Monday, June 30, 2008

Growing Sweet Potatoes - underneath those vines, there really are sweet potatoes

I have a sweet potato vine growing in a container in my kitchen window, and I keep wondering if it would actually grown a sweet potato underneath the soil. Perhaps so. From a poster at one of the listservs I am subscribed to, she cites her experience with sweet potatoe vines...and it sounds like it was an unexpected surprise to her to find actual sweet potatoes growing.

I am put off a bit by learning the sweet potato is a cousin to the morning glory vines, and yes, the leaves of the vine do look much like the morning glory vines in my yard. Since I already 'fight' with the spreading morning glory vines that never really are eradicated, but I try to keep them from overtaking our intentional plantings, I'm not sure I would want to generate another aggressive vine spreader with sweet potatoes. So, I will think some about this, how I can grow and keep contained, because I do want sweet potatoes - Yes!

A shout out of thanks to Brenda for sharing her experience (below):

I just took pieces that were sprouting & put them against a chain link fence. The vines grew all over the fencing. Then they branched out all over my garden.. like weeds. When the leaves started to die a little, you could see the potatoes peeking up from the mound at the base of the plant. As I started pulling up the runners, I kept finding more.

They are a member of the morning glory family & the vines act like it... I had one potato that was the size of a coconut!! No special care. Didn't water them any more than the normal grey water from the laundry & whatever water God gave me. No pesticides. A little mulch from the horse stable but nothing special. I harvested more today. Very hardy. Willing to take over the world if you let it.

Epsom Salts - Nutrient for flowers and plants

entry from the Tacoma News Tribune 'Get Growing' blog

Alert! This just in from the Epsom Salt Council. Could it possibly be true?

Just as “Milk does a body good,” Epsom Salt may be one of the most perfect nutrients for flowers and plants. And mid-to-late spring is the ideal time to nourish the soils and roots of your favorite foliage and flowers with this inexpensive and easy-to-use compound. According to the Epsom Salt Council, research indicates Epsom Salt can help seeds germinate; make plants grow bushier; produce more flowers; increase chlorophyll production; improve phosphorus and nitrogen uptake; and deter pests, including slugs and voles.

Anyone used Epsom salt? What did you think? If you haven't tried it, but want to, the Epsom Salt Council recommends these amounts:

Shrubs (evergreens, azaleas, rhododendron): 1 tablespoon per 9 square feet. Apply over root zone every 2-4 weeks.

Lawns: Apply 3 pounds for every 1,250 square feet with a spreader, or dilute in water and apply with a sprayer.

Trees: Apply 2 tablespoons per 9 square feet. Apply over the root zone 3 times annually.

Garden Startup: Sprinkle 1 cup per 100 square feet. Mix into soil before planting.

Roses & Tomatoes: Use 1 tablespoon per foot of plant height per plant; apply every two weeks.

For more details, click here.

UPDATE: WSU professor Linda Chalker-Scott has written an interesting article that takes a skeptical look at using Epsom salt in the garden. Click here to read.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Slideshow - photos over the years

Here is a slideshow that in photos chronicles some elements of our lives since we moved to Pacific County eight years ago.

Windows Live Spaces

Independence Day Challenge 2008 - A Food Management Challenge

I'm pleased to have found this great challenge and it is a challenge - Independence Day Challenge 2008 - at Casaubon's Book blog. The blog is full of useful information and worth a look. We (husband and I, oh and our dog and cat) are already into our efforts of trying to learn how to take care of ourselves (primarily feed ourselves) as the oil/food/economic crisis continues. And we recognize we will fall seriously short in our efforts unless we learn the skills and make them part of our daily habits.

Much of the blogging that I've done to date has felt more like 'heed the warnings' sort of messengering. But I think the 'warnings' now are coming from many messengers, and I want to change the direction of my blogging efforts.

With that in mind, I'm liking what I'm seeing in taking the Independence Day Challenge 2008. It seems like good practice to get in better shape for food management challenges headed our way.Read the details at Casabon's blog - Independence Days; My First Challenge. Simply stated --

That means in each day or week, try to:

1. Plant something.
The idea that you should plant all week and all year is a good reminder to those of us who sometimes don’t get our fall gardens or our succession plantings done regularly. Remember, that beet you harvested left a space - maybe for the next one to get bigger, but maybe for a bit of arugula or a fall crop of peas, or a cover crop to enrich the soil. Independence is the bounty of a single seed that creates an abundance of zucchini, and enough seeds to plant your own garden and your neighbor’s.

2. Harvest something.
From the very first nettles and dandelions to the last leeks and parsnips dragged out of the frozen ground, harvest something from the garden or the wild every day you can. Be aware of the bounty around you realizing that there’s something - even if it is dandelions for tea or wild garlic for a salad - to be had every single day. Independence is really appreciating and using the bounty that we have.

3. Preserve something.
Sometimes this will be a big project, but it doesn’t have to be. It doesn’t take long to slice a couple of tomatoes and set them on a screen in the sun, or to hang up a bunch of sage for winter. And it adds up fast. The time you spend now is time you don’t have to spend hauling to the store and cooking later.

4. Prep something.
Hit a yard sale and pick up an extra blanket. Purchase some extra legumes and oatmeal. Sort out and inventory your pantry. Make a list of tools you need. Find a way to give what you don’t need to someone who does. Fix your bike. Fill that old soda bottle with water with a couple of drops of bleach in it. Plan for next year’s edible landscaping. Make back-road directions to your place and send it to family in case they ever need to come to you - or make ‘em for yourself for where you might have to go. Clean, mend, declutter, learn a new skill. Independence is being ready for whatever comes.

5. Cook something.
Try a new recipe, or an old one with a new ingredient. Sometimes it is hard to know what to do with all that stuff you are growing or making. So experiment now. Can you make a whole meal in your solar oven? How are your stir-fried pea shoots? Stuffed squash blossoms? Wild morels in pasta? Independence is being able to eat and enjoy what is given to us.

6. Manage your reserves.
Check those apples and take out the ones starting to go bad and make sauce with it. Label those cans. Clean out the freezer. Ration the pickles, so you’ll have enough to last to next season. Use up those lentils before you take the next ones out of the bag. Find some use for that can of whatever it is that’s been in the pantry forever. Sort out what you can donate, and give it to the food pantry. Make sure the squash are holding out. Independence means not wasting the bounty we have.

7. Work on local food systems.
This could be as simple as buying something you don’t grow or make from a local grower, or finding a new local source. It could be as complex as starting a coop or a farmer’s market, creating a CSA or a bulk store. You might give seeds or plants or divisions to a neighbor, or solicit donations for your food pantry. Maybe you’ll start a guerilla garden or help a homeschool coop incubate some chicks. Maybe you’ll invite people over to your garden, or your neighbors in for a homegrown meal, or sing the praises of your local CSA. Maybe you can get your town to plant fruit or nut producing street trees or get a manual water pump or a garden put in at your local school. Whatever it is, our Independence days come when our neighbors and the people we love are food secure too.

Sharon does have one of those challenge buttons at her blog and provides the html code. I couldn't seem to get the html code to work so don't have the button on this blog -- yet. But I will make weekly reports, I think, about how I'm handling my Independence Day Challenges.
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