Sweet southern spuds in a northern garden

While searching for spuds to plant, this northern gardener discovers 25 sweet surprises.

Courtesy of Craig Summers Black
This is not one plant. It is 25 plants. Unfortunately, they are all sweet potatoes.
Courtesy of Craig Summers Black
Sure enough, look at all those spuds.
Courtesy of Craig Summers Black
How can something so small grow up to grow up to taste so terrible?

My girls really like sweet potatoes. Well, not everybody’s perfect.

But I am a loving husband and father, and if they want me to plant the dang things, I most certainly will. Because these marching orders will probably be the only garden activity these two will deign to participate in this year.

So off I went to the nursery in search of the elusive orange french-fry material.

I was new to potato farming when we moved to Iowa many years ago. Since then I have acquired something of a rep for my Yukon Golds. Even my in-laws, who do not quite approve of me, lust after my spuds. Those Yukon Golds are, I must admit, hard to part with.

So that's what sweet potato seedlings look like

So you will imagine my surprise when I told the nursery owner I wanted to plant sweet potatoes and he handed me a little black nursery pot with what looked like a houttuynia, that wildly spreading ground cover, peeking out of it. [See Photo 1 above.]

Huh? No little orange seed spuds to cut up?

“That’s your sweet potatoes,” the guy said, and rather gruffly I thought. “Twenty-five of them.”

Really? OK, if you say so.

“But I wouldn’t plant ’em yet,” he said. “Still too cold. If we get another night in the 30s, you’ll have to cover ’em. Better wait till May 1.”

I nodded my head obediently. But, hey, fat chance.

Who could resist planting now?

I drove home and immediately spilled out the contents of the pot. The state ag department says the soil temp is, surprisingly, already in the upper 50s at the moment, and if the farmers hereabouts have commenced planting their corn and beans, so I decided to plant these taters right now.

Sure enough, once I emptied the nursery pot, the little slips were easily separated, looking kind of like 25 forlorn little salad sprouts.[See Photo No. 2 above.]

I planted them 10 to 12 inches apart (you can see on each slip where the soil level was). [See Photo No. 3 above.] I watered them dutifully.

And now all I have to do is wait, as you do for regular potatoes, until the mature foliage starts to yellow – and then dig them up.

So I can report that I will have done each and every thing that the girls have requested. But they still can’t make me eat no sweet potatoes. No, sir.


Follow Craig’s further adventures in gardening, music, and rural life on Twitter.

Editor’s note: Craig Summers Black, The Transplanted Gardener, is one of nine garden writers who blog regularly at Diggin' it. Look for more of what he's written by clicking here. The Monitor’s main gardening page offers articles on many gardening topics. And you can access all our Diggin' It blog posts.These are new URLS, so you may want to bookmark them so you can return easily. See also our RSS feed.

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