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Into Every Life a Few Mice Must Scurry


Just to be able to have a bit more space than what’s available in my yard, I have a plot at a local community garden this year. I’m growing a few things that¬† wouldn’t be main crops, necessarily. These include sweet potatoes, lufas (that scrubby thing that people use in the shower is from the inside of a squash), cantaloupes, and a few overflow sweet peppers.

The sweet potatoes were looking great, the tops anyway, lush, green, tall, very few holes in the leaves, even a few pretty flowers (sweet potatoes are related to morning glories). I was looking forward to a big harvest.¬† Today when I was there I decided to feel around in the ground and see how the tubers were developing. I knew it was getting near time to harvest (sweet potatoes don’t like it when it gets below ~55 F regularly), but I wanted to keep the sweet potatoes in the ground as long as possible because sweet potato tubers never stop growing until they are harvested.

As soon as I touched the first one I knew there was a problem. I pulled it out and it looked like this.

Sweet Potatoes- Eaten by something, probably mice

Sweet Potatoes- Eaten by something, probably mice

I pulled out another and it looked very similar. Clearly something had been eating them, and not a bug, but something bigger, as there were what appeared to be distinct tooth marks. Though there has been a groundhog terrorizing the garden this season, I didn’t think this was from him. Since the tubers were underground and there wasn’t any obvious disturbance to the ground I figured it had to be something smaller that was tunneling underneath.

I continued to pull out a few more and got some good ones, but also ones that while they hadn’t been gnawed on were split and cracked.

Cracked Sweet Potato

Cracked Sweet Potato- from too much water, most likely

I wound up harvesting the whole patch to salvage whatever I could.

A bit of subsequent research revealed the potential for mice infestations and that sweet potatoes need dry conditions while the tubers are developing especially if it was relatively dry during the earlier development of the plant (as it was in July). Even without Hurricane Irene, it’s been a rather wet August, which probably accounts for the cracking.

This is one of the lessons, at times painful, of gardening, some years harvests will be really good, some really bad, most somewhere in-between and weather is all important. Also if you have a problem, salvage what you can. I’m going to cut out the good section from my damaged sweet potatoes, cook them, an throw them in my freezer.

I hope your recovery from Irene is going well.

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