how to plant

Time to Plant Your Sweet Potato Slips

Summer is fast approaching (in Florida, anyway) which means it’s time to get your slips in the ground and growing.  They require a long growing season and they require warmth.  But they don’t grow from seed potatoes, rather the “slips” created from your sweet potatoes.  How does one create a sweet potato slip?

The technique is easy.  You simply cut your sweet potato in half, perch it upon the mouth of a jar or glass (suspended by toothpicks works well) submerging the bottom half in water.  Voila!

creating slips

Place in a sunny location and keep the water level high enough so that the bottom half remains wet and then watch your potato sprout.

After a while—times vary, but you can expect to wait days, even weeks in some cases—shoots (leaves) will form on the top of your potato.  You can gently remove these and place them in water, again half-submersed, and a tangle of roots will develop.

slip roots

When they reach a couple of inches in length, you simply transplant them to your garden and water them in.

Sweet potatoes like loose sandy soil and don’t need a lot of fertilizer or water, which makes them especially kind to the novice Florida gardener, such as myself.   You can amend the soil with some compost to add nutrients, but don’t worry if you can’t.  These girls are pretty hardy.

Depending on the variety, potatoes can be harvested from 100 – 140 days.   I planted my first crop in June and began harvesting in October but continued through December.  They don’t like the cold, so we cleared the remainder out and collected them for storage before the temps dipped too low.

As with any tender transplant, take care with your new rootings and they will grow fast and furious.   Wonderful news, because sweet potatoes are not only easy to grow, but they’re as healthy as it gets.  Roasted, mashed, baked or broiled, these babies will keep you healthy and happy and hoppin’ ready for a new crop come fall!

sweet potato slips ready for sprouts

Mine are on the shelf and ready for action.  The colorful one in the middle was a gift from my daughter. 🙂  She made it at one of those clay-fire-glaze studios.  Cute, isn’t it?

Ingenious AND Easy!

Okay, you know I’m always looking for an easier way to garden. Not that gardening in and of itself is difficult, but it does require time and effort. How much time and effort depends solely upon the gardener. Enter smart new idea…

corn channelsPlant your seeds in channels instead of holes. Yep, that’s it! Create channels down the length of your raised beds and drop your seeds–kernels, in the case of corn–and cover with compost. Done. (Told you it was easy, didn’t I?)

Look at those gorgeous lines in the dirt. And all I had to do to make them was drag my tiller through the dirt. Because I have sandy dirt in this section. My sweet potatoes used to be located here and those gals LOVE sandy soil, although corn doesn’t. Which is why I filled in my channels with compost. Composted cow manure will work, as will mushroom compost. Anything to enrich the sandy soil will do and is an absolute must. Corn won’t be happy without it.

corn channels filled with seeds and compost

Oh, and don’t forget the fertilizer. An all-purpose organic fertilizer works well but do remember to keep it handy. Corn plants are heavy feeder. Real oinkers in the garden, so keep them fed–especially with lots of nitrogen–and moist (channels work well to keep the water directed toward the roots) and your corn will provide more ears of pleasure than your heart could desire. Additionally, dusting with dipel dust worked so well for my tomatoes, I’m convinced it will also prove to be the secret weapon for my corn plants so I’ll dust my corn to keep the varmints at bay.

corn sprouts in channels

When thinking about the nearby plants in your garden, remember that corn and tomato don’t get along. At all. So keep in mind to keep these two away from each other when planning your rows.

Woo-hoo–spring is practically here!

Already?  Great beets alive, pull your heads out of the sand and get busy!  There are seeds to buy, ground to prep, compost to turn—

Oops—did we forget to start the compost pile?  Can’t find it under all the snow?  Well, leave it be then, there are plenty of other things to keep us busy.  Like gather the tools, plan for location, check the water supply…  Now where did that sprinkler go? 

So many things to think about could scare a gal clear out of the garden, but hold on to your tool belt, because we’re going to make this easy!  As pie.  (Because we all have time to bake pie, right?)

No, we don’t, but we DO have time for a garden.  Whether you prefer flowers or vegetables, it all works the same.  First we peruse the glorious pages of our seed and bulb catalogs, indulging in visions of beautifully lined walkways and patios bursting with bloom.  Remember:  edible landscape is all the rage now.  Next we imagine the luxury of plucking fresh produce from our very own garden, our very own salad buffet just outside our front door, organic and healthy, host to a fiesta of ladybugs and bees.

Perfect.  These babies love to mix and mingle with the butterflies and dragonflies hovering nearby.  Are you with me?  Can you feel the excitement, the powerful rejuvenation after a long and cold winter?  It’s true.  Springtime is the season of renewal. From the soft grass underfoot to the blossoms at our fingertips and the vegetables in our basket, spring is when we take heart in nature and plan for another harmonious year ahead. 

A wonderful outlook to be sure, so don’t ruin it with angst or reluctance.  And to keep your restless mind from wandering, here’s your short list for things to do:

1 – Figure out where you want (have space) to plant your flowers/vegetables.

2 – If this space is overgrown, cut everything back.  “Hey, a little room here?  We need room here!”

3 – Not enough seed catalogues?  Break out the search engines type the keywords of your heart’s desire!

4 – Educate yourself on companion planting, ie. who likes who, who can’t be in the same row as who.  (You know what I’m talking about.  Sometimes plants can be so difficult.)

5 – Sharpen your tools.  Or find them.  Whichever works best.  I suggest 3 to start:  weeder, cultivator and hoe – if you’re serious about this, that is. Otherwise, ditch the hoe. It’s a back-breaker.  Check my Prize Picks section for some of my favorites!

6 – Dirt check.  Not all dirt is created equally so a soil test would be a good start.  Give you an idea of how much work this garden thing will really entail.

7 – Gather your mulch.  Newspapers, pine bark, old dead leaves…  They’re all members of the organic mulch building blocks association and the make for the perfect weed prevention/fertilizer.

8 – Don’t forget to locate your hose.  Plants won’t grow if you don’t water them.  Genius!

9 – Buy a wind chime.  Some birds need scaring and you need relaxing.  Makes for nice ambiance, too.  We do want to visit our garden, don’t we?  Daily visits are one of the secrets to successful gardening.  (Just ask Jax from my novel, Jennifer’s Garden —  the man knows his business!)

10- Dream.  Wistfully daydream and contemplate about the wonder your garden will become.

Once spring ever gets here, that is.