Sunday, October 18, 2009

Starting a Winter Crop of Okinawan Sweet Potatoes

After I posted my blog entry last week on harvesting Okinawan Sweet Potatoes, I was asked whether I planned to save cuttings so that I would not have to buy cuttings again.

The answer is that I plan to continue planting Okinawan Sweet Potatoes year round. The winters in Southern California are mild enough that the plants can survive.

I have already planted cuttings into the circular Raised Bed that I had harvested the Sweet Potatoes from last week.

My plan is to have two Okinawan Sweet Potato crops per year. One every 6 months.

Goto this blog entry to see an update 1 month later.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

End of Tomato Season

Well, this is the end of my Cherry Tomato growing season. My Cherry Tomato plants have withered and I have picked all of the edible fruit from the plants.

It is now time to clean-up and prepare for next year.

One of the best decisions I made this season was to buy a set of 6 Texas Tomato Cages (see this blog entry). Not only have they supported my Cherry Tomato plants well, but they are a snap to take apart and break down. The picture above shows all 6 of the Texas Tomato Cages laying flat.

This makes storage very easy!

The picture above shows my Raised Bed after I had cut away all of the Tomato Plants and took down the Texas Tomato Cages. See all of the weeds that have popped up. Also, the soil level has dropped about 4 to 5 inches in the past 8 months.

I put a layer of newspapers over the soil to kill the weeds and prevent any new weeds from sprouting. The layer of newspapers is thin, only about 3 to 4 pages thick, but this is sufficient to prevent any weeds from poking through.

Next, I put a layer of Soybean Meal over the newspapers. Soybean Meal is a good well balanced natural fertilizer , with a N-P-K ratio of 7-2-1.

This is one of the few times that I need to fertilize my Raised Bed. The only other time is when I plant the Cherry Tomato seedlings. At that time, I put a scoop of Fishbone Meal (see this blog entry) in the planting hole. The Fishbone Meal compensates for the low Phosphorous (P) in Soybean Meal. Phosphorous does not move in the soil, so it works best to put it right where the roots of the Cherry Tomato plants are growing.

This is all of the fertilizer that I use.

My Cherry Tomato Plants grow well over 8 feet tall (see this blog entry) and I have tons of Cherry Tomatoes (see this blog entry).

On top of the Soybean Meal, I put a thick layer of composted Steer Manure that I bought from my local Home Depot. The composted Steer Manure does 2 things. First, it adds organic matter to the soil. Second, it masks the smell of the Soybean Meal, so that animals don't try to dig up the Raised Bed in search of food.

Over the next four months, the Soybean Meal and the Steer Manure will compost. By February, when I am ready to plant my first Cherry Tomato seedlings, the soil will be rich in nutrients.

I did the same thing with my other Raised Bed. You can see the final result in the picture below.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Harvesting Okinawan Sweet Potatoes

It's been 23 weeks since I planted my Okinawan Sweet Potato cuttings (see this blog entry).

A couple of months ago, I tried to harvest some Sweet Potatoes (see this blog entry). Unfortunately, it was too soon and the Okinawan Sweet Potatoes were too small.

That is the one problem with growing Sweet Potatoes: you don't know if any are growing or if they are big enough to harvest without cutting away the leaves and digging. Doing this effectively commits you to harvesting even if it is too soon.

The recommended maturity period for Okinawan Sweet Potatoes is 5 to 6 months, which is right about now.

I am growing Okinawan Sweet Potatoes in several different areas in my garden. So, I decided to go ahead and dig up one area and see what's there.

This picture shows the Okinawan Sweet Potato part of the garden that I choose to dig up.

There were a lot of leaves!!

The leaves and stems are edible. My mother-in-law eats them all of the time. She actually used to buy them from an Asian Supermarket before I started growing Sweet Potatoes. I have tried eating Okinawan Sweet Potato leaves myself and they are quite good.

I filled up an entire 30 gallon trash bag with the Okinawan Sweet Potato leaves and stems!

This picture shows what it looks like under all of the leaves. The planting area is a 3 feet in diameter circular Raised Bed. The Raised Bed is about 6 inches off of the ground.

This picture shows what I found after removing the top 4 inches of soil. Sure enough, there were Okinawan Sweet Potatoes!

This picture shows the Okinawan Sweet Potatoes that I harvested from the garden area.

The Okinawan Sweet Potatoes were good size.

But, I was a little disappointed that the yield was not more. I only got around 5 or 6 pounds.

I have another area of my garden that I am also growing Okinawan Sweet Potatoes. I'll dig up that area in about 6 weeks.

Update: See this blog entry for growing Okinawan Sweet Potatoes in a Container

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Pruning Strawberry Plants

Now that Summer's over, it is time to prune the Albion Strawberry plants growing in my Strawberry Tower.

After almost 2 months of intense heat (with temperatures approaching 100 degrees), the temperatures have dropped dramatically. The plants are producing more Strawberries and Strawberry flowers with the drop in temperature.

Albion Strawberry plants are of the day neutral variety, so they are very temperature sensitive. They will not flower if it gets too hot (above 85 degrees).

Unfortunately, it is getting very hard to see the ripe strawberries with all of the strawberry leaves in the Strawberry Tower (see picture to the right). I have had to throw several Strawberries out because they were too ripe by the time I noticed them.

Many of the Strawberry leaves are very old and the branches are turning woody. You can see many of the leaves are turning or have turned brown in the picture. These old leaves also block the sun from reaching the new leaves that are starting to grow from the Strawberry plants.

I grabbed my pruning shears and starting cutting away at all of the dead and old leaves. The picture to the right shows some of the leaves that I cut away.

This picture shows the Strawberry Tower after I finished pruning.

Strawberry Plants Multiplying

After I had removed the dead and old leaves from my Albion Strawberry plants, I noticed that I had more Strawberry plants than I had when I started 7 months ago!

This picture shows one of the Strawberry pockets in my Strawberry Tower. I had planted only 1 Strawberry plant in the pocket, but now there are 3 Strawberry plants in the pocket.

I had been cutting off runners whenever I saw them, but I could not see what was happening behind all of the leaves.

It is too late to try to remove any of the plants. The roots have probably intermingled and it would be a mess to try to separate them.

Despite the crowding, all 3 plants appear to be doing well.

There are several other pockets with more than 1 Strawberry plant, but this is the only pocket with 3.

This picture shows what this pocket looked like in March. Notice that there is only 1 Strawberry plant in there.