Growing sweet potatoes and rhubarb

By Jerry Vitalis, Chisago County Master Gardener —

I am writing this article after returning from a very successful Lindstrom Home Show.  By the time this article has been published the Garden Bonanza will be history, and I hope it was also a success.

However, the Chisago County Master Gardeners have much to do as we move forward with our Spring Class Series on Growing Edibles.  On Tuesday, March 20, Dianne Patras will present a class on being successful in growing sweet potatoes and rhubarb.

Until I attended Dianne’s class on raising sweet potatoes, I assumed like many others that you just plop them into the ground as you do with regular potatoes.  Since they need hot weather and a very long growing season, they need to be started as slips indoors.  Dianne is truly an expert who will guide you step by step on growing them.

Sweet potatoes are members of the morning glory family.  It is not a potato or even a distant cousin.  Potatoes are tubers while sweet potatoes are roots.  They traveled from country to country after conquest and records show that they were cultivated in Virginia in 1648.  No vegetable commonly grown in the United States will withstand more summer heat and very few require as much heat as the sweet potato.

Many schools and eating-places are now offering sweet potatoes as one of their vegetable choices.  The Center for Science ranks the sweet potato as the number one most nutritious vegetable.  It would take 23 cups of broccoli to provide the same amount of vitamin A as in one medium sweet potato.

We once bought a potted rhubarb plant from a nursery and planted it next to a building.  Five years later it was still there doing nothing.  I dug it up, took an axe, and chopped it into eight clumps.  I planted the pieces about two feet apart into a new bed and I have a beautiful patch of rhubarb.

Rhubarb is one of the many bare root plants that the Chisago County Master Gardeners offer for sale.  Dianne will teach the proper way to start or keep a patch healthy and growing.  All of our Series are held at Maple Commons Senior Dining Center in North Branch.  This class goes from 6-8 p.m. The cost is $5 per person.  You can call our office at 651-277-0151 for more information or register at the door.

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