Posts tagged gardening

Tips and Tricks for Growing Perfect Sweet Potatoes

sweet potatoesIf you have perused through my blog then you know that I love gardening.  One of the things that gets me really excited each season is trying to grow something new in my garden.  Any of you that have a garden know that it is often not as simple as just planting what you like and then watering it. Many fruits and vegetables can be quite picky about the soil ph, the amount of sun they get and even the amount of water.

This year I have taken on a new endever and I trying to grow one of my favorite veggies. SWEET POTATOES!!!  I have been nervous about growing them in the past as things that grow underground seem really tricky to me so I just avoid them.  I mean how do you know how they are doing if you can’t see them?  This year I have tossed that concern aside and have planted 9 sweet potato plants in one of my raised beds. I have been doing lots of research on growing sweet potatoes so I thought I would share all that I have learned.  From my research, it seems like sweet potatoes are actually going to be pretty easy to grow.  This year I planted a variety of sweet potatoes called Beauregard Sweet Potatoes.  It is favored for high yields of uniform, reddish-purple potatoes with tasty, deep-orange flesh that keeps well in storage. They are also disease resistant and resist cracking.

Here are some tips and tricks for successful sweet potato gardening:

1. Till the soil to depths of about 10-12 inches

Sweet potatoes like rather sandy soil that is loose and well tilled. Soil that is packed tight will not allow enough space for the tubers to easily grow.

2. Water deeply about once a week

Sweet potatoes need moist well draining soil.  It is necessary to water them really deeply about one a week.   This would be a good time to use the sprinkler as it may be pretty time consuming (not to mention boring) to give them enough water. It seems about 1 inch of water a week is necessary. On a side note, I did read that you should not water your sweets in the last 3-4 weeks before harvest as this will keep your mature tubers from splitting. Not sure if this is true, but thought it would be worth sharing.

3. Keep them warm

Sweet potatoes like warm soil and sunlight. If you are in the south then the warmth should not be a problem.  My sweets are going to get about 6 hours of sun a day. I am not fully convinced that this is enough, but it is the sunniest place I have to plant them.  Due to the low sun, I am going to apply extra mulch or maybe even black plastic mulch to help keep the ground warm.

4. Side dress with compost

It sounds silly right?  What this means is that about a month after planting, it is a good idea to put a good amount (about a spade full) of compost on each side of the plant.  Then your plant is dressed.  🙂

5. Harvesting

This is the really scary part for me.  I mean what if I dig them up too early and they are too small or too late and they are all rotted.  Yikes!  It seems like the best thing to do is to follow the guidelines for the variety of sweet potato that you planted. Most will be ready for harvest somewhere between 90-120 days.  Make sure you make a note of when you planted them.  I also read that the leaves will begin to turn yellow when the potatoes are ready for harvest.

If this all sounds pretty simple, it is because I “think” it is.  This is truly a learning as I go experiment for me this year.  Want to learn more about sweet potatoes?  I am going to post a few links that the bottom that I enjoyed.  Do you know the difference between a sweet potato and a yam?  I thought I did, but it turns out I was wrong.

I am going to post pics and updates on my sweets as the season progresses. I would love to hear about your success/struggles growing sweets. Happy Gardening!

Sweet Potatoes are a superfood

10 ways to cook a sweet potato

Fun facts about sweet potatoes (who knew they are the official vegetable of North Carolina)


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One Trick to Double Your Strawberry Plant Yield

This is short and simple, but so important. If you want your strawberry plants to produce more strawberries you have to pinch off the runners. The runners are those long tubes with a small little plant that grow off the main strawberry plant and often seem to appear overnight.   That means following the runner to the base of the plant and cutting it off about an inch from the base.  Doing this will allow the plant to put its energy and growth into berries rather than its runners.  You will be amazed how this one little trick will drastically increase your yield.  Thanks for reading and happy gardening. I am off to check my strawberry plants for runners that need to be removed :).

Check out this website for all kinds of great info about growing strawberries:

Growing Strawberries

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Make Your Own Sweet Pea Trellis

In a previous post, I mentioned making your own trellis for your peas to grow up.  Now, there are tons of different ways you can do this and all of them will probably work great.  After all, peas do not care what their trellis looks like, only that it is suitable for them to grab onto and grow up.  Last year, my daughter and I made a trellis out of posts and rope and it worked great.  It was not the most beautiful thing, but we had so much fun making it that I thought we would do the same again. The best part is that there was no out-of-pocket expense because I had everything I needed in my garden shed.

The process of creating the trellis is so simple. In fact, my almost 4 year old did it with very little help from me and she had so much fun. Here is what you do. Take two wooden stakes (about 5+ feet tall and drive them into the ground far enough apart that you can plant all your peas in between them.  Then take a piece of thin rope and tie it around one post.  Next wrap the rope around the other post being sure to pull it pretty tight so it stays in place.  Then weave the rope back and forth between the two posts making sure to wrap it around a different part of the post each time.  You will create a spider web like trellis for your peas to grow up.  Once you have finished weaving the rope back and forth, tie it off and get ready to plant you peas.

I started my peas in the green house a few weeks ago because my soil was not ready.  After my daughter made the trellis, we planted our pea plants in between the two post.  Place the peas directly under the first row of rope.  Remember that you may need to train your peas to climb up the trellis, but that should be easy if you planted them right under the first row of rope.  Happy Gardening!

Making the trellis all by herself!

Our little seedlings!

What kind of trellis do you use for you peas?  Did you make it yourself?  

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Did You Plant Your Peas Yet?

One of my favorite things to grow is peas.  They are really simple to grow, give a big yield, can easily be grown vertically and can be eaten right off the vine.  What could be better than this?  Another great thing about peas is that they can be started long before the last chance of frost.  Peas actually prefer a cooler growing season. Here in Connecticut, we can get two crops of peas a year.  The first should be started in early spring  for an early summer harvest and the second in last summer for an autumn harvest.  The early spring peas can be planted in the ground around St. Patrick’s Day. If you have not planted your seeds yet, you may want to start with seedlings so that they will get enough time to mature before the heat of summer rolls in. If you start them late, peas can also be planted in part shade to shield them from some of the summer heat.  It is easy to confuse peas and beans. This posting will focus on peas which like to be started early in the season.  Beans, on the other hand, love the warmth of the summer and can not be started as early.  A posting on growing beans will be coming soon.

You really do not need to do much to the soil for peas. They are really pretty simple. One of the things to remember about peas is that they should not be fertilized. Peas  and beans can obtain their own nitrogen and are one of the few things that you can grow in your garden that will actually improve the quality of the soil they are grown in.  Avoid fertilizers are it will raise the nitrogen level too high in the soil leading to vine growth, but few peas.

This year I am going to be planting sugar snaps peas and English (aka garden) peas.  Both of these varieties will need to have something to climb up.  I chose these two type because they are delicious, but also make great use of vertical growing space. They are also beautiful to look at.  This link will help you determine which type of peas you want to grow.

Peas should be spaced about 4-5 inches apart and about 1/2 inch deep.  Water your peas after you plant them and on a regular basis.  Peas like moist soil, but do not like to be flooded.  I have had the best luck with watering my peas in the morning.  Also make sure to use the rain head attachment on your hose because it you water directly from the hose your delicate peas can easily be washed away.

Setting up something for the peas to grow up can be inexpensive and easy.   Chicken wire or a trellis can be used, but can be costly.  Last year,  my daughter and I created a climbing system for our peas.  We put three tall (6′) wood stakes in the ground.  Then we used twine and wrapped it around the posts and then ran it back and forth between the posts. Not only was it cheap and fun to do, but it created this cool spider web like net for our peas and beans to grow up.  We will be doing this again this year.  It was a great way to get my daughter involved in the garden.

Beautiful peas in bloom!

Peas grow fast so keep an eye on them once they get going.  Encourage your peas to grow up the trellis you create for them once they are just a few inches tall.  Peas will flower and the blooms can be many different colors making them beautiful to look at.  I prefer to harvest my peas when they are on the small side as that is when I think they are the most delicious.  If you like the variety that you grew, let a few peas at the end of the season grown to full maturity and save the seeds for planting next year.  Peas and corn can also be planted together allowing the peas to grow up the corn stalks.  You will need to start the corn before the beans to give the peas something to grow up.  This would be an amazing use of space if you have a small garden and want to make the most of it.

Peas are wonderful for the seasoned gardened and the beginner gardener to grow.  Follow the few simple rules of growing peas and you will surely have a delicious and plentiful crop of peas to enjoy. Happy gardening and please tell me about your experiences growing peas. I would love to hear about them.

Here is a great link about Growing Peas in 5 Easy Steps.

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My Big Little Garden

As I think about writing a post for my blog, the ideas race through my head as I try to prioritize them and think about what might interest other people.  One of the things that I have noticed is that recently my thinking and motivation revolves around my new  “big little garden”. I call it this because the garden is only about 140 square feet so pretty small, but it is just bursting with ideas.  Also, it is important to note that it is 140 sq. feet on the ground, but has lots of vertical growing space.  I intend to use as much as I can! As I have been planning my garden, I feel like I will need acres of land to make this work, but with a little creativity and hard work I am going to tur my big little garden into a delicious success.

I am going to put a lot of my blog focus on my garden and the tasks that revolve around having a healthy and fruitful garden.  I will be posting lots of pictures of my garden’s progress and will address the obstacles that arise along the way.  When I started gardening a few years ago, I thought with some good soil and a little luck I will have a great garden. These things are very important, but there is a bit more to it than that.  I have learned a bunch of little tricks over the last several years that I am hoping to share through this blog.  Please also feel free to post questions, comments or your own gardening success stories. Just a few of the topics I am going to try to cover throughout the season are organic pest control, fungus growth in your veggie garden, how to get a second yield from your fruits and veggies, container gardening, indoor and outdoor herb gardens, vertical gardening and much, much more. You will notice that there is a new tab on my home screen dedicated just to my garden.  I hope many of you will come along on this journey with me as I explore healthy and delicious gardening.

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Rootball Lifting Flower Pot

I can’t take any credit for this, but what a great idea. I saw this on wiki how today and just had to share it.  These plastic pots could also be used over from year to year.  I have tons of these plastic pots in my shed and now there is a good use for them. This is a great way to transplant without hurting your delicate little seedlings.

How to Make and Use a Rootball Lifting Flowerpot

During the colder weather months, some plants are best sown indoors in flowerpots. After a few days or weeks, the small plants can be put outside, into the garden soil. A rootball lifting flowerpot makes it easy to take the plant(s) with roots and rootball out of the pot.

Make and Use a Rootball Lifting Flowerpot

  1. Assemble the supplies needed. For one system, you’ll need two identical small plastic flowerpots, a thin plastic plate (for example, the lid of a margarine box) and scissors. The pots on the photo are about 5 cm (2 inches) high and 5.5cm (2.2 inches) wide.

  2. Make one “insert” by cutting away about two thirds of the side of one plastic flowerpot. Then you have one flowerpot and one insert.

  3. Cut a “lift strip” from a thin plastic plate (for example, a lid of a margarine box). The strip may be rectangular or spoon shaped. Bend the strip at one end. The short part of the strip must fit in the insert.

  4. Put an insert into an empty flowerpot.

  5. Put a lift strip in the empty insert. On the photo you can see two systems, one with a rectangular lift strip and one with a spoon shaped strip. Both systems work well, although possibly the spoon shaped one works better in larger pots.

  6. Write information on the long part of the lift strip. Fill the insert with (potting) soil. Press a little on the soil. Lay seeds on the soil.

  7. Cover the seeds with (potting) soil. Wait until the plants are visible.

  8. Lifting the rootball (step 1): When plants are visible, pull the insert out of the flowerpot.

  9. Lifting the rootball (step 2): Pull the strip a few millimetres (about 1/4 inch) to above. Then release the strip. The rootball will first loosen from the insert and then return to its position again. It will not stick anymore.

  10. 1

    Lifting the rootball (step 3): Take the rootball between your thumb and fingers. Put the rootball at its desired position (soil, another flowerpot etc).

  11. Planting in the soil (step 1): Make a hole in the soil. Put the flowerpot with insert and strip in the hole. Fill the space around the flowerpot with earth. Press on the earth around the flowerpot.

  12. Planting in the soil (step 2): Take the flowerpot out of the soil.

  13. Planting in the soil (step 3): Take the insert out of the flowerpot.

  14. Planting in the soil (step 4): Lift the rootball and take it out.

  15. Planting in the soil (step 5): Put the rootball in the hole in the garden soil.

  • Spray some water on the (potting) soil before “lifting”. Then the (potting) soil will not fall apart so easily during handling.
  • Try the lifting procedure before laying seeds on. Then you can test to see if the potting soil is moist enough. “Feel” how the procedure works. If okay, put the rootball back in the pot by doing the steps in reverse order. If not okay, clean the parts and start all over again at step “Put an insert in an empty flowerpot”.

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DIY Hanging Strawberry Planter

Every year, my gardening season begins with figuring out how I am going to grow my strawberries this year.   Strawberries are one of my favorite things to grow, but they can also be rather tricky to grow.  One of the biggest problems I have had in previous years with growing strawberries in the ground is pests.  Snails, slugs and everything else really seem to love them.  I can’t say I blame these little pests, but there is nothing more disappointing than anxiously awaiting the ripening of your berries just to find out that the garden pests got to them first.

Last year I tried using one of those hanging strawberry planters.  I bought the Topsy Turvy strawberry planter.  At first I thought this was the best thing in the world. Not only did it keep my strawberries off the ground (so they were safe from many pests), but it allowed me to plant 24 plants in just that one hanging planter.  I loved how much space I saved.

One of the first things I noticed was that by about halfway through the summer, the nice dark green bag planter had been completely bleached by the sun and looked pretty shot. I kept using it though because it still seemed ok to use.  By the end of the summer however it was completely destroyed.  It  had completely rotted and was falling apart.  I will not be buying another one of these.

This year I set out on a mission to figure out a better way to grow strawberries in a hanging basket. Well low and behold I believe I have figured it out.  So here is what I did. First, I went to Home Depot and bought a 16 inch hanging basket with a coco fiber liner.  The basket it made from a powder coated steel, so it will last forever and the coco fiber liner is durable, breathable, helps reduce watering and will resist fungus and most pests don’t like it.  The inexpensive liner can be replaced each season or used for several seasons before it needs to be replaced.

The next step was taking a super sharp knife and cutting 8 X’s in the coco fiber lining at different spots around the pot.  I cut four around the bottom edge of the planter and 4 more around the top edge.  I helps to cut all the X’s before starting to put the strawberries plants in.

Make sure you have a very sharp knife or pair of garden scissors because the coco fibers are surprisingly hard to cut through.   Next I took 8 of the strawberries plants I had from last year (most strawberry plants are perennials meaning they will return each year) and put the green leafy part and the stem through the X’s I cut in the coco liner.  Once I had finish I had one little strawberry plant peeking out of each of the X’s I had cut.  Then I filled the pot with new soil.  Finally, I had about 12 more little strawberry plants so I planted them in the top of the planter. Voila!  I now have my own hanging strawberry planter.  The best part is that this one is so much more attractive than the hanging green Topsy Turvey bag.

Once you have gotten to this point there are a few things to keep in mind.  Strawberry plants love sun and like to get 8-10 hours of sun a day.  This is a necessity for strawberries.  As a result of needing so much sun, these hanging planters do get dry pretty quickly once the weather warms up so make sure to check it often and water as needed. Here is a link to a great article about how to care for your strawberry plants.  This will give you lots of tips and tricks for having a great harvest of strawberries.

This project was very simple and very inexpensive.  I did buy a new hanging basket for $12, but that was really my only expense. I used strawberry plants that were already in my garden and I had a bag of soil in my shed.  Strawberries like cold weather so you will want to get them started now.  Strawberry plants can be a bit pricey to buy in the store, but can easily be started from seeds. You just need to start them indoors early so that as soon as the spring comes you can move them outdoors.  I planted 4 different types of ever-bearing strawberries. Here is link to buy many different types of strawberry seeds if you are interested in starting them from seeds.

This is a great project to do with the kids (except of course for cutting the x’s) because it was easy and fun. My kids loved planting the strawberries plants on top and them watering our new strawberry planter.  Happy planting!

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