Spuds, or duds?

I planted potatoes about a month ago. I bought seed potatoes from Orchard Nursery (Yukon Gold), brought them home, kept them cool and dry in a brown paper sack, then built a potato cage to plant them in. Tom and I chose a small-mesh chicken wire, made it into a cage, then put it in the dirt in full sun. I placed newspaper around the sides, put in two inches of compost, planted six potatoes (with sprouts), added two more inches of compost, planted six more potatoes, and finished the whole thing off with a couple more inches of compost.

Since then, we've been waiting anxiously to see growth. Nada, day after day. It's been incredibly discouraging.

Everyone's told me how fun it is to grow potatoes, and I did extensive research to figure out how to grow them in less space. The cage seemed ideal. As the potato plants grow, you add more compost until they are flush with the top of the cage. Then, at the end of the season, when the foliage dies off, you just pick up the cage and shake out all the glorious potatoes.

But nope. It looked like our spuds were duds.

I went outside to take this picture and write about this failure. I decided to look a little closer, because the soil seemed excessively dry (you want it dry until they grow foliage - but this seemed too dry). And guess what I found?

Yahoo! Growth! The spuds aren't duds, after all. Or at least two of them aren't, as I have two small seedlings.

So! I will update the potatoes as they grow. Supposedly they will bear beautiful blue/purple flowers.

Last week, since I was feeling morose about the potatoes, I decided to try to grow my own sweet potato slips. SP's aren't really potatoes. They belong in the same family as morning glories. White potatoes are part of the nightshade family, like tomatoes. Anyway, I bought some organic Japanese sweet potatoes at Whole Foods and set about making my own slips. They have to be organic - if they are not, they will not sprout. By the way, many SP growers will not ship slips to CA, I'm not entirely sure why, but apparently it is super easy to make your own. We will see!

I cut the SP's in half.

Then I set them in a dish, cut side down.

I added water and put them in a sunny, warm window.

In about six weeks, they should have significant growth, and then I will transplant them to the garden. I'm hoping to put them in where the peas are right now, as they will likely be done fruiting by then. If not, I may build more cages. SP's need HOT weather, so my timing is good, I hope. I'll keep you updated.

I adore sweet potatoes and eat them a lot. But they are not to be eaten fresh - they need to 'cure' for a while after harvest. So this is something that we are planting for future eating. That's a hard way to think, but more and more I am thinking ahead, when it comes to eating out of the garden. I imagine that food preservation will become a prevalent part of our summer.

Meanwhile, in the garden, some interesting things are blooming:

Goldfields and Tidy Tips, both CA native annuals.

Mallow, which always reminds me of hibiscus. I can't remember which kind of mallow this is, but I believe it's a native.

A peony someone gave me as a gift years ago. I planted it near our mailbox and it's never bloomed again. But it has this spectacular bloom this year!

Along with orange, yellow, red, and white poppies, I have these pink beauties. I believe they are from a mix "Mission Bells" that I got from Larner Seeds.

Hummingbird sage, which creeps along the ground and likes the shade, and is a native.

Speedwell, not a native, that I planted in hanging pots.

And the Sticky Monkey Flower has started blooming, as well.

I hope to have an exciting veg garden update for you this weekend. Everything is sprouting!