I know I’ve missed a few weeks. I was thinking about you all, I truly was. Life just gets in the way sometimes. But, I’m back in time to report on the guerilla gardening, aka the sweet potato caper. The warmer than usual fall and lack of threat of frost allowed me some wiggle room for harvesting the potatoes. As you may recall, I had planted 8 in the abandoned raised beds by a school near my house, and sometime this summer 4 went missing, along with a dug up sage plant. Thieving hooligans if you ask me. In the place of the stolen plants, 2 little sprouts reappeared, so I thought maybe they would still be able to make some potatoes. With high hopes, I started digging around them first.
To quote Cornelius in “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” after tossing his pickaxe in the air to find silver and gold, “Nuthin.”
I moved on to the two intact plants, with healthy looking, long, winding vines and started to dig. There’s nothing like hitting that first solid, oddly shaped object. I still haven’t gotten the trick of pulling the potatoes gently out though, so for a few of them, I got over eager and tugged them out with glee, breaking off one the ends. In the harvesting videos, people have actual entire large gardens of sweet potatoes that they carefully dig up with a pitch fork to prevent such an occurrence. All I got is a couple of 3 x 3 ft beds and my hands — c’est la guerre. I extracted some decent sized ones and moved on to the second bed, this time going straight for the actual plants. More solid, oddly shaped objects, yay! I got more and bigger potatoes this year with one less plant, so I declare this year a guerrilla success.
Next I needed to check the guerilla garden sweet potatoes at the stealth campsite. This took a little more planning. We usually get to the campsite by the boat my friend built, appropriately named Dreamboat. But the river has been abnormally high all summer long with a current that the Dreamboat (and our arms) couldn’t manage. However, we found a found a way to hike into the site. We were simultaneously thrilled and a little disappointed that our stealth campsite that feels like it’s in the middle of nowhere is actually accessible via a 20-minute walk through some woods with trails and crossing the thorny meadow. At least the meadow is wild. When we visited about a month ago, we found only 1 of the 2 plants was left. We had seen deer nearby, but the plants wasn’t nibbled down to a stump, it was just missing altogether. Unlike the school shenanigans, we could discount rude urban thieves. Maybe it just died and rotted away. There was plenty of evidence that the area was flooded multiple times this summer from all the rain. The plant was actually not that much bigger than when I put it in. It had a few new leaves at the top, but no long exploring vines like its compatriots in the school garden. The ground around it was still muddy and spongy even though we’d had a break in the rain this fall.
I took a deep breath and started to dig with my small gardening spade. I dug around the remaining plant. I wouldn’t even call it dirt. It was mucky mud everywhere. I dug a little deeper, but all I found was a worm. Not a huge surprise. NOrmally that soil would probably be a challenge for a sweet potato plant, nevermind with rain making the field a flood-soaked mess and worthy of Noah’s Ark.
But that little plant survived rain, floods, curious deer, and who knows what else this summer. It felt mean to leave behind such a good fighter. I knew it definitely would not survive the winter. And maybe it was smart too. It had looked around and decided this was not a good place to put down roots, or sweet potatoes. So I gently pulled it from the muck, wrapped it up in a bag and carried it back home. It’s now sitting in a glass of water to give it a few more roots. I’ll re-pot it for winter, where it can sit with the cutting from the backyard sweet potatoes and it can regale the yard plant about it’s guerrilla adventures and the tard plant can recount the marauding rodents. I’ll plant it in the backyard planter, which will be like a country club in comparison. I think the plant earned it. This prodigal plant* has come home.
* Credit for the term (and a big thanks to): https://thecreativeparttimer.wordpress.com/
Love that pic! How’d they taste?
Great story! I was wondering about your garden just a few days ago! How meaningful that your plant made it home safe and sound! Good story about perseverance! (Maybe you could write about what your plants say to you!)
Both of my sisters and my mother grow sweet potatoes. Lots of them! They bought big plastic containers, about 3 feet deep and very open up top. Then they put a few sweet potatoes in it. They never took it out of the container. The flowers grow out of it and cascade across the lawn, but they have a lot if success with it. We keep them outside year round, here in Florida. Maybe you could try it with a small pot and a potato or two—and leave it inside?
Thank you for sharing this with us!
That is fascinating. All the things I’ve read and seen say you have to use the slips and you can’t just plant the potatoes like you do with regular potatoes. I will totally try that!! Thanks for reading!!