Tuesday, July 31, 2012

DIY Vine Supports & Sweet Potato Update

Last weekend, we mentioned seeing some sweet potato vines that were growing like crazy in our neighborhood — so much so that they needed vertical garden supports. We were inspired by seeing what our plants might soon look like enough that we decided to make some diy supports of our own!

Remember all those excess crape myrtle branches we set aside back in March, knowing we'd probably be able to do something with them later down the road?


Well it's down the road right about now, so we decided to build a little branch ladder support system to lean against the fence over our potato sacks in an effort to wrangle and train their fast-growing vines.

I laid out the basic plan for something like this back in March (for anyone thinking I must be crazy for wearing long pants and a sweatshirt in this 90 degree VA heat wave), thinking we might use it for squash, but we didn't get to planting squash so the idea came back into play with the potatoes.


I just laid out the sticks like a wide ladder, then we secured each of the meeting points with a twist of wire and wrapped twine around them for added support:


We simply leaned this structure against the fence from the base of the potato sacks and gently wrapped the growing vines up and around the branches to help train them to grow vertically.


Don't worry, our supervisor made sure we were being careful during this stage of handling the plants:


At this point I decided to weave one of the leftover bamboo stakes we had on hand through the middle of the branch structure just to add more options for the vines to climb over (this was a very high-tech addition).


It wasn't long after we called this part of the project complete that our supervisor came over to inspect for "quality control."


We might be asking for it here, but we are hoping Basil will leave this support structure alone — he's a sucker when it comes to sticks, so there's no telling. We might call him in from outside one day only to find this entire structure proudly disassembled. So far, we're giving him the benefit of the doubt and the promise of freshly baked sweet potato treats if he can patiently wait this one through to fall.

So here's what we're looking like right about now:


Keep up with our full sweet potato growing project in this post, detailing each of the stages in how to grow your own sweet potatoes indoors!

P.S. Throughout the documentation of this sweet potato growing project on the blog, we've received several comments letting us know it's safe and actually a really great treat to cook with and eat sweet potato vine leaves. This is something we haven't tried before, but just might — we'd love to hear your favorite recipes using sweet potato leaves if you have them in the comments section below.

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12 comments:

  1. Very great idea! Looks like the potato plant likes it too :)

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    1. Yes, if we'd been smarter, we would have taken some "after" pics 2 days after doing this — since the plants have really taken on a new life since being wrapped on the supports.

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  2. I wonder if you could use sweet potato leaves like vine leaves?

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    1. I think you can! We have heard of lots of folks who use the vines as decorative vines plants since they produce such pretty purple vines and flowers.

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  3. Sweet potato leaves are edible, I use them in place of kale, since the groundhog ate mine down to the ground. Just make sure it's a sweet potato and not a yam.

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    1. We definitely need to find some recipes for the leaves — they sound amazing.

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  4. I am dying to know if you got a harvest in the end from the sweet potatoes. I really want to try growing the purple okinawa kind here in Brooklyn.

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    1. Thanks Annie — you've inspired us to dig them up and see! We'll post an update hopefully this week!

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  6. Looks beautiful. I'm in FL and I planted sweet potato slips about 3 years ago; now they're prolific! My Weim loves to dig out a sweet potato, lay in the grass and chomp away on it!

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  7. I am not sure if there was ever an update... I can't find it if so. How did they turn out!?

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    1. Kala, we indeed did the "BIG" reveal on our sweet potatoes and you can find it here — http://www.17apart.com/2012/11/big-reveal-our-sweet-potato-harvest.html Enjoy, and thanks for taking a look!

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Thank you for taking the time to read and comment here in our corner of the world.

P.S. Any comments from the animal kingdom will be forwarded to Basil in a timely manner.