I’m the sort of person who always has a plan F.  While it doesn’t represent my three previous failed attempts or the well-raked but now choko-free planting site, the following gallery of photos showing my recent efforts to grow a choko vine on my back fence, gives a hint why.

You might ask “Why the mirror? Do chokos favour selfies? Are they the body builders of the plant world, only able to bulk up while constantly checking their form?”.  A good question.  You might also ask “Why try to grow the choko in the first place, the vegetable equivalent of the Milk Arrowroot biscuit, a food you will only eat when the pantry is otherwise bare?” but let’s not go there now.

My garden gleams with reflected light in hopes that a sudden glimpse of a rival will put the wind up your peckish but flighty brush turkey and make him head for the hills.  I fell for this urban myth, and heavy rubbish day presented any number of opportunities to add a sparkle to my vegetable beds.

While a looking glass in the okra patch is aesthetically pleasing, the sad end to to my months of steadfast efforts to grow a choko vine suggests that mirrors may fall into the same category as companion planting – a charming idea lightly resting on a flimsy foundation of optimism and anecdotal evidence.

So I have undertaken my mission of establishing a sweet potato patch with a certain sense of doom. Yes, it is true that with absolutely no attention from me, over summer last year some long-neglected tuber produced a morass of sweet potato vines so resilient that it became my 2014 nominee for “plant most likely to survive the zombie apocalypse“.

But that was then and this is now.  Yesterday I saw not one, not two, but four baby brush turkeys in the yard during one 10 minute period.  If the undead favour brush turkey brains, the zombie apocalypse is starting to seem like a more and more appealing prospect.

There’s a hint of Hammer Horror about sweet potato slips, enhanced, I think, by the monster themed birthday candles I used to keep the tubers suspended in glasses of water.  Yet surprisingly, in the months of watchful waiting, there was only one horror movie moment.  A classic: Empty-house-Terrifying-things-hidden-in-enclosed-spaces-Heart-in-Mouth – When Sweet Potato Tubers Go Bad. There was a potential splatter event as I emptied the gut-churning water into the sink.  But fortunately, there were survivors.

So, time to plant out the sweet potato slips.  Needless to say, I won’t be  relying on Alice nipping through the looking glass to rescue my sweet potatoes.

Instead, I’m pinning my hopes on a trampoline. It has been a much loved trampoline.  But when you find lichen growing on on your backyard play equipment it’s often a sign that it’s time for it to move on to the next phase of its lifecycle.  In this case, in the fiscally constrained post-Christmas period, as low-rent vegetable exclusion netting.

Yes, that does mean that the kids can no longer leap and bound with gay abandon knowing that the nets around the tramp will catch them.  They now have the “tough love” type of trampoline we had in the 70s and 80s where the threat of a broken leg or fractured spine was ever-present.  But sometimes it comes down to a choice between securing the future of your offspring and your root vegetables.

So yesterday, in the foggy early morning, I set out to the bottom of the garden with everything prepared.  Commemorative real ale glass full of rooted sweet potato slips.  Length of lichen-encrusted trampoline netting.  Bucket full of broken terracotta pots, previously used to secure a now-partially composted Christmas tree.  And hope.  And back in the kitchen, a whole bunch of extra sweet potato slips.  Because when hope fades, there’s always Plan F.

6 thoughts on “Rooted?

  1. I hope the netting protects those sweet potato slips.
    I also reused part of an old trampoline (the black spring mat, that I picked up on the footpath) in an attempt to foil a brush turkey.
    In my case I covered a mound with it, but with limited success.
    I can vouch for a mirror technique though, it worked for me, but only in the case of a male on a mound.
    It really does freak the male out, as he attempts to defend his mound from rivals.

    Anyway your healthy looking slips have inspired me to get mine planted.
    Mine has been sitting in my kitchen for a while, as I try and work out where to plant it.
    Its a great technique the way you can just break off the slips, put them in more water and they easily form roots also.
    I also imagine you are less likely to transfer diseases, compared to planting a whole tuber.

    I noticed today they are selling chokoes at Coles Lindfield for $7/kg, so someone must like them, and they don’t a very large range of fruit and veg.
    I planted one a couple of years ago and it fruited well the first year, but I neglected subsequently and it hasn’t done very well.
    It is in a dry spot and I think they do like moisture.
    You can see it behind the banana tree against the house, and it has reached the roof again, so not too bad.
    It does seem like a very useful plant with edible leaves and all.

    • Interesting to hear you are doing similar things! Yep I used the sweet potato leaves a lot last year. They went a bit mad and were very tasty mixed in with other greens (warrigal greens, swiss chard etc) in fetta and green bakes etc. I didn’t really try to harvest the roots but the rats found them eventually so I didn’t get any coming up this year. In previous years I have planted the tubers as well but since the slips were so prolific I thought I would give doing that a go. I will probably put the tubers in as well in the end (that’s plan G!) but the US sites all seemed to suggest avoiding it to avoid disease. Since I’ve got quite a bit of space for crop rotation and I’m not so worried about harvesting tubers, I probably won’t stress about that too much…. My spot is around the globe artichokes and the strawberries, which seeemed to work well last year, and in a sunny spot where I have some rhubarb this year. I’m not sure if its best to put them with drought tolerant things (which won’t compete for water) or water loving things (so you can water both at the same time)!!

      • I guess I would put the water loving plants together, if it means less walking around with the hose.
        I will have to try eating some sweet potato leaves – such a useful plant and relatively disease free.
        Anyway it’s probably too late in the season for tubers to grow properly before winter.

  2. I’ve been taking apart trampolines myself, getting parts from them etc.
    Great reading about your sweet potatoes, insightful indeed, I’m off to the gardens …

    • I have plans for the rest of the trampoline too Juke (perhaps I need your advice?). My neighbour has a sloping back yard and can’t be bothered terracing it for the large tramp he inherited – given the amount of time his son spends at our place he figures we should have it instead! Planning to use the frame of the old tramp to make a round 8 foot high prison for my particularly delicious plants to thwart the brush turkeys and chooks. Will defo need to do some yarn bombing or painting or something so it doesn’t look too shocking!!

  3. Pingback: Brush turkey mathematics | Berowra backyard

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