Thursday, June 9, 2011

Sweet Potato Dreaming

Thunder seems to be passing us by, again.  Daily rains stopped a couple weeks ago and switched to not even weekly rains.  Most gardeners want at least an inch a week.  After pulling out the sugar snap pea plants, I did something I rarely do any more -- spaded the bed.  I'm generally a "no till" gardener, keeping the garden well mulched so whenever you plant you push aside the mulch, pull a hoe through, and plant the seeds.  Inexperienced with sweet potatoes since I've only planted them once several years ago, I decided to follow the advice of the experienced, including putting them in a soft bed.  It was probably a good idea, as that bed was pretty hard.  Still, a few inches under, it remained nicely moist, which explains why my other plants aren't complaining yet about low rainfall.

So yes, on June 7 sweet potatoes joined the Elk Cliff clan, imported from Elyria, Ohio, from a retailer who sells on EBay.  I didn't have much luck finding them around here.  Several years ago, a fellow who grew up here looked down his nose at me and said, "We don't plant sweet potatoes."  I may find out why.  The farmers' co-op had a flat of six earlier when I wasn't ready.  I figure buying them once should be enough.  If they grow well, I'll use a couple of them to grow my own slips next spring.  I'd ordered two batches of 18.  The retailer, who promised to send a few extra, lived up to his or her word.  I planted 48.

Now I need to water them every day for the first week, every other day for another week or two, then at least weekly -- unless we get nice doses of rain.  Sweet potatoes, being tropical plants, should enjoy the hot weather we've been having -- 96 degrees yesterday, 90 today.  Today, I carried some ice outdoors and it steamed or whatever you call what ice does in the heat, sort of like dry ice.

"I guess the peas are over?" says Virginia.

Not quite.  We still have another picking, small I think, of Wandos (shelling peas).  But in a few days, after I finish the book update I've been postponing in favor of preparing for a couple music gigs, including a wedding Saturday, the peas will come out and in will go sweet corn and maybe some beans.  I'll probably try the "3 sister" thing native Americans are known for -- corn, squash and green beans planted together.  The squash spread around to form a mulch-like cover and the green beans help fix nitrogen for the corn, a "heavy feeder."

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