Garden Chick - Notes from the Garden

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

February is Sweet Potato Month

I love sweet potatoes and in honor of sweet potato month, I thought I would consider them in this years garden. I have never grown them before. There are many varieties so visit your local nursery to see which one is good for your area. The picture here is from and given it's name Georgia Jett, I thought it would be perfect for my Georgia garden. But it is actually best suited for the northeast.

Yams and sweet potatoes are not the same thing, although we sometime use the terms interchangeably. They are both unrelated to potatoes. Sweet potatoes are in the same family as morning glories. Yams, a tuber, are from the lily family.

Sweet potatoes take about 4 months to mature, and should be planted in soil that is high in organic matter. Plant after all danger of frost in your area.

Plant the sweet potato slip (a small rooted piece of the tuber), about 12-18 inches apart in rows that are 3-4 feet apart.

While regular watering will help prevent splitting, you should stop watering about 3-4 weeks before harvest.

Provide your growing potatoes with a weed free area until the foliage grows and provides a natural mulch.
Sweet potatoes mature in 100-140 days depending on the variety. Gentle dig up your potatoes before a killing frost. Their skins bruise easily, and damaging the roots can cause them to decay in storage. After you harvest, dry the sweet potatoes for 3-4 hours. Store them in baskets or boxes lined with newspaper or straw. Place them in a dry area where the temperatures remain 80 -85 degrees for about 2 weeks. After they are cured, you can store them in baskets or boxes lined with newspaper. After they have cured, store them in a place where the temperature is 55-60 degrees (cool basement or outbuilding is a good place for this) and the humidity is high (about 85 percent). They should store well for several months. If the roots appear to be damaged or decaying, remove them.
Sweet potatoes contain carotenoids. Carotenoids help stabilize blood sugar levels and lower insulin resistance. They are a better choice for diabetics than white potatoes.
I found a great recipe in the magazine MaryJanesFarm. October November 2009.
Roasted Sweet Potatoes and Acorn Squash with Apples and Pears.
1 acorn squash, peeled and cut into 1" chunks
1 large sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1" chunks
2 apples, cut into 1" chunks
2 pears, cut into 1" chunks
1/2 t cinnamon, ground
6 T butter, melted
Preheat oven to 350 degrees
In a large bowl, combine all ingredients and toss with butter until evenly coated.
Place mixture in a 10" cast iron skillet, bake for 25-30 minutes
6 servings.
I like to cook the sweet potatoes in a microwave or bake in the oven until soft. Split open and add butter. Sprinkle with brown sugar and pecans. Great!

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Saturday, February 13, 2010

Evening primrose

What an absolutely gorgeous day today. 60 degrees and sunny weather. We worked out in the yard, raking, cleaning and burning. I peeped underneath the mulch in my herb bed and saw catnip beginning to grow. My St. John's Wort, yarrow, and lavender all survived. My oldest lavender was beginning to look "woody" and was falling over, so I took it out. I will probably regret that this summer since it gifted me with many lavender blossoms. As I looked around my garden, I was thinking about how to expand it, and what new plants to put in. I remembered some evening primrose seeds I had received in an herbal swap with a group on the Essential Herbal yahoo group. After researching more about evening primrose, I realized these were the pink buttercups I remembered as a young girl at my grandmothers.

There are many different species of evening primrose. All are in the Onagraceae family.
The pink flowered one shown above is a perennial. (oenothera speciosa) This species has a tendency to sprawl and can quickly spread to form extensive colonies. It is a prolific selfseeder. As it's name implies most evening primroses open their flowers in the evening and close them in the afternoon. In the southern most regions of the U.S., which is their natural range, they open their flowers in the morning and close at evenings. The buttercups I remember, were open in the morning.

One yellow variety (oenothera lamarckiana) is an annual which has naturalized throughout the U.S. Their blooms are up to 2 inches across and they open in late afternoon.

Both of these species do well when planted in full sun and well drained soil. They are a great addition to a wildflower meadow, along roadsides, and fence lines.

The entire plant of the evening primrose is edible, and the delicate flowers would brighten up a salad.

Evening primrose oil, which is made by pressing the oil from the tiny seeds, is often used cosmetically especially for reddened skin, and conditions such as eczema. It is also high in omega-6 fatty acids (EPO which is the good kind).

To plant, gently rake the soil, clearing of debris, and scatter the seeds. Lightly cover. The seeds need light to germinate.

The seeds attract birds, especially finches, and the flower provides a nectar source for hummingbirds. Honeybees and bumblebees collect both the pollen and the nectar.

Since the flowers give off a sweet scent, I think I will plant these around my patio, and along the fence beside the bedrooms. Open windows in the summer will allow the scent to drift in.


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Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Arctic Blast Headed for the East Coast

Thankfully, we won't get anything like the storm headed for New York and Washington D.C., just drizzling rain, grey skies, and 44 degrees.

Toasty warm inside, I was looking through some information in my ever growing pile of "need to keep" and found a great source for those who love wildflowers and would like to know more about planting and growing them.

I ran across a free seed catalog from WildSeed Farms (1OMB download) that you may want to check out. It’s jam packed with beautiful photos and detailed information. Topics include:
When Should I Plant?
How to plant wildflowers
Starting your wildflowers from seed
Seed Germination
Seed Storage
What is an Annual, Perennial, Biennial?
Weed control
And much more.
This is a catalog so they do include information about their products, but the pictures and information could help you plan your garden, teach your kids about a wide variety of flowers and herbs, or assist you in some educational/craft projects.
*if you have a blog and are looking for new ideas or material for your blog, sign up at for their free emails. Each email has sources/freebies etc., that may be of interest to your readers.
The wildflower picture came from

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Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Say it Ain't So.....6 More Weeks of Winter

The last 2 weeks have brought two snows to our area, and unfortunately I was at work for both of them. As an ICU nurse, I can't just walk out on my patients when the snow starts, so on the first snow, I left the hospital and made a 1 1/2 journey home. It normally takes me 25 to 30 minutes. 1 mile from home I was stuck, and had to start out on foot, with my husband picking me up a few minutes later. The second snow, last weekend was even worse. No one on our night shift could get in, so the nurse manager and I worked 24 hours. I have decided I am too old to do this. It took me two days to recover! So.....when Panxsutawney Phil and Chattanooga Chuck both predicted 6 more weeks of winter I was in a foul mood.

We have never had groundhogs or woodchucks as they are also known as, in our yard. Maybe it's our area, or the fact we have always had outside dogs which can barely tolerate a squirrel. But groundhogs can be a nuisance to many people, and when they come out of hibernation in February, they set their sights on digging burrows in your yard, or waiting for those first vegetables in your garden as a tasty meal. After all, they have a hungry brood to feed after mating and breeding in March. Groundhogs produce their brood of 4-5 babies one month after mating.

There are a few things you can due to discourage ground hogs from taking over your yard and garden.

Scare them.

Groundhogs do not like shining things that reflect sunlight and move in the breeze. On article I read suggested tying Mylar balloons to shrubs around the garden. That doesn't sound too pleasing to my idea of how my garden should look, but if I was bothered by groundhogs, I guess I would try anything. There are also "animal scaring" balloons you can purchase at garden supply stores. These have faces with big eyes on them. If you come to my back yard you will see old CD disc hanging from fishing line in a few trees. This was my husbands idea of scaring off the crows. I think they worked pretty well, but my granddaughters used a few as pinatas, knocking them down with a garden rake.

Keep Them Out of the Garden
Groundhogs generally will not climb an unstable fence, so install a 3 to 4 foot barrier of a "floppy" fence around your garden.

Humanely chuck a woodchuck out of your yard.

Visit Click on animals, then select Wild Neighbors, then
woodchucks. Information on permanently removing woodchucks from your yard using humane methods can be found. The idea is to remove their burrows after they have born their young and raised them to be independant.

Ever the optomist, I don't believe we are in for 6 more weeks. Today's high temperature is expected to be 51 and as I write this is 42. The sun is shining and the outside is calling me.

Hurry Spring

the woodchuck picture came from
Information on co-existing with groundhogs came from an article in our local newspaper

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