Posts tagged tips and tricks

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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“I Spy” Quilt for Kids

An “I Spy” quilt for baby Madison.

My sister is going to be having a baby in a couple more weeks and I wanted to make my new little niece something special.  Typically I would crochet something, but had trouble getting motivated to start a crochet project .  Then I stumbled upon this idea.  An “I Spy” quilt.  I am sure that most of you remember playing this game as a kid. You know, one person says “I spy something green” and then everyone else tries to guess what it is.  This quilt is based on that idea.  Each of the squares on the quilt is different. This makes a great gift for kids as they can enjoy snuggling with their quilt as well as playing the I spy game.  Kids quilts are a great first project for a beginner quilter. They are generally smaller and less intricate, so they can be more manageable.  Oh and I doubt you will ever hear a kid remark on an unstraight line or a missed stitch.  🙂

Here is what I did to make this quilt.  First, I bought 48 different children’s fabrics.  This is much easier than it sounds.  Ebay sells quilt squares for reasonable prices. For this type of project this was a huge time saver.  Next stitch the square together in any pattern you choose. I like the 12 different blocks of 4 squares each, but truly the possibilities are endless.  Next cut out your border and attach it.  Finally you will choose your batting (the fluffy stuff inside the quilt) and your backing. Then you are ready to “quilt” it.  I am not going to go into all the details because there are some amazing tutorials already on the web.  Here are a few.

Quilting Basics (getting started)- piecing, cutting, sewing machines

I Spy Quilt Patterns

Machine Quilting Basics

Tips and Tricks

Best Quilting Books

If you read through these links you will find all of the information necessary to make your first I Spy quilt.  It is such a great feeling to complete a project like this because not only is it challenging, but fun too.  Beware though, quilting is a little addicting.  This quilt kept me up until all hours of the night because I was so excited to work on it and get it done.  Happy quilting.

Have you ever made a quilt before?  Are you a beginning quilter, seasoned quilter or just thinking about making a quilt?  If you have never made a quilt, what has stopped you from making a quilt in the past?  I would love to hear from you!

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Homemade Pizza Dough Without Yeast

Over the past couple of years, I gotten into making my own breads, rolls and pizza dough.  I used to think it was just too hard and that there were too many variables that could go wrong, but boy was I mistaken. It turns out that making your own bread is really quite simple once you get the hang of it.  Making your own pizza dough is even easier.  I used to buy dough at the grocery store for about $2 which seems like a good deal because it is.  I mean seriously, even if you buy the dough you are still going to save a ton compared to if your ordered pizza from a pizza restaurant.  About a year ago though I started experimenting with making my own pizza dough and it is so easy.  Now I must confess that having a KitchenAid stand mixer certainly makes thing easier, but it could be done by hand.  The best part about making dough is that you can make it ahead of time and then freeze it for another day.  Just take it out of the freezer and thaw in the fridge for about 24 hours.

When I first started making pizza dough, I use rapid rise yeast which works just fine.  Then I discovered that Fleishman’s makes a yeast especially for making pizza dough and it is fantastic.  So that is how I normally make it, providing I have the yeast on hand.  Well a couple of months ago, my daughter really wanted pizza for dinner. The problem was that we were out of yeast, both bread yeast and pizza yeast. What’s a mom to do.  I guess I could have gone to the store, but the thought of dragging my two kids to the store just for some yeast seemed insane to me and I was not going to do it. So the result was I decided to try to make the dough without yeast.  I mean how hard could it be?  I should be able to get a similar result from baking powder right?  The answer is yes!  The truth is I kind of like this crust better because it gets crispier than the ones made with yeast.

Here is what you need:

2 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
2 3/4 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 tbsp. canola or olive oil
3/4 to 1 c. water

Here is what you do:

Mix the dry ingredients together in as bowl. I like to do all of this with my mixer, but by hand works great too.  Then add the oil to the water and pour the water and oil mixture into the dry mixture.  The mixture should be soft, but not too sticky.  If it seems stiff add a bit more water.  Then kneed the dough on a floured surface for 3-5 minutes.  If using a mixer, using the bread hook, allow the dough to kneed on slow to medium speed for about 3 minutes.  Then turn out the dough on a floured surface and roll to desire thickness.  Add sauce and desired toppings and cook  in a 400 degree oven for 15-20 minutes.  Keep an eye on it because the cooking time will vary depending on the size of the pizza.

Tips and tricks:

I often add ground flaxseed to my pizza dough.  Mix it in with the dry ingredients.  I add about 2-3 tbsp. for this recipe.  This really helps to add some nutritional value.  Also, feel free to subsititue some of the AP flour for whole wheat flour. I would not recommend using all whole wheat flour because it makes a very dense and heavy crust.  You could also add a couple of tbsp of wheat germ to your dough to help kick up the nutritional value a bit.  We often add a tbsp or 2 of honey to create a delicious honey wheat pizza dough.  Delicious!

You could use baking soda instead of baking powder, but you would only want to use 2 tsp of baking soda and no salt.

One of the things that I like most about making our own dough is that not only can you create any thickness crust you want, but you can also let each of the kids make their own pizza.  This would be great for a kids party or sleepover.  This way you can accomodate even the pickiest of eaters.

Hey,  did you know that a pizza stone works best when preheated?  I did not know this until recently.  A preheated stone makes for a much crispier crust.  I put the stone in the oven when I turn it on and take it out right before I am ready to put the dough on it.  Makes a huge difference.

Have you ever made your own pizza dough? Have you tried making it without yeast?  What are your favorite pizza toppings?  Thanks for reading!

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