Be Self Sufficient with Sweet Potatoes; Harden off Your Tomatoes

Reader Contribution by Ira Wallace
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unusually warm weather in March followed by a wet and cool April reinforces the
wisdom of waiting until the weather is settled and the ground thoroughly warm
before planting hot weather crops in the garden.  The first warm spell after May Day is usually
when we plant our sweet potato slips and transplant main crop of tomatoes here in Central Virginia. 


potatoes need a long warm period to produce abundantly, but even folks up north can grow this nutritious crop. It’s also an ideal
storage crop for those looking to be food self-sufficient.  Each plant can yield more than a pound of
sweet potatoes that will store well for 6-12 months without refrigeration.
gardeners start with slips (young plants) purchased from a local garden center
or reputable mail order source. Your new slips may not have roots, but don’t
worry, they’ll grow roots once they’re in the ground. The new
Southern Exposure Sweet Potato growing guide
tells you all about how to
grow, cure and store sweet potatoes in the Southeast.

Before you transplant those big tomato seedling that you have been holding
off on putting in the ground until this unseasonable cool weather passes, make
sure to take the time to harden them off. Because they’ve been pampered, they
need to be introduced slowly to the elements of wind and intense sun.


First you will put plants outdoors only for short periods of time, perhaps
for a couple of hours. You’ll want to set them in a semi-shaded area of the
yard. Gradually, you will increase the time plants are kept outdoors; which
gradually increases their sun exposure. After 6 to 8 days, your plants will be
ready for the outdoor life.

As part of acclimating the plants to the outdoors, you also will cut back on
watering. This will allow plants to toughen and will prepare them for being
transplanted. Now you are on your way to the having bigjuicy tomatoes early in the season.

While you are waiting for that first vine ripened tomato, try this recipe
with your early cabbage.




  • 10 cups shredded green cabbage
  • 3 cups shredded purple
  • 1 cup of minced purple
  • 1 tablespoon garlic
  • 1 tablespoon onion
  • 1/2 cup rice
  • 3 fresh jalapeno peppers, diced
  • 1/4 cup shredded
  • 1/2 cup olive


Mix all the ingredients, marinate
about 30 minutes before serving, stirring frequently.

Thanks for stopping by and we hope you’ll come back often to see
what we’re growing and cooking.

Ira Wallace lives and
gardens at Acorn Community Farm home of
Exposure Seed Exchange
where she
coordinates variety selection and seed growers. Southern Exposure offers
700+varieties of Non-GMO, open pollinated and organic seeds. Ira is also a
co-organizer of the
Heritage Harvest Festival at Monticello. She serves on the board of the Organic Seed Alliance and is a
frequent presenter at the Mother Earth News Fairs
and many other events throughout the
Southeast. Her first book the
“The Timber Press Guide to
Vegetable Gardening in the Southeast” will be available in 2013