Saturday, June 2, 2012

Sweet Potatoes:  Simple and Scrumptious

We planted sweet potatoes today in the Harvesters Garden.  They are the last crop we plant in the spring and we're hoping for a bountiful harvest like this one photographed  last October.

Sweet potatoes are a completely different plant from white potatoes which are planted in early spring.  Related to the morning glory, they are easy to grow with few problems from pests or disease.  They don't like to be waterlogged and prefer loose, well-drained soil.

Sweet potatoes are started from plants called "slips" which are grown from existing sweet potatoes. They are available from local nurseries or you can grow your own if you start earlier in the season.  Be sure and keep your slips moist so the roots don't dry out.

 Plant your sweet potato slips from May 10 to June 10. Place them about 12 to 18 inches apart on a small hill or ridge about 8 inches high.  Allow three to four feet between rows to allow room for the vines to spread.

Dig a hole 3-4 inches deep and be sure to bury the roots.  Bury at least 2-3 "nodes" which are small bumps where roots start.  Leave all the leaves above the ground.

We planted sweet potatoes in a garden bed as well as a large container.  Soon the ground will be carpeted with lush vines which means little weeding and less watering. One of the easiest vegetables to grow, each sweet potato slip we planted today will generate several pounds of sweet potatoes this fall.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Cool Season Crops Planted

At the Harvesters Demonstration Garden, we have planted all our cool season crops.  We'll wait on warm season crops like tomatoes and peppers as there is still a chance of frost in April. Even if the temperature stays above 32 degrees, warm season crops can be set back by chilly weather and lag crops planted later.

The cool-season vegetables we planted can tolerate a light frost and hot temperatures make them bitter or go to seed. We mostly planted seeds but always use plants for broccoli and cabbage. Potatoes and onions also are not grown from seed.

With several of our plants, we used both plants and seeds for economy and to stagger maturity which is  important with lettuces. Other cool-season vegetables that work from seed or plants include collards and kale.

We also planted seeds for our beets, carrots, cilantro, mustard, spinach, swiss chard and turnips.

Here's our garden after we finished planting - we'll begin harvesting greens and lettuces in early May!

For a good reference on what to plant when, see this  planting calendar from University of Missouri Extension:

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Plan to Plant a Row for the Hungry This Year

About 20% of people in poor health report challenges getting fresh produce, compared to 5% of those in excellent health.  That's according to the Food Research and Action Council's "A Half-Empty Plate" study.  It's one more reason to Plant a Row for the Hungry and donate your produce to Harvesters at one of the drop off sites around the metro.

Spring planting time will be here in a few weeks and we've begun planning the 2012 Harvesters Demonstration Garden.  We'll plant more peppers this year, including  the Gypsy pepper pictured above.

Gypsy peppers are so easy and prolific we called them a "Vegetable Valedictorian" in an earlier blogpost at  Swiss Chard and Sweet Potatoes are also "Vegetable Valedictorians" and on our list to plant again.  

For a list of vegetable varieties that work well in our area, check out the plant and seed list at Kansas City Community Gardens. Their 2012 list won't be out for a few weeks, but here's the 2011 list for inspiring your vegetable gardening!