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O Those Sweet, Sweet Potatoes

What’s in a name? Many of us would say, “plenty.” There’s a distinct difference between sweet potatoes and yams and regular spuds. Mapple Farm of New Brunswick has been the first and longest serving mail order supplier of sweetpotato (Ipomoea batatas) stock in Canada. Mapple Farm refers to “sweetpotatoes” all in one word to avoid confusion and to differentiate them from standard potatoes and orange-fleshed imported yams.

YOU CAN GROW SWEETPOTATOES

Mapple Farm has short-season sweetpotatoes that you can grow on the Prairies. It’s no myth! If you’re an adventurous gardener with a 100-day frost-free season, you can grow — and harvest — your own sweetpotatoes. To order, contact Mapple Farm at 129 Beech Hill Road, Weldon, NB, E4H 4N5 or email [email protected]

WHY PLANTS INSTEAD OF TUBERS?

Greg Wingate at Mapple Farm explains it this way: “We’re often asked why we don’t supply tubers instead of plants…. Plants can handle colder conditions much better than tubers and at least two months’ time is required prior to transplanting in order to grow plants for the customer.” Also, it goes without saying that “plants are far lighter and thus less expensive to get to destination than tubers.”

Greg ships orders from mid-April through June, depending on weather. Full growing instructions are included. One of the most crucial steps is to harden off plants and gradually expose them to bright light and direct sunshine. In other words, apply some shading to begin.

Greg has about a dozen sweetpotato varieties, but he runs out of some selections quickly. Let me review a couple types. Georgia Jet is the most popular sweetpotato that Mapple Farm carries. “And with good reason,” Greg says. “It’s the hands down leader for earliness and yield among the orange-flesh strains.”

Then there’s Tainung 65. It’s got a lot going for it, too, from high yields to large tuber potential. Exterior skin is light pink with a creamy interior, often rivaling Georgia Jet for early production. As a bonus, Tainung 65 with its purple stems and bronze leaves makes an attractive and decorative potted houseplant or in a hanging basket.

If I’ve prompted you to try growing sweetpotatoes this year, you’ll want to get a copy of Mapple Farm’s brochure. Also listed are plenty of other healthy edible treasures you can grow such as distinctive tomatoes, including Latah. From the Yukon to Labrador, gardeners in the high north of our country who thought growing a ripe tomato was impossible have become converts to Latah tomato.

A SALUTE TO GRANDDADS AND GRANDKIDS

About three months ago, my eyes caught the following in the obits. It pertained to an 82-year-old gardener from Moosehorn, Man. In part it said: He loved working in construction and building homes, “but his passion was gardening and selling corn.” And yes, he had grandchildren, too.

If he were still gardening today, he may well have wanted to grow Orchard Baby corn. How so? It’s a corn variety for short season regions, for small space gardens, with up to five ears per plant and for any granddad who has grandkids. O by the way, Orchard Baby corn is available from Mapple Farm.

This gardening season, make a promise to also introduce a youngster to gardening. What a child doesn’t receive, he or she can seldom give later. I’ve learned that life is like a roll of toilet paper. The closer it gets to the end, the faster it goes. We’ll need gardeners to take our place.

Children can believe they may become prime minister, premier of a province or territory, or mayor of their town one day. Anything’s possible! Children speak from the heart. As adults, let’s continue to do more of that and mellow it with fun, laughter and ongoing enthusiasm. I still try to keep the imagination and creativity I had at 14 going. So far it hasn’t faded too badly. Some call it no limit thinking.

Over the years, I’ve been labeled with a title or two myself. One day I was given the inspiration to write a song about growing up, becoming a parent and then a granddad. I call it: “I’ll Come Running.”

BOOSTING PHYSICAL ENERGY

At times, all of us could use a little boost…maybe while in the garden, to improve alertness or whenever you need it. Remember, I am not a doctor, but I have tried a lot of natural applications on myself, including herbs and other plants.

Let me tell you about a quick first-aid revival point that Chinese have used for centuries. It restores consciousness after a person has become extremely weak or fainted. Common names include finger pressure, trigger point and acupressure point therapy. The specific reference point is located between the upper lip and nose, about one-third of the way down from the bottom of the nose.

I’ve often applied pressure there on myself for about a minute at a time to increase alertness and physical energy. It can be done with the end of a finger or with the tip of a fingernail. My favourite tool is using the rubber tip at the top of an ordinary pencil. But that’s just my own approach.

Have you ever been driving and started to feel sleepy? I have found that self-application of pressure on the spot indicated is particularly useful for drowsy drivers, providing an almost immediate boost of mental alertness, clarity and focus. This can be life saving. You may want to discuss acupressure with your physician or health care provider. It may be beneficial to your wellbeing. Here’s a bonus I learned from Grainews editor Jay Whetter. Jay told me: “I find that rubbing the spot between my nose and upper lip also stops a sneeze.” (To which Ted says: Bless you!)

GOT YOUR ENTRIES IN, YET?

It’s just about the last call. I have a nice selection of garden prizes for my Grainews readers. To be eligible to win, there’s no question to answer. It’s as simple as sending your name and address to me:

Ted the Singing Gardener DRAWS

c/o Grainews

1666 Dublin Ave., Winnipeg, MB R3H 0H1

Names will be drawn later this month and gift certificates mailed out to winners for redemption.

Ted Meseyton is the Singing Gardener & Grow-it Poet from Portage la Prairie, Man. He talks and sings gardening at his personal appearances. Ted also teaches yodeling and musical grow-your-own-garden classes to children and adults. His e-mail address is: [email protected]

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