by David Hinks
Last Thursday was the third workshop in the series of four September gardening workshops organized by the Neighbourhood Tomato Education Committee. This time we headed to the Mill of Kintail Gatehouse and were privileged to have as our leaders Ed Lawrence, CBC’s acclaimed gardening expert, answering questions about putting our gardens to bed for the winter, and Glennis Harwig, a long-time local garlic grower, who gave us a short course on growing and storing garlic safely.
Ed answered questions about composts, cover crops, and creating raised beds in a relaxed and very informative session as shown in the following photo.
Many thanks as well to Glennis who in addition to giving us a lot of essential information about garlic brought an incredible garlic appetizer made with garlic scapes and also brought enough garlic bulbs to share with the enthusiastic group.
Details on the remaining workshop are as follows. Mark the date on your calendar (Note: this one is on a Saturday morning), come and share your experience and learn how to preserve all of that produce safely.
September 28 – 10am to noon at TYPS Almonte
LEARN-Canning and food safety
Teresa Clow (Senior Public Health Inspector, Market Farmer)
Returning to the complaint voiced last week that there just was not enough heat and sunshine this summer for heat-loving plants, I decided that it was time to see what my sweet potatoes had been able to produce this summer. As you can see from the following photo the crop was not what I had hoped for when I had planted the sweet potato slips on May 31.
Factors that affected the yield this year were the lack of heat and sun as well as choosing a bed that probably doesn’t get as much sun as some of the other beds and my failure to keep the bed free of weeds that competed with the sweets.
Sweet potatoes (Ipomoea batatas) are members of the morning glory family. Their blooms are virtually identical to those of their climbing cousins. Sweet potatoes produce dense vigorous vines up to two metres in length above ground (mine were somewhat less than that this year) and large tuberous roots below ground. The tubers are one of the world’s most important food crops, are easily digested and contain vitamins B and C. Fresh leaves can also be eaten raw in salads or cooked like spinach.
Georgia Jet is by far the best variety that I have found for the Ottawa climate, having excellent taste and producing many large sized tubers. In fact I have had yields that have exceeded those from regular potatoes such as Yukon Gold.
Unlike regular potatoes where the tuber is planted in the garden, sweet potatoes are started by planting either shoots (called slips) or vine cuttings in the garden. Slips can be purchased by mail order. I had started mine from tubers saved from last year’s crop by placing the tubers in moist peat moss March 31.
I had planted the slips in the garden on May 31 in raised beds placing the plants a half metre or so apart. Sweet potatoes are relatively undemanding, preferring a warm, loose well drained soil. They grow quickly and require a couple of centimetres of rain a week (which was not a problem this year).
Tubers should be dug by mid to late September and should be cured right away. The following photo shows a ‘hill’ of sweet potatoes being dug – all of the tubers are directly beneath the center crown of the plant.
Curing requires a space that can be maintained at 30 to 32 C with high humidity for a week. This allows the skin to toughen and slows down the rate at which the tubers will dry out. Tubers can then be stored at temperatures between 13 and 18 C. A properly cured tuber can be stored for a year or more and can be used to start next year’s crop. The following photo shows tubers laid out on a tray with a heater in a small guest bedroom.
This summer has been good for plants in the cabbage family that prefer cooler temperatures. The following photo shows Brussels sprouts that are starting to size up nicely just in time for the traditional Thanksgiving dinner.
Other members of the cabbage family such as kale have reached truly gargantuan dimensions this summer. The following photo shows Nero kale with coleus in the background.