Category Archives: Sweet potato

Rainy New Year

What is it with this weather?

December was mild with only a few cool days – normal weather. A frost is very rare in December. On the other hand, a solid cloud cover with barely a glimpse of the sun is not normal from Christmas to New Year’s. And did I mention the rain? I thought we were in the dry season. This past week it rained on Monday. I worked in the garden on Tuesday. It rained on Wednesday and Thursday. Finally, the sun came out yesterday (Friday, January 3) but the temperature plummeted. The high for the day was only about 53°F.

So I didn’t get as much done in the garden this week as I had hoped to.

Potato HarvestI harvested the sweet potatoes from the four plants that I had bought at Lowe’s. As I worked I discovered that only three of the plants had survived. I harvested a whole 4 1/2 pounds! Many of the tubers were rather small.

I also pulled a small purple sweet potato that was growing as a weed amongst the bell peppers.

Note to self: keep mixing compost into the soil and, next time, add a little fertilizer at planting! The heavily weathered soil on the Suncoast has little natural fertility.

Crater LakesWhile digging sweet potatoes I also weeded the bed. Then I planted the four cabbages and four broccoli that were patiently waiting in their 8 inch pots. I used the crater planting technique. I filled each crater with water – untreated, straight from the hose. Since it rained on Wednesday and Thursday I didn’t do any watering this week.

I quit work while there was still daylight so I could get cleaned up to go to a New Year’s Eve prayer fellowship. That was a peaceful, productive way to bring in the new year.

Clay and Maggie dropped by on Wednesday to bless me with a half-dozen eggs from their chickens. They also wanted to see my garden and pick up their manure buckets. I sautéed the purple sweet potato, one of the Beauregards, and an eggplant in palm oil. We enjoyed sampling them together. The purple potato wasn’t as sweet as the orange ones. Maggie’s especially fond of sweet potatoes so I sent some home with her.

P1000374We checked the temperature of the newest compost pile – number four. Even though it was less than 9 inches deep and there’d been a cold rain all morning the temperature was up to 84°.

After looking things over, Maggie asked why I bothered transplanting the broccoli and cabbages into the ground – they were growing so well in the pots. What a silly question! Obviously, I had to transplant them because, uh, you know. Well, I mean. Hmm…

Maybe I ought to experiment with container gardening?

By the way – what’s the plural of broccoli? There seems to be some confusion online. Since the word “broccoli” is the plural of the Italian word “broccolo,” I’m going to use broccoli for both singular and plural in English. So let it be written, so let it be done.

Pretty Flower

Pretty FlowerLook at the pretty flower. It’ll be even prettier in a couple of days when it turns into an Okra pod!

This feels like a cool August to me. Maybe it’s because I’ve moved so far north (five whole miles). As I type this it’s 11:00 AM and the temperature has only just reached 80° F (27 C). And it has been cloudy all morning.

BreakI’m aware that I haven’t posted for two weeks but I have the world’s best excuse—laziness! I guess it’s time to update what’s been going on in the garden – which isn’t much. I’ve been doing routine maintenance, of course: lawn mowing and a little weeding.

After I’d finished my post two weeks ago (that would make it Sunday, the 11th) I broke open compost pile number one – which is almost 100% Oak leaves. The pile temperature had dropped to ambient so I knew it wasn’t rotting very fast. As you can see from the pictures it isn’t thoroughly rotted – more of a leaf mold than a true compost. But I figured it would make good mulch for the Moldveggies.

Before mulching I added some worm castings to the garden. This should prevent nitrogen starvation (that’s where the mulch takes up nitrogen from the soil in order to continue rotting, temporarily depriving the plants of a needed nutrient).

Since the sweet potatoes had pretty much covered their beds I added Shovelcompost by simply dumping it on top of the plants. The leaves bent down and shed the compost; it ended up mostly on the soil. With all the heavy rains we’ve been having I figured that was good enough – the rain would wash it down the rest of the way. It worked.

Last weekend (August 17 and 18) I didn’t work on any projects at all. It was a lazy time of watching a couple of movies on Amazon prime and thinking about this and that.

 

Mulch

Later on today I hope to talk about what I did this weekend.

Ciao,

Rick

 

Update June 10, 2013

Okra More rain on Sunday evening–none so far today.
Hand watered garden with bucket and scoop.

Okra looks OK–but a couple of the stems look suspiciously thin where they meet the soil.

 

PurpleOne of the Purple slips looks dead. The others are beginning to stand up and look like plants!

Compost piles:
#1: 100°
#2:  110°
#3:  140° (less than half filled)

I’m trying to figure out what world my web host lives in. It’s June 10 where I live but the date (below) says June 11. Weird.

Southern Exposure Comes Through

Open BoxI mentioned in an earlier post that my order of sweet potato slips never arrived. I had gotten the impression, from the seed company confirmation email, that they had been shipped. Apparently, this was incorrect. On Tuesday another email arrived:

Subject: Sweet Potato Order Update Southern Exposure Seed Exchange
Your sweet potatoes have shipped today 6/4. They should arrive in 2-3 days.
Sweet potatoes should be planted quickly. If you’re not prepared to plant, place slips loosely in a flat of soil. They can be revived upon arrival by dipping in water or placing bottom half of slip in a cup of water.
You should expect the plants to look wilted after their long journey!

BowlsThey arrived on Thursday evening – and I was not ready. I opened the shipping box and placed the root ends in a couple of bowls full of moist vermiculite. I figured that would hold them till Saturday. As you can see they weren’t kidding about the wilting.

One reason (excuse) for my lack of preparation was named Andrea. This tropical storm sideswiped our area from late Wednesday to late Thursday – bringing heavy rains and strong winds. Between the two days I got over 4 inches of rain.

Saturday morning I was up bright and early to clean up from the storm. It was well past noon before I had all of the yard debris – mostly oak branches – raked up and shredded. While I was at it I mowed the lawn. The rain did wonders for my grass.

Okra CardboardAndrea’s winds had shifted the cardboard mulch on the okra bed, covering some of the plants. I stripped it off and noticed that more seeds had germinated underneath. Apparently the rain had washed them to new locations far from the holes that I had punched. The germination rate was better than I had first thought.

After a break for lunch I went grocery shopping. As a side note, Cornell University has just done a study proving that you should never go shopping when you’re hungry. I stumbled across this article on the Telegraph website. Don’t these people have anything better to do? My mom taught me this fifty years ago!

BuffyI began preparing the new garden bed about 3 PM, spacing the Beauregard slips 12 inches apart and the purple slips 24 inches apart.

VermiculiteI modified my planting technique this time (gardening is an art, not a science). In a 5 gallon bucket I mixed a couple of gallons of vermiculite with about a gallon of worm castings (measured by eye). I then dumped about a quart of the mix in each spot where I was going to plant. Using my hands I stirred this into the dirt along with a couple of cups of chlorine-free water, making a nice mud hole for each of my plants. Since we had just gotten 4 inches of rain the soil still had a vague hint of moisture. Talk about extremely well-drained! By the way, I purchase my vermiculite locally in 4 cubic foot (about 30 gallon) bags. An 8-quart (2 gallon) bag sells for about five dollars. The 30 gallon bag is about thirty-five dollars. It’s very convenient to have large quantities on hand whenever needed.

PlantedTwo of the slips didn’t look very good—one of each variety. Maybe they’ll survive.

I finished up about five o’clock. It began raining—a nice, steady downpour—about 5:30.

Having completed the planting, I decided to read the instructions that came with the shipment (it’s a guy thing). It was generic info that recommended a spacing of 9 to 18 inches. Close enough. It also recommended that I “transplant in the evening and water immediately.” Under the brutal Florida sunshine this is excellent advice.

As you can see from the date of this post I was too tired and sore to do any writing on Saturday evening. I retired early. The rain was still falling.

The Okra is Up

Today was a very busy day – lots of maintenance. The good news is…

The okra has germinated and is doing just fine – sort of. I had planted  five groups of three seeds. The germination counts were three, two, two, one, and zero. Eight out of fifteen isn’t too good.

No CardboardNotice that these two okra plants have no cardboard around them. We had a bad windstorm on Tuesday and I guess that one piece of cardboard wasn’t weighted down very well. I don’t know where it went; it isn’t in the yard. It’s interesting that the cardboardless seedlings look better than any of the others. Perhaps I need to rethink that “trapdoor in the cardboard” idea.

About an hour after breakfast I perceived that the neighborhood was awake – one of the neighbors started doing some outside repairs with a hammer. I headed out to get the lawn mowed. Rain was in the forecast and I wanted get finished before it began. Of course it started raining while I was still doing the front yard. It was a gentle rain, though, and didn’t make it through the Oak-leaf canopy over my head.

Soon the rain stopped but I had to wait for the grass in the backyard to dry out again. I stayed busy working on the compost heaps. I’ve neglected, til now, to provide a time-line and updates; this I will now remedy.

I started the first compost pile on the weekend of February 16 – 17. I finished filling it on March 3. The second compost bin began its life the following weekend, March 9. It was filled to overflowing by  Sunday, May 5. Since I was out of town the following weekend I built my new compost heap on Saturday the eighteenth, two weeks ago.

Compost pile number one, which was mostly Oak leaves – thoroughly shredded – didn’t heat up very quickly. The highest temperature I recorded was about 125°. Last weekend it was down to 110 and today I measured it at 108°. I dug into it today and took some nice pictures to show how well, though slowly, it was decaying. Alas, techno-trouble with my SD card resulted in the loss of those pictures.

Compost pile number two had a lot more nitrogen in the mix. I checked the temperature two weeks ago and it was 135°. Last weekend it was down to 120 and today about 115. Unfortunately I have been slack on keeping the compost heaps moist enough so I took some time today to give them a drenching – 15 gallons in the two older bins and ten for the new one. I’ll check the temperatures again this week to see the affect of the added moisture.

Water BareAfter clipping the back yard (all twelve blades of grass) I still had some time before lunch to “repair” the okra problem. Rather than replant seeds in the bare spot I pricked out a seedling from the threesome and planted it in the empty location. I’ll have to thin the extras in any case.

The verb, “to prick”, is one of those lovely Anglo-Saxon words with lots of different meanings. If you look it up in an (online) dictionary you have to go way down the list before you find the definition “to transplant a seedling.”

I first gently watered the vermiculite in each of the spots – including the one with no seedlings. I punched a hole with my finger where I wanted the new plant to go. Then I used a wooden matchstick to gently loosen the vermiculite around the seedling I was going to prick out. Some people like to use a pencil, a toothpick, or a skewer, but since I moved I haven’t been able to find my pencils or my toothpicks or my bamboo skewers.

Tap rootAs you can see from the photo I gently lifted the seedling out of the ground. Notice the nice taproot it is developing. I had to stir down pretty deeply to get it to pull loose easily. This is another case where vermiculite really shines. It’s so loose that it does minimal damage to the roots when you have to transplant the tiny seedlings.

I placed the seedling in its new home and gently firmed the vermiculite around it. All done. I wonder if the okra will be ready to pick next weekend?

Sweet potatoesThe sweet potatoes, by the way, are looking good.

After lunch I had a long and exhausting trip to Home Depot – spending a little more than I had planned. But that’s a story for another post.

I’m going to sit here and enjoy the gentle evening rain.

God bless,

Rick

Is today a good day to plant sweet potatoes?

I ordered some sweet potato slips from an online company. Unfortunately they never arrived. I’d rather not mention the company name until I get the problem resolved. Or not.

LayoutGardenBedAs an alternative, I went to Lowe’s and picked up a nine pack of Beauregard sweet potato plants. I’ve never grown sweet potatoes – I’ve rarely even eaten them – but they’re a traditional summertime southern crop. What the heck.

As you can see from the photo my backyard is not heavily overgrown with grass. After laying out a 4’x16′ bed I lightly cultivated and pulled most of the weeds. I’ll depend on a cardboard mulch to take care of the rest.

WateringCultivating talcum powder sand isn’t exactly hard work—but watering it is! For a fun experiment (if you don’t live around here) get some talcum powder and put it in a dish. Sprinkle a little water on top. Does it soak in? I didn’t think so.

Here’s how I did it. I dug a trench with a cultivator, filled it with water, and cultivated again. Repeat, over and over. The water just puddles on top of the soil unless you stir it in. Once the soil and water were mixed I added a cardboard and log mulch to keep the water from evaporating too fast.

What spacing to use? The little plastic thing that came with the plants suggests 12”. An online source suggests 9”, with 32” between rows. Since my bed is four feet wide (until the grass moves back in) I punched the holes 9” apart. I dug each planting hole with a stream of water Plantedfrom the hose, and stuffed the plant in the resulting puddle. I don’t need a trowel.

I also threw a handful of worm castings in each hole to get the plants off to a quick start (I’ll talk about my red worms some other time).  I checked online to see how much fertilizer sweet potatoes need – and it doesn’t seem like they need much. I’m going to try growing them with nothing added except the worm castings. We’ll see how they do.

 

One thing that I forgot to mention – something you always need to do when planting. Pray. It really does help.

Close-up

Here’s a close-up of a sweet potato plant.

God bless

Rick