Marcelle St.Germain, Step by Step
Big Ugly, West Virginia

Sweet potatoes are one of our favorite crops to grow at BUCC. Early in the spring we generally order 1,000 sweet potato slips from Sow True Seed in Asheville, N.C. A little more than half go to our Big Ugly gardeners and the remainder go to Bea Sias in Logan County for her gardeners.

Sweet potatoes take a long time to mature — we need about 120 days for the plants to grow in order to get the mature tubers out of the ground before the first frost. So getting them early enough to be in the ground and growing well by the first of June is our goal.

This year, due to the cool and wet spring, our slip shipment was very much delayed. Usually, our shipment has arrived by Memorial Day and the plants are happily in the ground by June 1. This year the slips were not shipped out of N.C. until June 8th. Unfortunately for these young plants, they were shipped (UPS) on the hottest day of the year we have had thus far.

We tracked our shipment as we were eager to receive the slips. From truck to truck they went: Knoxville, to Bristol, on to Roanoke and then finally landed at the Logan, WV facility early in the morning of day 2 of their travel.

Our plants then spent 10 hours in a baking hot UPS truck finally arriving around 7:00 pm on day 2. Temperatures were in the mid-nineties with the heat index just under 100 degrees. We were ready to receive the plants knowing that the travel would not have been easy for them

Immediately upon receipt, the boxes were unpacked in order to give the plants a drink. In the interior of the boxes where the slips were stacked into 100 slip bundles, the temperatures were close to or at the composting level. The salvage process began in earnest as the slips were weeded into those that could survive and those that were lost.

Fortunately for us, Sow True Seed has packed lots of extra slips so even with our losses, gardeners were able to get the amount they had hoped to plant. So now with a lot of TLC and a number of days of rain, we are hoping they take root quickly and start to grow. We won’t find out how well the rescue mission succeeded until well after Labor Day. We’ll let you know.