Tuesday, February 17, 2009


This is the raised bed of our 2008 sweet potatoes. The previous years we have made raised beds that are not permanent ones. It seems the dirt just keeps washing away, we decided to make a permanent box to hold it in. In our Valley we have yellow clay. Two inches down it is solid clay and when water hits it it turns liquid and when the sun comes out it bakes it as if it is a piece of pottery in an oven. This was the day they were planted out.

We pott culture our sweet potato plants when we receive them.  It seems to give them a head start to grow some newleaves before putting in the garden.
This is after they have been growing for about 3 weeks.
This last picture is the Bed at about 6 weeks.
Sweet potatoes at our house are a luxury item that should be simple to grow but seem to attract pests. Pest not in the insect family but in the mammalian family. When we raised sheep it was a likely hood that at least three times in a season the sheep would get in the garden and mow them flat. We would bemoan the fact every time. The sad fact is if people would close the gate behind them securely the sheep wouldn't get in. After the sheep left 3 years ago we breathed a sigh of relief that we wouldn't have to contend with that problem anymore.
How wrong we were. Our neighbors started invading the garden. At times we wondered if we had been blaming the sheep for what the neighbors did. Deer absolutely love sweet potatoes. We spent the summer learning to outwit the deer. We now have 8-10 foot fencing around the gardens. (It is not unsightly). We used 10 ft, 1 inch conduit every 8 feet around the garden. This is all you see. We tied netting, which is used to bale hay, on the poles. It is four foot wide and we made two courses high and wove, where they meet, together with baling twine. Is the old adage, you can fix anything if you have baling twine and duck tape. After totally fencing the upper garden we found the deer had been stumped, Hurrah!
We surveyed the garden before we left it in the evening, everything seemed to be in order.
The next morning I took a stroll through the garden to check what needed to be watered and if mulch was needed. I walked around the west end of the Hobbit house and gasp. My raised bed of sweet potatoes was devastated, it was mowed down to 6 inches high. I searched for evidence the deer had compromised the fence. There was nothing. Not a deer print to be seen. What in the world could have done that. Two days latter I spied the culprit, a ground hog. He had to be 35 lbs. He was enormous. He was waddling across the drive leaving the garden, hanging from his mouth was a sweet potato leaf.
Last summer the monster destroyed the patch 3 times. We tried to live trap him. He was so large the trap for raccoons was too small. He was able to steal the bait, spring the trap and back out the side his rump was holding open.

I suppose by now you were wondering when we were getting around to "The art of raising Sweets".
You can buy your starts from a seed company. They will be guaranteed to be virus free. But I have found you can't taste the pages. You don't have any idea what the description will taste like. So last year I started raising my own starts. I bought sweets and tasted them and when I found one that was the shape, all the ones in the pile the same general size, and if they were sweet, dark orange and dry fleshed, that's the ones I went back and bought 2 of. Last year I only bought one and only retrieved about a dozen slips from it. So this year I bought two.

This week is about 3 weeks too early to start the sweet potatoes but they have little teensie leaves peeking out. I retrieved an older rectangle aluminum cake pan from the pantry. It had sides about two inches high. I filled it 3/4 full of clean sand box sand. (it is a finer sand than plain old sand). I made two troughs in the sand and placed the potatoes in the troughs. I proceeded to gently pour water on the sand until there was a 1/4 inch of water glistening on the surface. Every morning I re-add water.
When your slips start growing and get at least 3 substantial leaves on each slip, (the books say twist them off. ) I give them a twist with the assistance of the point of a sharp paring knife inserted in the flesh under where they are growing from. Then I plant each slip in their own 3 inch pot, till they develop nice roots. They are placed under grow lights and kept at 60-70 degree temp. Sweets do not like to get chilled. When they are well filled out and graduate to the next size pot, if the green house is keeping a temp at night above 45 degrees I will move them out to the green house. They can't be planted out till the night time temps outside are warm. In our Valley that can be well into the first of June.
Will keep you posted on the When the slips start developing. The last picture above I didn't mention was taken the night before the ground hog devastated the bed.

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