Easy ways with sweet potatoes


I'm from North Carolina, love sweet potatoes and want to grow them in my garden. Last year I couldn't find any slips (what Northerners call transplants). Can't I just grow my own from sweet potatoes I brought up last year from North Carolina?

Yes, you can. Sweet potatoes are just large storage roots, unlike white potatoes, which are tubers. You can grow slips two ways indoors. First, scrub your potatoes well to remove anti-sprouting chemicals applied after harvest. Then, cut a potato in half and suspend each half in a bowl so that the bottom third of the root is underwater. Or, slice a sweet potato lengthwise and bed both halves, cut-side down, in a 3- to 4-inch-high container. The potatoes should be barely covered with a loose potting mix.

In both cases, slips will emerge and grow along the surface of the cut pieces. Grow your slips for six to eight weeks indoors under cool white fluorescent lights (14-16 hours each day). Pull and transplant your slips in late May.

My roses are budding a lot earlier this year. Can I prune them?

Hold off until early April. Pruning at this time will encourage additional tender growth, which could be damaged by a return of cold weather.

I've been applying crab grass herbicides to my lawn every spring and haven't seen any crab grass for several years. Can I skip an application this year?

If your lawn is thick (no bare or thin areas), you can skip an application this year. Just mow your lawn high to keep it healthy -- 2 to 3 inches is recommended for bluegrass and tall fescue.

When should I fertilize my strawberry bed, and with what?

For ever-bearing types of strawberries, fertilize once each month from May through September. Apply a half-pound of ammonium nitrate (33-0-0) per 100 square feet of bed area. For June-bearing berries, fertilize in August, before new buds form, with 1 pound of 10-10-10 per 25 plants.

If granular fertilizer gets on leaf surfaces, sweep it off immediately and water into the soil. You may use either organic or inorganic fertilizers.

Garden tips are provided by the Home and Garden Information Center of the Cooperative Extension Service of the University of Maryland. For additional information on these questions, or if you have questions of your own, call the center's hot line at 800-342-2507 or visit its Web site at http://www.agnr.umd.edu/hgic.


* Prune grape vines. Disregard the heavy flow of sap; it will not harm the plants.

* To make room for new growth, cut down and remove ornamental grasses left over from last season.

* Remove gypsy-moth egg masses from trees, rocks and lawn furniture, and dispose of them in the trash.

Pub Date: 3/22/98

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