2011 has been a very dry year. It has been very challenging to attempt farming. The word is that produce crops are failing all over East Texas or have already failed. The only bright spot on Elliott Family Farms has been sweet potatoes. We planted them in out of desperation, really.
All our southern pea varieties failed, and it is really bad when it is too dry for peas. Sweet potatoes require less water than peas, a fact that I was not totally aware of when a friend suggested that I plant them. It was late. Generally they are planted in June these days. My grandfather, however, planted them as late as July and August before, Texas being a hot dry place anyway.
I was able to locate Beauregard Sweet Potato slips at Mathews Ridgeway farms in Wynn, Arkansas. It was late in the year and they maintained their beds another week until I could get there and pick them up. We bought 24,000 slips of which we planted 6000 and a neighbor planted 18,000. The neighbor did not provide sufficient water so all his plants failed. We had an 80% survival rate and were able to peg the runners up and down the row to cover the smaller skips.
We used organic materials to control pests and a liquid organic fertilizer to boost growth. The slips were planted on various row widths from 40” to 60”. We like the 40” row best with plant spacing at 12” to account for some death loss. We used disc hillers to make the beds initially throwing up a 16” bed then running the rotary tiller over the top to further condition the bed and knock it down to 12”.
The crop is doing well and will hopefully pull us through this year. We need rain desperately. We will be harvesting the sweet potatoes in November around the 15th. If we do not get rain, winter cover crops fava beans and English peas will be delayed or not planted. We are seeding sweet onions for sets in October for January transplanting. If we get no rain, we will sell the plants.
Pray for rain.
We are reselling used mechanical harvesting equipment and have several machines available. Brands include Oxbo/Pixall, Byron and Chisholm Ryder. We also have continuous shellers, reefers trailers, and grading equipment for beans and peas available.