin girls aged 2. They are just at the stage where the big outdoors holds a certain appeal and quite rightly, she wants to start them gardening young – probably in the hope that they will be mowing the lawn by the age of 10!

Mini greenhouse

Mini greenhouse

“I’m thinking of doing some gardening with the girls in the spring – probably just some tubs and containers of veg and a few flowers for them to water.  Going to ask for a mini greenhouse for Xmas. Any recommendations? And also any good varieties of seeds that are easy for us to grow?  Just seen the “Explorer” seeds on Thompson & Morgan website.  Like the look of the mini carrots and the ladybird poppies :-)  Also thought about some sunflowers, climbing French beans and stuff like that.  Any other suggestions??”

Well this made me think. Under usual circumstances I would give a textbook reply – mumble something about sunflowers, and that would be sufficient. But now that I am expecting a little girl myself, things have changed quite significantly. This time I actually thought about it properly.

So here was my reply:

“Regarding your gardening plans, I would suggest that you get a fairly solid mini greenhouse – it will certainly protect your young plants from the worst of the weather, particularly if you position it in a bright, sheltered spot. The plastic covered ones aren’t warm enough to grow seedlings early in the season but you can start them off on a windowsill, and then move them to your mini greenhouse once the weather warms up a bit. Or you could get a cold frame!

Strawberries - grow your own!

Strawberries – grow your own!

If you want to get the girls interested then I would suggest that you try:

  • Sunflowers (seeds are easy to handle, fast growing)
  • Marigolds (colourful, reliable, quick growing, and deadheading is fun!)
  • Cherry tomatoes (quick growing, bite size so they can eat them straight off the plant)
  • Strawberries (low maintenance and can be eaten straight from plant)
  • Beans (runners/ climbing – whatever they like to eat!) (Runners make a really impressive display in a massive container on the patio!)
Potatoes - grow in bags to save space

Potatoes – grow in bags to save space

Carrots – yeah, they are ok but they do take quite a while to get going and there isn’t much fun to be had! Better to do some bags of potatoes on the patio. Emptying spud bags out and digging about in the soil to find the tubers is some of the best fun to be had in the garden – EVER! I still love it at my age!

Also try some direct sowing (i.e straight into prepared ground – literally throw and sow!).

Californian poppies - just throw and sow

Californian poppies – just throw and sow

Try Eschscholzia (Californian poppies) – they are good and colourful. We also do a nice butterfly mix to attract some wildlife to the garden. ”

So hopefully next year there will be plenty going on in my sister’s garden for her girls to enjoy and get involved in, but none of it should be too high maintenance. However her question has made me realise the limitations of my own garden when it comes to entertaining little people – but that’s a whole different subject that is best saved for another post!

Sue Sanderson
Plants and gardens have always been a big part of my life. I can remember helping my Dad to prick out seedlings, even before I could see over the top of the potting bench. As an adult, I trained at Writtle College where I received my degree, BSc. (Hons) Horticulture. After working in a specialist plantsman’s nursery, and later, as a consulting arboriculturalist, I joined Thompson & Morgan in 2008. Initially looking after the grounds and coordinating the plant trials, I now support the web team offering horticultural advice online. I have a keen interest in drought resistant plants and a passion for perennials, particularly hardy Geraniums. I’m a regional secretary for the International Plant Propagation Society which gives me lots of opportunities to see what other horticulturalists are up to in their nurseries and gardens.

Potato Setanta is voted ‘Best Roastie’

Potato Setanta - voted best roastie

Potato Setanta – voted best roastie

Tasty red-skinned potato comes out on top

When certain employees at Thompson & Morgan received an internal email from Paul Hansord, managing director, asking them to meet him in the staff canteen, they were unsure of what to expect.

Surprised to be greeted by the distinctive and delicious smell of roasting potatoes, they took their seats for what they assumed was a meeting. But instead of an agenda, they were presented with a plate.

‘I really didn’t know what was going on,’ said Chloe Farmer, head of design. ‘I thought Paul wanted to discuss the Kitchen Garden catalogue.’

In fact, Paul Hansord had assembled a team of potato tasters to carry out ‘blind’ taste tests on 7 varieties of potatoes. He wanted to find out which variety made the best ‘roasties’.

Potato Setanta - voted best roastie

Potato Setanta – voted best roastie

Over the next hour, the lucky seven staff members were treated to a potato feast. Not knowing the variety names, they were simply asked to rate each ‘roastie’ according to their taste, colour and crispness.

‘It was difficult to taste the difference between some of the roast potatoes’, commented Vicky Ager, T&M’s direct marketing manager. ‘But one of them really stood out – it was just so delicious!’.

All 7 taste panel members, including Colin Randel, vegetable product manager and a renowned authority on potatoes, agreed that one potato outclassed all the others when it came to that fabulous roast potato taste.

‘The golden crisp skins with that melt-in-the-mouth buttery flesh made my mind up straight away’, said Colin.

Thompson & Morgan's potato tasting team

Thompson & Morgan’s potato tasting team

So it was Setanta that was the unanimous choice of the taste testers. Boasting famous variety ‘Rooster’ as one of its parent lines, Setanta produces a high yield of medium-sized, oval, red-skinned tubers with medium yellow flesh. It has the reputation of being relatively pest and disease-free, as well as drought tolerant, so will appeal to the home gardener as a hassle-free variety to grow.

‘Setanta wowed the T&M blind taste test with its perfect roastie taste …. It’s the only roast potato I’ll be growing this year!’ said Paul Hansord on announcing the winner.

Setanta is available to buy online, priced at £4.99 for 20 tubers and £8.99 for 40 tubers.

Rebecca Tute
Rebecca works in the Marketing department as part of the busy web team, focusing on updating the UK news and blog pages and Thompson & Morgan’s international website. Rebecca enjoys gardening and learning about flowers and growing vegetables with her young daughter.

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