Saturday, December 7, 2013
Have I ever told you about Sweet Potatoes?
Here are roughly half of the sweet potatoes I grew in our garden this year. Sweet potatoes, aside from being delicious and nutritious are Very Easy to grow and to store. Unlike Irish potatoes, they do not need a dark cold place to be stored, long term. In fact, if you chill them, it will ruin them fairly quickly. I just keep mine in a basket sitting in the kitchen. Many of them would still be good to eat a year from now. What? It's true!
Not only that, but once you get started, you never have to buy plants for them again, as it is so very easy to grow your own. If you are new to this, now is the time to start thinking about it and planning, as gardening season will be upon us before long. I am a dyed-in-the-wool gardener. As soon as the really cold weather hits, I start dreaming of next year's garden. Here is what you should do:
1. When the soil can be easily worked, either rototill the area where you want to plant them and enrich the soil, or spade the soil and hoe it up thoroughly. Add compost, well-rotted manure, or whatever you prefer.
2. I live in southern Indiana. You may have to adjust planting dates accordingly. Try to get a few sweet potatoes from a gardening friend. Do not purchase them at the grocery store, as they have likely been treated to prevent sprouting. On May 1st, take your sweet potatoes and plant them in the garden, placing them horizontally and covering them with soil. They should not be planted deeply.
2. On June 1st, there should be numerous "slips" - actual sweet potato plants growing on your seed tubers.
3. I like to plant mine in a long row, 12 - 18 inches apart. I work up the soil thoroughly and using a rake, make a long ridge. Get a watering can full of water, a trowel and dig little holes at those intervals all along the ridge. When you are ready, begin pulling the "slips" off of the seed tubers, fill the holes with water, one at a time, and plant the slip in the muddy hole. Cover up the bottom of the slip, leaving the leaves sticking out. Continue in this manner until you either run out of room to plant or out of slips.
4. Unbelievably, they will grow! At first they wilt, but by the next day, they should be fine. Then, all you have to do is try to control weeds until the vines cover the ridge and keep the weeds down because of the shade.
5. Then, sometime before it frosts later in the year, go out and dig or pull up your sweet potatoes. Don't wash them then. Just put them in baskets or boxes and bring them into the house.
This year, some creature started eating them before I got to them, but even so, we ended up with more than a bushel of good sweet potatoes. Rabbits will eat the vines. The other invader was probably a mouse. Lucky mouse!
If you don't have access to some tubers to plant, then buy sweet potato plants from your local nursery, or they can also be purchased online. Once you have a start, you never have to buy them again.