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By Staff | Apr 17, 2009

Sweet potatoes taking root in my kitchen window.

The soil temperature measured 40 degrees this morning at the 4-inch level. Son Ben checks it every morning at 10:30. He lays aside the algebra lesson he is working and heads out to the field on his bike.The good news is that it is up eight degrees from last week. There is no blizzard warning in the forecast nor any really cold temperatures. Perhaps it is just up from here, it is getting to be that time of the year.

We are all poised to get busy with planting, garden work, fencing, and getting baby chickens outdoors. Even in the house all things point to spring. Clothespins and clothesbaskets are filled and emptied with laundry hanging outside, windows are opened letting the fresh air chase out the staleness of winter.

Boxes of bumble bees sit on the counter. Yes, choosing the date for their arrival is always an educated guess. The bees need to be here as soon as the first apricot and plum blossoms appear to get the full benefit of the work they were created to do. So I order them along with a bag of pollen for their feed.

It is easy to tell if they are happy or not, because if they aren’t an ominous buzz arises from their box. If someone were to open the slide, this would be one very fast moving family.

Ben’s in charge of feeding them, he joked he could just open the outlet leaving them feed on a beautiful Easter lily’s pollen. He guaranteed they would return back to their home. Nah. Some experiments are not worth trying.

Sweet potatoes line my kitchen windows and cupboards in various containers. Daughter Krystle likes to grow them as long as she doesn’t have to eat them. A pet project of hers for the last half dozen years or so, she takes a lot of pride in starting them each spring from potatoes saved from last year’s harvest.

Their dark green leaves contrast nicely with the orange tator and abundant white roots that show clearly in the glass canning jars. They get babied with fresh water often in the house, weeded carefully outdoors and finally dug in the fall at the right time. If I ever have a question about how to grow sweet potatoes, she will be my first source of information.

The first planted tomatoes have about reached the end of their endurance of living in the house. Very anxious to put their roots in the fertile garden soil. Last winter they grew so slow that we wondered if they would ever reach transplant size. This year is definitely a different story.

Bushels of potatoes wait for drier, warmer soil temperatures for planting. I doubt that we have ever planted them on Good Friday, but it is a task that we look forward to doing each spring. Cutting potatoes, planting in straight rows three feet apart, weeding and hilling, our mouths start watering at the thought of those first new potatoes around the Fourth of July.

Daughter Nancy tells me that boxes of onion plants are coming this week. Last year, every body managed to be gone onion-planting day except Ben, Rachel and myself. We shall have to see who is gone planting corn and oats, when onion day arrives this year. Nancy wasn’t sure what day they were coming, so none of us can schedule something very important to do that day. Perhaps if I looked at her calendar, I might be able to guess the day of their arrival.

The corn planter is really field ready. Last week I met plenty of farmers pulling loads of seed corn. All dealers were putting in long days to accommodate their early and late customers, as well as those who arrive within normal business hours.

Spring with warmer temperatures, soils perfect for planting is what everyone is desiring.

Vander Schaaf is a Farm News staff writer from northwest Iowa. Reach her by e-mail at suncrest@netllcwb.net

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