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Sweet southern spuds in a northern garden

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Courtesy of Craig Summers Black

(Read caption) This is not one plant. It is 25 plants. Unfortunately, they are all sweet potatoes.

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My girls really like sweet potatoes. Well, not everybody’s perfect.

But I am a loving husband and father, and if they want me to plant the dang things, I most certainly will. Because these marching orders will probably be the only garden activity these two will deign to participate in this year.

So off I went to the nursery in search of the elusive orange french-fry material.

I was new to potato farming when we moved to Iowa many years ago. Since then I have acquired something of a rep for my Yukon Golds. Even my in-laws, who do not quite approve of me, lust after my spuds. Those Yukon Golds are, I must admit, hard to part with.

So that's what sweet potato seedlings look like

So you will imagine my surprise when I told the nursery owner I wanted to plant sweet potatoes and he handed me a little black nursery pot with what looked like a houttuynia, that wildly spreading ground cover, peeking out of it. [See Photo 1 above.]

Huh? No little orange seed spuds to cut up?

“That’s your sweet potatoes,” the guy said, and rather gruffly I thought. “Twenty-five of them.”

Really? OK, if you say so.

“But I wouldn’t plant ’em yet,” he said. “Still too cold. If we get another night in the 30s, you’ll have to cover ’em. Better wait till May 1.”

I nodded my head obediently. But, hey, fat chance.

Who could resist planting now?

I drove home and immediately spilled out the contents of the pot. The state ag department says the soil temp is, surprisingly, already in the upper 50s at the moment, and if the farmers hereabouts have commenced planting their corn and beans, so I decided to plant these taters right now.

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