A couple of weekends ago, we decided it was time to turn over our raised garden beds. We have three, 3×5 foot raised beds in our back yard. In late spring we finally set it all up – installed our own drip-irrigation system and all! It was a good quarantine project to keep us busy. We had a successful summer of zucchini, summer squash, watermelons, cantaloupe, peppers, tomatoes, and basil (Thai and Genovese). And in preparation for the fall/winter, I also planted an entire bed full of sweet potato slips 🙂
In Tucson you can (luckily) garden year-round. By the time fall had set in a few weeks ago, it was time to pull the summer plants, turn over and amend beds with compost, and plant our “winter” crop of mixed lettuces/greens and I’itoi onions (a bunching, green onion that is unique to the desert southwest).
The melon vines had spread themselves all over the place, and I had one tomato plant that produced like CRAZY and nearly took over the entire garden area. The garden had gone wild. It was sad to see it all go, but it was time. The most exciting part was pulling the sweet potatoes! I’ve never grown sweet potatoes… so I wasn’t even sure if it was time to dig them up. But, once we started cutting back some of the sweet potato greens (which we also munched on throughout the summer) we saw what looked like some large potatoes poking out of the soil, so figured we’d go for it. Honestly, I probably could have let them go for a few more weeks… but now I’ll know for next year 🙂
And… it was so much fun! Honestly, I had no idea what to expect, but we ended up with 40 sweet potatoes of varying sizes. Sadly, we also found that we had some grubs digging around in the soil and causing some damage… but I think it was mostly cosmetic damage (par for the course for organic gardening). Some of the potatoes are HUGE, while others are more like little fingerling potatoes.
That afternoon I washed them and let them air dry on the patio for a few hours. I then brought them into the house and they have been “resting” in well-ventilated baskets in a dark closet for the past 10 days or so. Apparently this process helps the skin harden up and then they last longer? Who knows. About a third of these potatoes (mostly the really nice looking ones) will be gifted to various neighbors and family. The remaining potatoes will be consumed over the next month or two. I have big plans for a sweet potato casserole to accompany our Christmas dinner this week. If you have a favorite sweet potato recipe, please leave it in the comments! I’ll be cooking with sweet potatoes for the next few months, so I’m in need of some recipe ideas.
The garden itself is now looking fresh and tidy. I decided to leave some of the basil and peppers in, thinking they were still doing well (but… they’ve since died… so now I know that I should have just pulled them). I can’t wait to start munching on some homegrown lettuce and onions! Not to mention the crop of chives, rosemary, and mint that I have going in the backyard 🙂 And finally, the Meyer lemon and the tangerines are finally ripening as well, so citrus season will soon be upon us! I see some marmalade making in my future…