Back in the spring I did another one of my experiments. I planted marigolds all around four Roma tomato plants to see if they would keep away the stink bugs. When I did it, I really didn’t expect too much. Even though the belief that marigolds repel stink bugs is so pervasive that it is assumed to be a fact, I wanted to see for myself.
Well, I am happy to report that I was wrong (kind of). Based on my results, there may be some truth to the belief that planting marigolds with tomatoes helps repel bugs. Early in the season, when I compared the number of bugs on my marigold encircled tomatoes to those planted in my row garden, the insect numbers were much lower. However, by the end of the season (when the marigolds were infested with spider mites and stink bug populations were high) there appeared to be no noticeable difference. Based on this, I am willing to say that if you want to use marigolds to repel bugs in your tomatoes, it is worth giving it a try. While the marigolds will not keep your plants bug free, they do apparently reduce the severity of infestations over the season.
I did the marigold experiment to test a “horticultural fact/wives tale”. The one I am doing now is using sweet potatoes to test a couple of things. First, I want try and figure out why you have to grow sweet potatoes from slips. Quite frankly, I don’t think you do. However, this practice is so widely accepted that I could find absolutely nothing on the internet about growing sweet potatoes without slips. Based on this highly unscientific research, the uninitiated might believe it is impossible to grow sweet potatoes without using slips. I know this is note true. I mean nature doesn’t produce slips that have to transplanted. No, sweet potatoes have survived for thousands and thousands of years by making a tuber that stays dormant in the ground until temperature and day length tells it to start producing vines.
My first experiment is to see if you get more potatoes from slips than you do from planting a whole potato. To test this I am growing sweet potatoes in two raised containers. The containers I am using are “Smart Pots”. These “Smart Pots” are 15 gallon fiber bags that are designed for growing squash and potatoes.
I filled both pots with an identical media that I created by mixing river sand and mushroom compost in equal parts. In one of the containers, I have planted a whole sweet potato. In the other container I planted a slip. If everything I have read is true, I should be able to dump my pots over in 100 days or so and harvest a bunch of sweet potatoes. It will be interesting to see which method produces the most potatoes.
This leads to the second test. I have grown sweet potatoes in my gardens before. However, my gardens are built on black clay. Because of this, even though the sweet potatoes grow pretty well, they are very difficult to get out of the ground. Since I truly love sweet potatoes, I am hoping that growing in pots will provide me a way to produce a respectable crop that is easy to harvest. If it works out I will have absolutely no problem switching from growing them in the ground to growing them in pots.
Wish me luck and don’t forget to check back in a 100 days or so to see how it goes!