The Yellow Farmhouse Garden

May 25, 2012

Planting Sweet Potato Slips in Raised Beds

Filed under: Vegetables — bob @ 9:49 am

Sweet potatoes are a great substitute for white potatoes in your diet.  Many people can’t — or shouldn’t — eat white potatoes.  White potatoes contain small amounts of  solanine a chemical compound that can trigger painful arthritis flare-ups in some people.  Sweet potatoes belong to an entirely  different plant family (morning glory family) so they do not contain solanine.

The most common and economical way to plant sweet potatoes is to plant slips.

Use sweet potato cuttings, called slips, for planting. Here is a bundle of slips that I bought from a garden store greenhouse.

Sweet potatoes require warm soil and weather conditions to grow and thrive.  They also require a fairly long growing season to produce the largest harvest.  That means you need to get them into the ground early — as soon as the soil temperature reaches 60 degrees F and the chance of frost is over.  In our area, SE Michigan, one way to increase soil temperature is to build raised beds.

These sweet potato beds are about 18 inches wide.

I built simple raised beds by digging a shallow trench next to the bed. The topsoil from the trench is piled up onto the bed.  These crude beds are designed to settle and become flatter as the season progresses.  But, for now, they provide a warm environment for young sweet potato plants.

These sweet potato beds are separated by the trench.

Plant the slips by digging a small hole in the center of the bed.  Place the slips deep into the soil. Leave only the top leaves sticking out of the ground.  Then add a slash of starter fertilizer or soluble plant food to the plant.

For small planting projects, I find a soft drink can works well for applying soluble fertilizer. The pour spout helps me control the amount of fertilizer I add.

Tuck the soil around the slip and you’re finished.

This sweet potao slip is tucked in and ready to grow.

The sweet potato slips have plenty of room to grow.

My slips are about 16 inches apart in the row; this gives them plenty of room to grow. Make sure you water your plants regularly to keep them growing. Additional watering later in the season will help them produce plenty of large roots.

Keep the weeds out of your sweet potato patch especially when the plants are still small.  The leaves of the growing plants will start to fill in empty spaces and keep weeds from getting a start.  As the sweet potato vines grow larger and larger, weeding will become easier as the growing season progresses.


May 22, 2012

Damaged Apple Buds

Filed under: Fruit — bob @ 11:16 am

I checked my apple trees this week to see if there were any apples left after that freeze we had a couple of weeks ago. I found only a handful of small apples that looked like they could grow on to maturity.

Over 99 percent of the buds were frosted and subsequently fell off the tree. I found a few buds that were still hanging on but, once I touched them with my finger, they fell to the ground.

Apple buds
The tiny apple on top will probably grow into a mature fruit. The small bud below was killed by the frost and has already separated from the tree.

There are other small, growing fruits left on the tree but many of them are deformed. In those cases, the cold temperature killed only part of the bud. They will grow to maturity but will still be gnarled.

We have only a few trees — imagine having acres of trees and having to depend on them for your livelihood.

The question now is, do I continue to spray? I probably will spray a few times, just to help keep insects and foliage diseases in check.


May 14, 2012

Dibbers, Dibbles and Dibblers

Filed under: Tools and Equipment — bob @ 12:03 pm

There are a lot of different ways to sow seeds directly into a garden bed.

Sometimes I use a hoe to form a shallow trench, then drop the seeds in. Other times I use my finger to poke a hole into the soil before dropping in the seed. I find as I get older, my finger has a tendency to get pretty tired if there are a lot of seeds to sow.

This week I decided to do something about it. I went into my woodworking shop a made a couple of traditional tools called dibblers, sometimes also known as dibbles or dibbers. These tools are used to make holes for planting seeds.

It took just a few minuets on the lathe to turn a couple of different sized dibbers from a piece of scrap cherry wood.

The dibble on the left has markings every half inch. The one on the right has markings in one inch increments

Most of the dibbers you see for sale on line and in the gardening catalogs have very sharp points. The description usually says something about how easy it is to penetrate hard soil with a metal-clad point. It occurs to me that if you prepared your planting bed properly, you wouldn’t need a sharp point.

I left the business end of my dibblers somewhat blunt. My garden soil is friable so it doesn’t take much effort to poke a hole. The blunt end also leaves extra space at the bottom of the hole for the seed to rest at the proper depth. It does make it more difficult to kill vampires, however.

If you need more space for a seedling transplant or plug, the tapered shape allows a hole to be widened by rotating the dibber in a circular motion.

I suppose I could have just whittled a piece of broom stick with my pocket knife but this is a much more elegant and versatile tool.

May 6, 2012

Wild Dogwood Tree in Bloom

Filed under: Trees — bob @ 12:05 pm

We have a wild area on our property that we keep for birds . It’s about an acre in size and is home to a wide variety of wildlife.

This spring, for the first time, we noticed a wonderful dogwood tree hidden in a rarely visited corner tucked in on the south side of  a pine tree. It is in full bloom and rivals anything you might find in a landscape nursery.

Our wild dogwood is about 18 feet tall.

It really is a stunning sight.

The tree is covered with large white blossoms.

We never would have had this surprise if I was sprucing-up this wild area every year with my brush cutter and weed-whacker. I probably would have cut it down long ago without even realizing what it was.

Sometimes, it pays not to organize the wilderness.


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