This May we have harvested over 30 pounds of cucumbers, tomatoes, squash and beans! We also planted a row of sweet potatoes. Sweet potatoes thrive even in the Houston heat, but they need to be planted before the hot part of the summer arrives. Instead of planting seeds, we picked up a dozen sweet potato slips from Urban Harvest. Slips are the green offshoots that grow out of the potato after it sits for a while. Sweet potato slips thrive in loose soil, so we tilled our soil and used a rake to create one tall mound running up the middle of the bed. We planted each slip 4 inches deep and about 8 inches apart. Once we had planted all of the slips, we soaked the soil surrounding them to help them grow accustomed to their new beds.
We watered the slips everyday for the first week, and then were able to water them every other day. Soon we will only have to water them twice a week. Sweet potato slips must be watered often when they are first planted to ensure that their roots are able to establish themselves in their new soil. Once planted, the sweet potatoes will be ready to harvest in about three and a half months. You know they are ready to harvest when the tips of the vines begin turning yellow.
Our main objectives for the early summer will be to stay ahead of the weeds, harvest the okra on time and keep the stink bugs away. We have been implementing a lasagna gardening system—meaning that as soon as we weed a bed, we cover the open soil with newspaper and a thin layer of mulch to help smother out weeds and help the soil retain moisture. The newspaper will eventually break down and provide a great snack to our worms.
Harvesting okra is no easy feat since the mature pods are often camouflaged into the rest of the plant. If we do not harvest our okra as soon as they mature, we run the risk of them becoming too tough to consume.
We have seen a few stink bug eggs on our greens, but thus far no stink bugs have been spotted. If we see some, we will spray a mixture of Dawn soap, vinegar and water on our crops daily and rinse it off after about 30 minutes. If we can keep the weeds at bay, harvest our okra on time and prevent stink bugs, we will be off to a great summer of gardening!