Sweet Potatoes and the Dirt


After digging a bed of sweet potatoes and spraying them off, they weighed in at 16 lbs. (The bucket is thanks to my sister-in-law who has 6 cats and buys bulk kitty litter.) These came from three little sweet potato slips planted in late spring. I think I did something right. Choosing to grow a vegetable that was commonly grown in the area 100 years ago is one way to increase likelihood of success. Sweet potatoes thrive here as they did before chemical assisted growing became the norm.

Before the sweet potatoes occupied the bed it had a cover crop of crimson clover. When the clover was in bloom I took the line trimmer to it and left the tops as mulch. I didn’t till the bed. I just dug a hole to put the slips in. Below is the bed the day after I dug the potatoes.


That brown clay with rocks produced sweet potatoes. From experience, I know it wouldn’t produce carrots worth anything. But it does grow a veggie with lots of beta-carotene that stores well and tastes great. The growers a century ago knew what they were doing.

And now confession time: that is a street beyond the rail fence. It could be called a front yard vegetable garden. It is the only flat space with full sun that I have. I grew peppers, lettuce, strawberries, and cantaloupe in addition to the sweet potatoes in the “front” yard. My house isn’t directly behind the plot, so it could be called the side yard. I could claim to be an edible landscaper, but it wouldn’t fit everyone’s idea of great landscaping for a city yard.

The real confession is that I tilled the slightly sloping bed right before a big rain. Only the near half of the dirt in the photo had sweet potatoes growing. There were alpine strawberries that were looking poor after the summer heat closer to the road. I tilled them under yesterday. This morning I left the house during a downpour and there was a brown stream flowing along the curb starting from in front of my garden. My tilling led to erosion. After doing something right with sweet potatoes, I did something wrong with my tiller.


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