Thursday, August 6, 2020

2019 Dingess Purple Sweet Potato Harvest

At the beginning of 2019 I took a very different approach to growing out my purple sweet potatoes. Instead of growing them outside, I decided it made more sense to try growing them in my greenhouse. I grew them for the majority of the time from May to November.

The main way that I decided to water these plants is by using my easy ollas. This strategy worked for keeping the plants, but once the plants grew to the extent they could (based on the water input) the vines stopped spreading out. I added a little bit of additional water and added some EM1.

By the time October came around, I finally found the time to clean the many spiderwebs from inside of the greenhouse. In doing this, I created an opportunity for some kind of moth to establish itself. Over the next month, the moth devastated the leaves of the sweet potato plants.

When harvesting the Dingess purple sweet potatoes, I discovered that the roots really worked hard to utilize every single drop that they could get. Based on the limited water provided and the minimal fertility of the soil, the harvest was very small. If this was all I had to harvest, I would have been very sad.

One of the wonderful things about gardening is the opportunity to make the most of bad situations. One of these situations I experienced was in repeatedly replanting tomato plants in a spot of ground that kept getting splashed with chlorinated water from our pool. Following multiple failed attempts to have tomato plants survive chlorine burns and chlorinated soil, I decided to grow some sweet potatoes in the plot. As this was in late July, I didn’t expect much. Other than watering them and spreading five gallons of partially-finished compost on the plants once, I did little else to keep the plant alive.

Each year, my family looks forward to my purple sweet potato pie. After uncovering the minuscule harvest in the greenhouse, I was hoping that the harvest outside would be a little better.


To my delight, I harvested about three pounds of very dark Dingess Purple sweet potatoes. In addition to the darker color, the flavor of this harvest was incredible. I believe the majority of this is due to the compost (which contains high levels of worm castings). 

Given that my sweet potatoes were planted in late July, I was very grateful for what I received. I believe the plant I put in this spot was from a very small plant I had started in the greenhouse. Based on my experience, I will definitely use this strategy to grow out my sweet potatoes in the future.

 My family's favorite purple sweet potato recipe comes from Stokes.

Here is the original recipe that I still use.
Stokes has since changed their online sweet potato pie recipe.

Tuesday, August 4, 2020

2019 Tomato Issues

Given that I now live in a city holds a tomato festival in August each year, one would believe that I would have an easy time growing tomatoes. Unfortunately, my intermittent success (or lack of success) continues to follow me from Tucson. Though I started with what should otherwise be a very disease-resistant variety, here are a few of the problems that befell me:

1. I forgot to harden off a dozen plants, which got sunburned – which then became diseased from being weakened. Sometimes I feel like I’m the only one who forgets this very simple rule – because store-bought transplants are supposed to have come from outside – right?

2. I put the plants in a plastic container to keep the roots from getting dried out, but the wet roots weakened the plants and they died.

3. I planted a few living plants into a good plot with lots of afternoon sun. Then they got splashed with chlorinated water from the pool. This burned the leaves and chlorinated the soil. Then the plants became diseased. The disease slowed their growth until I finally decided to pull the poor plants out. I transplanted new plants one of which survived. However, the majority of the last transplants experienced the same fate.

Cutting off stem for re-rooting.

dipping in the rooting hormone (which did very little)

Put it in water


Repotting the plant for additional transplants

Tomato hornworm moth egg

Tomato Hornworm found on plants at night

The chlorinated pool

The thriving tomato plants near the pool.

After being splashed with chlorinated water

White spotting on the leaves

After the plants had grown for a little while

The leaves began to curl

Growth was stunted

 I also grew out a few transplants from some suckers, or offshoots, of one tomato plant. The majority of my 2019 tomato plants were store-purchased Celebrity tomato plants. Though I used to think that Celebrity tomatoes were the very best tomato variety to grow, I’m beginning to believe that in purchasing tomato plants I am unnecessarily introducing foliar and other diseases into my neighborhood. Based on what I have read and heard concerning the centralized way in which many of these tomato plants are grown, I believe that the diseases that they are presenting with are already in the soil or on the plant in the transplant packet.


Time for the plants to go.

Taking out the roots

Put in more compost & try again

I believe this was either the first or second try - in any case - more chlorine.

Additionally, I grew some tomato plants in baskets that were on 5-gallon buckets inside of my wine barrel. They grew a few tomatoes before the plants died off. I did end up harvesting a meager crop of 3-4 tomatoes from one of these pots.

So now what? If transplanting an incredibly disease-resistant cultivar is not working, what should I do? Perhaps direct-seeding some tomato plants would be a better approach. I believe I will try direct-seeding in some pots and perhaps I can find some place in my yard where a tomato plant might do well.