Category Archives: Gardening

Sweet Potato Harvest

A friend of mine recently asked when she should harvest her sweet potatoes.  It might seem a simple matter in other climates with a distinct fall frost, but here in the Sonoran Desert the growing seasons are sometimes out of sync with the rest of the U.S. It isn’t always obvious when to plant or harvest a given plant.

Sweet potatoes (Ipomoea batatas) are vines that produce large, edible tuberous roots.

I planted ours last spring after we had harvested the winter vegetables. I simply planted some sweet potatoes from the grocery store that had sprouted. Even commercially-grown sweet potatoes are started from sprouts rather than seeds.

A few of the leaves started to yellow over the last week, so we decided it was time to harvest.

Looking for leaves yellowing was a good clue because we had a number of good-sized sweet potatoes just in time for Thanksgiving.

Have you ever grown sweet potatoes? We also found out that wherever the main vines touched the soil, they rooted and produced a tuber. Sometimes after there were several in a string along a vine, the vine would go above ground for a few feet and then touch down a produce a few more tubers. The farther from the main plant, the smaller the tubers.

Very interesting plant!


Nature Reveals the Answers

Sometimes you have a question about a plant that is growing in your garden.

Take for example our luffas. This is the first time we had grown them. We were surprised by the big, bright yellow flowers with the faintly ruffled edges.

We know the plants produce separate male and female flowers. All the first flowers we saw were males. We wondered what a female luffa flower would look like.

A few weeks ago we finally saw the first female flower.

Then we wondered what the fruit would look like.

Slowly the fruit has been growing.

Right now the fruit resemble a zucchini squash. We are now wondering when it will be ready to harvest.

The whole process has been a mystery where nature has slowly revealed the answers. Sometimes it pays to wait.


Aren’t plant tendrils fascinating?

These are from a luffa vine, and the photographs don’t do them justice. Maybe I’ll try again.
What do you think of tendrils?

Summer Luffas

August can be a tough time for plants, but our luffas seem to love the heat.

We have two kinds.

The sponge gourd, Luffa aegyptica, has big leaves

and big yellow flowers that resemble squash blossoms, only more open and flat.

Here’s a beauty in the morning sun.

Our ball luffas, Luffa operculata, have smaller, more cut in leaves.

The flowers are much smaller, too. They are more like watermelon flowers.

The fruit are just adorable.

Have you ever grown luffas? What species did you grow?

Cyclamen Blooming Again

Most things I have read have suggested that cyclamen plants go dormant for the summer.



Ours must not be able to read 🙂

Rain Lilies Respond

Who has time to pamper fussy plants?

When my son wanted to buy rain lilies to grow in the desert, I had my doubts. They looked fragile. The name rain lily seemed to invoke a tropical plant, or at least one that thrived on rain.

Boy, have my ideas changed! These little beauties are so easy to grow and hardy, I don’t know why I had doubts.

They do bloom more profusely after a rain, hence the name.

Just gives us one more reason to look forward to rain here in the desert.

Have you ever tried to grow rain lilies?

Using Herbs: Mexican Oregano

Last week when I posted about using oregano in salsa, I bet some of you wondered whether I meant to use Mexican oregano. No, I really like the flavor of Mediterranean oregano in salsa.

Mexican oregano is a different plant. It is also called rosemary mint, Poliomintha longiflora. It is from North America rather than Europe and has a very different appearance.

The leaves are finer, more shiny and opposite in arrangement.

The flowers are delicate pinkish – lavender tubes. The Mexican oregano plant is a small perennial shrub that does well in arid climates. It is a lovely addition to a xeriscape garden.

We use Mexican oregano in chili and soups, particularly green pozole (If you’d like the recipe, let me know).

Not to be confusing, but there is also a related plant that grows wild in the southwestern United States, Poliomintha incana, commonly called frosted mint, and another plant commonly called Mexican oregano,  Lippia graveolens. The latter has white flowers and a different growth form. I guess that’s why common names are not always reliable.

Have you ever grown/used Mexican oregano? Do you have a favorite recipe?