Sweet Potatoes, Soil Tests and the Frost

It’s been a second since I last wrote but a lot has been going on in the past couple of weeks.

Trisa digging Sweet Potatoes. This variety is a deep purple all the way through!

About two weeks ago we realized a frost was looming and decided to dig our sweet potatoes.  Sweet Potato vines will die in a frost but their underground starchy sweetness is somewhat protected by its’ covering of dirt.  Still you don’t want to leave them in the ground much after a frost and I heard from an old timer farmer that frost will travel down the stem to where the stem and the potato connect and can start to do a little damage.  We always dig ‘em before the frost and so I’ve never found out whether he’s right.  Sweet Potatoes are actually swollen roots that serve to hold nutrients and allow the plant to become perennials in warmer climates. The wild relatives of the Sweet Potatoes are said to have originated in the area of what is Colombia and Venezuela.  The first discovery of domesticated sweet potatoes were found preserved in south central Peru in highland caves in an area call Tres Ventanas (Three Windows) and were dated to ~8,000 B.C.!   The Sweet Potato is in the morning glory family and if you look at its’ flower there’s no denying that.

Sweet Potatoes are sort of a super food and are really healthy,  loaded with carotenoids, vitamin c, potassium and fiber.  So we were in luck as we dug up huge potato after potato.  Sweet Potatoes will store for quite awhile and will provide our farmers with a nutritious and filling food source into the cold months.

And speaking of cold months we got our first frost last Saturday night and its been frosting every night since!  Last Friday,  in anticipation of the frost,  we encouraged everyone to harvest the last of their gourds, peppers, eggplant, okra, winter squash, roselle and all the other summer crops that were still trucking along.  The frost has turned all of our summer plants into  a drooping greenish slimy brown.

So now what do we do?  We are busy cleaning everything up and planting a late cover crop of crimson clover and wheat.  Our Fall vegetables such as kale, swiss chard, broccoli, cauliflower, brussel sprouts and all of our root vegetables won’t be damaged by a light frost and we’ll continue to eat them for another month or so.  Personally I am excited about fires in my woodstove and opening up some of the cans of tomatoes, beans and okra that I canned from the summer!

This is what our Crimson Clover cover crop will look like in the Spring

Wheat cover crop

We also started doing some soil tests.  Soil tests are great to do in the fall so by the spring you have an account of the PH and nutrient levels of your soil.  Jennie Rasmussen who started working with us in September taught a workshop on how to collect soil samples correctly.  We are constantly talking about soil health and fertility as I believe it is one of the most important aspects of a healthy and successful farm.

Jennie Rasmussen explaining and demonstrating the importance of soil tests

Does anyone know what this plant is? A very popular Karen herb with leaves that smell like citronella.
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