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Beautiful Organic Sweet Potatoes

Summer is on its way … dig in!

Tip of the Month

The sweet potato (Ipomoea batatas) is a member of the morning glory family. These potatoes are large red-skinned tubers with orange flesh. They also are very nutritious, relatively low in calories and packed with vitamins and minerals. Sweet potatoes grow best in hot weather and should be planted when the soil reaches at least 65 degrees. The ideal time to plant them is from April through June. They require a growing season of 90-100 days, however there are many short-season varieties. Sweet potatoes are drought and heat tolerant and are affected by few pests or diseases.

The plants are started from transplants or cuttings called slips, not from seeds. One potato can produce up to 50 slips! Do not plant an entire sprouted potato — wait until the sprouted parts have developed roots and cut into pieces. They produce lush vines that make a lovely ground cover. If space is an issue, consider growing the vines vertically. Harvest when the leaves turn yellow.

Planting

Plant gourd seeds with plenty of room to sprawl or train on a trellis or fence. Plant drought-tolerant perennials such as chocolate flowers, lantana, Mexican primrose and gazania. Plant warm-season annuals that will take the heat, such as ageratum, gaillardia, sunflower, zinnia, tithonia, coreopsis and cosmos.

Fertilizing

Fertilize citrus and palms at the end of the month. Feed cacti with a cactus fertilizer or an all-purpose type diluted to half strength.

Transplanting

Plant palms as the hot weather settles in. Divide cacti and succulents. Allow the roots to callus over before transplanting to prevent rot. Provide temporary shade to reduce stress while roots are getting established. Choose locations carefully when planting mesquite, palo verde, acacia and desert willow trees. Allow for adequate canopy and root growth.

Watering

Check your irrigation system for leaks and damaged emitters. Readjust your watering schedule for the warmer weather. Water lawns in the morning to avoid fungal growth. Water roses deeply, fertilize and spread mulch around roots.

Pruning

Prune back salvia plants to promote denser growth. Do not prune the lower branches of citrus trees because this foliage shades the trunk.

Preparing

Put away your smaller containers and exchange them for larger ones for the warmer months.