Sweet Potato Experiment

First, Happy Father’s Day to all you dads out there.

In my infinite quest to plant as many edibles in my little gardening space as possible I’ll stick a plant wherever I think it might grow.  Any nook or cranny is fair game.  Every possible space must be filled with something growing.  If something is taking up ground space, it needs to be pretty or productive. 

That brings me to how the sweet potatoes got planted in the composter.

The composter wasn’t producing compost fast enough.  It’s really hard to get in there and turn the ingredients, and I’ve had a quicker turnaround mixing ingredients in large plastic bins in the garage. 

So….if not a functional composter, how about a nice, big planter?  I loaded the bottom of the composter with grass clippings and yard waste and put about six or eight inches of potting mix on top of that and planted the sweet potatoes.

Well, maybe the composter works better than I thought because…well, just look.

As you can see, the sweet potato plants are growing, and the soil line is shrinking.   I’m going to have to say this little experiment is probably going to be a failure.  But I’m sure it’s too late to re-transplant the sweet potato plants to a different spot without damaging the plant, so what I’m going to do is keep putting some of my yard waste in the container and see what happens.  Maybe I’ll have nice big sweet potatoes, or maybe I’ll have ugly scabby potatoes, or maybe I’ll have no potatoes.

While searching the internet, I found this article (1936 bulletin on growing sweet potatoes ).   It’s from way back when, and it gives a lot of detailed info about growing sweet potatoes and lots of interesting recipes, including one for sweet potato flour.  Who’da thunk it?

The sweet potato slips were compliments of my master gardening friend, Gregory Bratton.  He’s busy, busy, busy this year with lots of community gardens he’s working on, plus his own personal mini farm at 910 West 71st Street.  He told me recently that Erika Allen, daughter of Will Allen of Growing Power, has asked him to work on an upcoming city farm project, South Chicago Farm and Park at Altgeld Gardens.  Congratulations, Gregory.

Along with the sweet potato slips, Gregory gave me a few other plants which are doing just fine.

Sugar Baby watermelons interplanted with lettuce and onions at the top of the squash cold frame.

Russian Kale


The honeydew melon has finally found its sweet spot and has started growing.

In other happenings, I’ve staked the corn that got blown over the other day by the wind.  It’s really weird to see corn tasselling at two, three and four feet instead of giant humongous stalks of corn like EG grows.  And my poor peas.  They’re still leaning to the side and I don’t know what to do for them.  I guess when the wind was blowing the tendrils started tightening onto whatever they could, which was each other, and now they’re a tangled mess for the top two feet of growth above the trellis.

That’s it for today.  I want to get the house clean, try to catch up on some of the many things I’ve been putting off, and then take a break.

Happy Gardening!!!


A pleasant surprise

Yesterday morning I was pleasantly surprised when I found this:

I was just talking about the fact that I harvested a warm weather squash before the cool weather peas, so I was giddy when I saw the snow peas hanging there waiting for me.

I harvested (clockwise from the top) lettuce, mustard greens, parsley, strawberries, green onion tops, my little handful of snow peas, chard and two (count’em) two squash, one regular size, one baby.

Lots more squash to come…

Here’s something else coming along…Jalapeno peppers grown from seed from Annie’s Granny. (Thanks!)  This is my first time doing jalapenos.  I’m having visions of pickled peppers and homemade salsa.

Happy Gardening!!!

I snagged a squash before I could pick a pea.

My little squash experiment has worked out fairly well.  There are many blooms and small squash on the three plants inside the cold frame.  The squashes aren’t growing quickly like they do in the heat of the summer, so I figured I’d pick one of them to maybe jump start the plant.  So, here’s Squash No. 1

I gave it to my mother-in-law.  I shared my first lettuce harvest with her and the lettuce is doing great.  Maybe I’ll have the same luck with the squash.

I realize that I haven’t posted too much on the overall garden, so here’s my update.  Between the squash cold frame, the perennials I got from the Great Perennial Divide this past fall, the strawberries growing like crazy and taking over their bed, and my FreeCycle plants, I lost a lot of growing space.  I got rid of the square foot twine dividers and I like the beds better without them.  It makes accessing the ground much easier.

This is the north bed.

On the trellis are the snow peas I planted the same day as the squash.  They’re finally showing a few blossoms but no pods yet.  These were supposed to be peas with “short compact growth” “not requiring trellising,” but they’re already three feet tall.  It seems a little weird that there aren’t any blooms on the lower part of the plant.  I hope I’ll get a few peas before it gets too hot for them.

Here’s a closer look at the north bed.

In the front of the north bed are Stella D’Oro daylillies that I got from a FreeCycler.  There was one big clump that I divided into eight smaller clumps and transplanted one per foot.  There are a gazillion buds on each plant.

I also stuck some of the plants from the Great Perennial divide into this bed.  A couple of them didn’t make it, and the two in the middle there are about to bloom.  Once they bloom, I’ll decide where to move them.  Of course I don’t have the plant tag to even know what they are. 

This one…

And this one…

Anybody have any guesses on what they are?

Also stuck in this bed are a couple of broccoli plants that are beginning to head up, some flat leaf parsley, a few rainbow swiss chard, turnip greens, one Brandywine tomato, the lettuce/chives/carrots/radish mix I planted, a couple of the asparagus plants that I grew from seed that are still hanging on, and a couple of volunteer potatoes.

I ended up digging out a couple of the parsley plants and the majority of the swiss chard because when the iris and the lillies and the volunteer potato started growing those plants were shaded out. 

Here’s the middle bed.


This bed started with three FreeCycle strawberry plants.  Well, they came from three pots buried in the ground at the FreeCycler’s yard, but when I got them home I separated them and got maybe five or six plants.  But these have multiplied like crazy (did way better than the ones I bought).  This year I even broke off some of the runners before they got established so they won’t take over the planet.

With the strawberries are some onions interplanted with the strawberries that I break of the tops for green onions, a couple of broccoli plants…

At the top left of the picture (below)  is a brussles sprout, lettuce and swiss chard that I just stuck there when I was planting lettuce around the cold frame, some collard plants, and in the upper right with all the little yellow blooms is another Great Perennial Divide plant.  It’s a Lady’s Mantle.

Lady’s Mantle is an herb with some interesting properties: “The major belief of the early herbalists regarding the lady’s mantle was that this herb was possessed of such strong contractile powers, that it was thought capable of “restoring” lost virginity to women and was believed to bring on a new firmness to flabby breasts in older women.”  Hmmm, wonder if it works on cellulite.  I think I’ll look into that.

But, I digress.  Here’s the south bed.

From left to right:  Onions, two rows of mustard greens with a cherry tomato in front, two more rows of lettuce, a couple of brussles sprout plants, another row of lettuce and a row of swiss chard and a pepper in front and onions interspersed wherever I could find a little spot.

Here’s a closeup of the squash in the cold frame…

I pulled the overwintered swiss chard from the area at the top of the cold frame and stuck in these sugar baby watermelon plants (upper middle) that I got from Mr. Gregory.

I’m still getting lettuce galore from this bed.  I like to harvest the side leaves from the lettuce when they’re about palm size.  These plants (in the picture above) are growing in pure compost and new leaves seem to shoot out of the plants.  I wonder if it has something to do with the fact that these plants are literally under glass when the cold frame is open.

Anyway, lest this post becomes an epic novel, I’ll save the rest of the garden update for the next post.

Happy Gardening!!!

The Squash Experiment

I’ve been neglecting the blog recently, but I’ve been taking good care of the plants.  Here’s a quick update on the squash planted the day before a predicted frost :



Here’s a close-up.  Baby squash!!   I used the male flower from the squash plant that’ s growing in a yogurt container in the house to hand pollinate the flower since this group of plants didn’t have any open male flowers.

5-12:  The squash is a little bigger and hasn’t fallen off.  Hopefully the hand pollinating took.

I’ve been putting two gallon bottles of warm water into the cold frame most nights and then covering the window of the frame with an exercise mat to keep in the warmth.  It’s the perfect size to cover the window and because it’s padded it’s got great insulation.   When it’s really cold like it’s been for the past week with overnight lows in the 30s and 40s I’ll still throw the frost blanket over the bed and/or pull the plastic covering over it. 

The only problem I’ve had so far is that there are so many pill bugs in the frame.  But they’re not bothering the plants, so I guess it’s okay.   I sure hope the weather warms up and stays warm because the next problem I’ll have is the squash growing to big to close the cold frame window.   The experiment so far is going well.

Happy Gardening!!

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