April 14, 2018

Of Seeds and Sweet Potatoes

Of sweet potatoes, I was surprised to find this one the other day. I got it from storage to make oven-baked sweet potato fries for dinner.

It was sprouting beautifully! Usually I stick a sweet potato in water to let it root and sprout, like this

This one went in right after I harvested it last fall. I always hope I'll get a beautiful growth of vines for winter greenery, but I never do. I get very few sprouts until spring, when the weather warms up. I figure it's probably because my house is too chilly all winter to encourage sweet potatoes to grow.

Of seeds I've been doing some late indoor planting. Not that it isn't about time to sow directly into the ground, but usually indoor plantings are started about six weeks before the last projected frost date. These future tomato plants are late in that regard...

...but earlier than if I planned to sow them directly into the ground! We have a long enough growing season that I can do that, but we're late on garden bed preparation too, so this is a start.

I didn't order many seeds this year. These came from Sow True Seeds.

Some of them are new for me: anise hyssop and cardoon, others are new varieties: Southern Brown Sugar cowpeas are supposed to be a "best tasting" variety, and Shin Kuroda carrots are said to do well in clay soils. The sorghum is for livestock feed, although some day I'd like to try my hand at making sorghum syrup.

At the moment, most of my planting energy has been focused on our pastures. I've had such good success with my modified Fukuoka natural farming method that I use it to spot seed every time I clean out the barn. Pasture improvement is a specific homestead goal for 2018, and more specifically, to establish the most diverse year-round polyculture pasture I can manage. Sounds simple, but it's been a slow process with a significant trial-and-error learning curve. One problem is limited local choice of seed. Around here tall fescue is sold as the cool season grass and Bermuda is the warm season choice. The only pasture mix I can find locally comes from Tractor Supply Co. in 40-pound bags to the tune of $150 each. So I started looking for other options.

One is deer and turkey food plot mixes in 50-pound bags for under $25 each. They are cheaper because they contain mostly annuals. The one I bought last fall contains: wheat, oats, rye grass, crimson clover, peas, and rape (canola).

In addition to that, I bought a 5-pound bag of "Herbal Ley" from New Country Organics. It contains a mix of legume and forb seeds: sainfoin, yellow clover, alfalfa, small burnet, forage rape, chicory, plantain, red clover, white clover, birdsfoot trefoil, and forage brassicas.

I also found the website of Seed World. What I like about this company is that I can purchase small quantities (as little as one pound) from a huge selection of pasture and wildlife food plot seeds. I can make my own blend; sericea (perennial) lespedeza, hairy vetch, birdsfoot trefoil, Bahai grass, chicory, orchard grass, etc.

To my pasture mix I add annual summer pasture seed from the feed store: sudan and millet, plus seeds I've saved myself: Austrian pea, oregano, yarrow, echinacea, vetch, and radish, turnip, old garden seeds, plus any native grass seed I can gather from non-pasture areas.

I mix all of these together

and head out with a bucketful of seed and a wheelbarrow full of barn muck. The annuals give inexpensive variety and will hopefully fill in until I can get enough perennial forage established. I don't expect it all to come up, but I hope that something will do well no matter what kind of summer we have this year.

After I finish getting the goat barn cleaned out, it will be time to plant our summer garden.

Of Seeds and Sweet Potatoes © April 2018  


Gorges Smythe said...

I always remember my maternal grandparents having 3-4 sweet potatoes in the bay window sprouting.

Goatldi said...

Whoa! . Now that is a potato . I had forgotten about sprouting potatoes in a cup of water using toothpicks in three sides in grammar school. Your photo reminded me.

Do you need to irrigate or water your plantings in anyway or do you get enough rain in the Spring/Summer to keep them growing? I would love to try something like that here. The girls love the native grasses but once it gets hot they are gone. We don't have a big enough well nor solar system to do any irrigating or sprinklers.

Yarrow said...

I love this post. I'm currently seeding my paddocks but have limited grass options here. I'll try to get different seed mixes online, you've really inspired me.
I've enjoyed browsing your blog this morning and love the dutch barn doors and little baby miracle <3

Leigh said...

Gorges, I always envision lovely sweet potato vines gracing my kitchen winter all winter, but they never really seem to sprout well until April. I've actually got quite a few sprouts coming on now.

Goatldi, we have to irrigate because we typically have a long hot dry spell every summer. Some years we get good rainfall, but between our soil and the air temperatures, it usually evaporates pretty quickly. Mulch helps of course, but having 1600 gallons worth of rainwater storage plus graywater is what saves the garden every year.

Yarrow, thanks! Thank heavens for online resources. Trying to keep good pasture year around is a huge challenge! Mail ordering large quantities makes for expensive shipping, so being able to buy even smaller quantities is a real blessing.

Pioneer Woman at Heart said...

I purchased sorghum this year too! I can't wait to see how it does, but this spring isn't the best sign of a good growing year either. I sure hope we have a good year.

Ed said...

I'll rub it in and tell you that our tomatoes are much further along up here! We planted seeds in the greenhouse on the farm about five weeks ago.

Leigh said...

Kristina, from your mouth to God's ear! I hope your sorghum does well! I tried some several years ago and had a nice little crop. The grain is edible.

Ed, that's the way to do it! I'm hoping for a greenhouse next year. Getting an early start on tomatoes would be especially helpful during the hottest part of our summer. Tomato plants are supposed to be heat loving, but I find they stop producing when the temps are in the upper 90s for a couple of months. Once the temperature drops, however, they start producing again.

Kathy said...

Thank you for using HEIRLOOM seeds! The GMO people are buying up seed companies so I think it's more important than ever to promote and USE heirloom varieties and save seeds. Conglomerates wield a lot of power... so who knows how long we'll be able to easily buy and plant heirlooms. The public votes with our feet and our money. I only buy produce, seeds, and plants that are heirloom varieties (including at farmers markets). That's the only way we can show that there IS a market and demand for healthy food! Thanks again, Leigh!

Fiona said...

Thats a fascinating seed mix. We have some pasture/hay damage from our disastrous weed runaway last summer. The bush hogging laid down a heavy mass of fibrous stalk. Now the grass is returning in patches. So we are power harrowing where its bad and scattering a pasture mix.
I think we may "borrow" your mix idea!

Leigh said...

Kathy, I absolutely agree with you. Heirloom and open-pollinated seeds are the only way to have a sustainable garden, because they are the only kinds of seeds we can actually save. That's one reason why I buy so few seeds, because I try to save seeds from most of what we grow. But that's a good point about supporting these seed companies, we do need to buy from them. I've always been a fan of Baker Creek (still am) but I like Sow True Seed as well. Their website and catalog both are loaded with planting and seed saving information.

Fiona, I used to think that if I planted 4 to 6 different kinds of seeds I was doing good. Then Dan found this video by Gabe Brown. It's an excellent lecture on improving soil through diversity of forage. It was instrumental in changing how we approach pasture. Highly recommended!

M.K. said...

Sounds like things are hopping at your place! I think all of us were a tad later getting our garden stuff in b/c of the long winter. Our greens are great right now. Tomatoes are just seedlings. Waiting for warmer days!

Cozy Thyme Cottage said...

Great on building up your pastures. I covered my strawberries tonight. Suppose to get cold for the next few nights. Seems like you are doing great on your pasture planting! Nancy

Leigh said...

M.K., glad to hear you've got greens and tomatoes growing! Today we got so much rain that I think it will take awhile for the soil to dry out enough to plant. Then the gardening can commence!

Nancy, we got a ton of rain today and all of a sudden everything is turning green! I'm really hopeful that our pasture will do well. I hope your strawberries do well this year!

Sam I Am...... said...

I have never used CAPTCHA and it still publishes my posts....I ignore it and your readers can too! Just an F.Y.I.
Love your pasture info and I sure could have used it when I had my farm. It is quite a science and you must have done a lot of research as you seem very well informed.

Leigh said...

Sam, when we first bought our place I thought grass was just grass. I had no clue that there was so much information out there on it and what a science pasturing animals really is. I've learned a lot, especially through research for books, and am slowly incorporating it into our own pastures. Good tip about captcha. I never use it either, with no problem. Wasn't too sure if I should put that on my comment form, though, because it seemed like that would be an invitation for more spam!