The sweet potato saga continues

Some of the sweet potato slips growing more roots before getting planted out.

Some of the sweet potato slips growing more roots before getting planted out.

I can’t believe it’s been six years since I first tried growing sweet potatoes. That maiden voyage did not end well. Yes, we had an impressive sweet potato patch with lots of leaves to harvest, but did we have a potato harvest? Nope. Only one slightly fattened root that was the beginning of a potato. However, by the time I’d found that, I had already decided not to waste the space on growing the crop again.

Fast forward to early last year, and the bug had bitten me again. Yeah, I’m a sucker for punishment, I guess. No, not really. I just wanted to try a new way of starting sweet potato plants, and I wanted to try growing the red Japanese sweet potatoes this time. Growing the sweet potato slips went well, and we managed to grow several before the sweet potato started rotting in the water. I planted that last bit of potato and the cuttings, giving us three slips in a styrofoam box next to the house, and four in a big pot that I placed on the lawn.

A nice thick woody-like stem that made me think there were sweet potatoes just waiting to be found...

A nice thick woody-like stem that made me think there were sweet potatoes just waiting to be found…

Okay, so I lost track of time, and the plants in the box grew slowly but didn’t produce potatoes, but the plants out on the lawn had a massive growth spurt and took over the lawn, part of the driveway and kept looking for more things to grow over. I drew the line when they began to grow over the swing, and have been keeping them off the paved area. At the back of my head, I thought the pot where the plants rooted must be filling up with potatoes because I saw nice thick stems protruding from the earth in there. But, like I said, I lost track of time and the plants have been growing for about twenty months.

Twenty months??

Yeah, time flies, doesn’t it? :(

Well, I didn’t touch the pot, thinking it was getting loaded with potatoes. What surprised us, though, was that potatoes were beginning to grow in the lawn where the spreading vines had taken root!

Peekaboo! A sweet potato making us aware of its presence in the lawn!

Peekaboo! A sweet potato making us aware of its presence in the lawn!

Those first few were a real surprise because we hadn’t been expecting them, and only found them because they were peeking out of the earth! Some had been discovered by insects and were partially nibbled while others had rotted because it had been raining at the time. Did I get a clue? Nope. I didn’t touch the big pot because I thought it was getting jam-packed with potatoes. So when I just finally decided it was time to check out our treasure trove of sweet potatoes, we started digging down those nice, thick woody-like stems sticking out of the pot – and we dug and dug, but there were no sweet potatoes to be found! I finally gave up, although I had to wonder if any of the roots had grown out through the bottom of that pot and were producing potatoes in the ground beneath the pot.

Well, at least the story ended up better this time – we’ve dug up a few scattered sweet potatoes over the last couple of months and know there are a couple more still growing in the lawn. I’m starting to control the vines more now, and wonder how that will affect the production of potatoes. However, I have to admit that it’s been nice having that supply of fresh young leaves as an occasional veggie dish. Success!

Our first, surprise sweet potato harvest!

Our first, surprise sweet potato harvest!

© 2016 curiousgardener.com All rights reserved.


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Secret Squirrel

The squirrel scampering along the top of the chain link fence.

The squirrel scampering along the top of the chain link fence.

We have a new garden visitor – and it has possibly been here for a while. The thing about it is, it’s really quiet. My mum is the one who discovered it, spotting it while she was watching the birds in the mango tree. You can imagine her disbelief when this new creature came into view for the first time…

Running along the wall and looking for a likely place to get up to the curry leaf tree above.

Running along the wall and looking for a likely place to get up to the curry leaf tree above.

I wanted to see if it was a Plantain squirrel like the last one, but it was almost two weeks before I finally saw and got some photos of the squirrel. This time, it was busily darting all over our large curry leaf tree. I guess it was attracted to the berries on the tree, like most of the birds that visit our garden.

Running along rain-slick branches is not a problem for this squirrel!

Running along rain-slick branches is not a problem for this squirrel!

It moved extremely fast and the lighting wasn’t good, so I wasn’t able to get a nice clear identifying shot of it. However, it seems to have the white stripe running down its sides, which Plantain squirrels have, but I was unable to determine if it has the distinctive orange underbelly. Oh well. I wonder where it came from and how it will affect the ecosystem here…

© 2016 curiousgardener.com All rights reserved.


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Little dragonfruit plants

4 month old dragonfruit plants grown from seed.

4 month old dragonfruit plants grown from seed.

Remember the dragonfruit seedlings I started in March this year? Well, I started a new set of plants at the end of May when a colleague gave me a nice, ripe dragonfruit that came directly from Vietnam. She swore that the fruits over there are sweeter than those sold here, and gave me the fruit to taste for myself. She was right. So, I naturally tried growing another set of plants.

I repeated my germination method of placing some seeds on damp cotton wool and sealing them in a small ziplock bag. This time, I put the germinated seeds into bigger containers than the first time. It took a few months, but they finally hit their stride and are growing vigorously, looking like long green hairy caterpillars to me. A few of them have already begun to branch out, too! It won’t be long before I have to transplant the plants to bigger pots and start propping them against a vertical support.

© 2016 curiousgardener.com All rights reserved.


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Bee in my bonnet

Looks scary, doesn't it? Beehive under construction on our mango tree.

Looks scary, doesn’t it? Beehive under construction on our mango tree.

We’ve had bees nesting around our garden for years. They usually migrate from one location to another after a period of time, and we have had no issues with them – even when they started building their bee “condo” in our bathroom. They nested at the ceiling and we could still (ahem) use the bathroom.

Well, a few weeks ago, one of our neighbours noticed a beehive being built on our mango tree. These folks are simply unused to nature. They freak out over things like beetles and bats, so it was no surprise that they didn’t understand what to do about the bees that they could see. Like I’ve said, we have lived in close proximity with the bees (in our bathroom, right!) and had no clashes with them. Yes, they occasionally flew through the house at night, attracted by the lights, but left to their own devices, they would just keep trying to get to the light until they either gave up or literally dropped dead. We didn’t get hurt, our dogs didn’t get hurt, everyone lived in harmony.

Could our unsed-to-nature neighbours do the same? No. There were a couple of bee sting incidents, no doubt caused by a person trying to wave away a bee. Let me tell you that if one or two bees fly near you, just stay calm and be still. When you don’t aggravate them, they will leave you alone. Wave something at them to chase them away and that will be interpreted as an act of aggression, which will make them want to sting you. Of course, if there are several bees buzzing around you, I’d recommend making a quick exit as calmly as you can. As in, walk away briskly and do not wave your hands to chase them off!

When we realised that the neighbours were having issues – and there would probably be more since they didn’t know or want to learn what to do – we decided to try to have the beehive relocated. Bee populations around the world are at risk, and we wanted to avoid killing more.

I found that there are a couple of bee relocation options here in Singapore:

However, before we could get that underway, somehow, the authorities got called in and we were ordered to take immediate action because the bees were “a danger to the public”. Forget that it’s on private property and only one ignorant person had been affected. However, we are responsible citizens and did our civic duty – even though it went against our personal principles. The hive had to be eradicated, and we were very upset about that. Fear triggered the unbending action of the authorities who do things just their way. And since the hive was on our property, it was also at our literal expense to see to it.

We are not pleased. Speaking for myself, I’d say that too many people have lost touch with nature and need to “de-urbanise” themselves. Fauna and flora were here before people built their homes, and I know I’ve ranted about this before, but I recall the transition from those more rural days when we had snakes and fire ant nests and now-extinct green tree lizards and both toads and frogs and big jungle spiders, and more. I’m not saying I want all of them back, but that we should learn to respect the space and live in harmony with the creatures of nature because they deserve to be here, too. It’s all too normal to want to eradicate things that are odd to us, but I’ve found that when I take time to learn what those strange things are, they’re not always bad. I just wish more people would be aware, too.

© 2016 curiousgardener.com All rights reserved.


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