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April 15, 2008     Cape Gazette
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April 15, 2008

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II CAPE GAZETTE - Tuesday, April 15 - Thursday, April 17, 2008 - 21 (00ARI00)EN & FARM UD Ag Day to offer variety of activities Ag Day has become one of the most beloved rites of spring in Delaware, and this year's event, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Saturday, April 26, promises to be bigger and better than ever. The University of Delaware's annual celebration of agriculture and nat- ural resources, now in its 33rd year, will feature educational exhibits, hayride tours, children's activities and, of course, plenty of good food. But what's really special this year is the record number of exhibitors and array of entertain- ment options, said Karen Aniunas, assistant dean for student services in the University of Delaware (UD) College of Agriculture and Natural Resources. "Ag Day 2008 will offer more than 90, educational and interac- tive exhibits presented by such organizations as the Delaware Native Plant Society, The Nature Conservancy, Delaware Humane Society and the UD equestrian team," said Aniunas. "And on our two stages, visitors will be able to enjoy the best in local bands, including Chapel Street Junction, Tater Patch and Dancing Cupid." Held on the grounds of Townsend Hall, Ag Day is a great outing for young and old. More than 3,000 peolle attend Ag Day each year, many who say they return for such perennial favorites as the pony rides, livestock dis- plays and appearances by UD mascot YouDee. Those with a green thumb - or hoping to cultivate one - will want to visit the Fischer Greenhouse, located behind Townsend Hall, for the 16th annual UD Botanic Gardens Plant Sale, 9 a.m. - 4 p.m. The sale offers out-of-the- ordinary perennial flowers, shrubs and trees that are sure to add interest to any lawn or gar- den. This year's featured plant is the redbud and a special selection of varieties will be available. Most Ag Day exhibits and activities will take place under large canvas tents to shelter event-goers from the sun, or, in the event of inclement weather, rain. Organized by students and staff from UD's College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Ag Day raises funds for student clubs, Cooperative Extension Master Gardener and 4-H clubs and other university and community organizations. For more information, visit 08.htm or call 302-831-2508. Free presentation on !he benefit of. native plants April 24 The Good Earth Market in Clarksville will host a presenta- tion at 7 p.m., Thursday, April 24, on Native Plants for the Inland Bays Watershed given by Bob Edelen, a member of the Delaware Native Plant Society. Edelen will share his photos, stories and advice about trees, shrubs and herbaceous plants native to coastal Delaware, and answer questions about "going native" in the backyard with spe- cial emphasis on attracting native birds, butterflies and other wildlife. The presentation will feature plants for every habitat, from wet, shady uplands to salty coastal dunes, and the back yard. Invasive species will also be high- lighted to alert gardeners to these dangerous invaders. In his new book, "Bringing Nature Home," Dr. Douglas W. Tallamy, professor in the Department of Entomology and Wildlife Ecology at the University of Delaware, reminds us, "All plants are not created equal, par- ticularly in their ability to support wildlife. Most of our native plant- eaters are not able to eat alien plants, and we are replacing native plants with alien species at an alarming rate, especially in the Continued on page 22 I It's to grow your own sweet potatoes About 8,000 years ago chickens originated in southeast Asia, tamed from the red jungle fowl. Chickens reached the Polynesian islands about 3,000 years ago. It used to be thought that chickens were brought to the Americas by the Spanish or Portuguese. But by the time Pizarro reached Peru in 1532, the Incas already had domesticated chickens. If that isn't confusing enough, the sweet potato (Ipomoea batatas), which originated in northern - South America or Central America as far back as 8,000 years ago, was already growing on many Polynesian islands long before Columbus set sail. Whether the chickens and sweet potatoes were brought back and forth by humans or of their own volition lay hitching rides on ocean-borne debris is up to debate. You can easily grow your own sweet potatoes anywhere in the United States. The runaway favorite for yield and ease of growth is the Georgia Jet. This spectacular variety grows extremely fast, reaching full size in just 90 days. It also yields up to 2 1/2 times as much as other vari- eties. Georgia Jets have an outer skin that is adeep reddish purple. Inside, the moist flesh is a bril- liant orange. It is that bright orange that makes the Georgia Jet so good for you. In 1992 the Center for Science in the Public Interest ranked the sweet potato highest of all vegetables in nutritional valuel GARDEN JOURNAL Sweet potatoes are started from plants called "slips." You can order Georgia Jet slips from Burpee Seeds (www., Pinetree Garden Seeds ( or Vermont Bean Seed Company ( among other companies. Set your slips or plants 12 to 18 inches apart in the row, with rows about 3 to 4 feet apart. Best results come from planting in raised ridges about 8 inches high. This lets the soil dry out better in the spring and warm up earlier. You can also use black plastic mulch to help heat up the soil and keep weeds down. If you use black plastic mulch you really don't have much else to do. Just make sure your plants get water once a week, but stop watering during the last 3 to 4 weeks before harvest. You can "rob" a few early sweet potatoes beginning in late You can easily grow your own sweet potatoes anywhere in the United States. The runaway favorite for yield and ease of growth is the Georgia Jet. This spectacular variety grows extremely fast, reaching full size in just 90 days. summer. Carefully dig into the side of the ridge and gently pull out some of the young developing roots, Take care to leave the rest of the plant in place. You can dig up your main crop of Georgia Jet sweet potatoes in about 3 1/2 months after planting or before the first frost in the fall. Allow the roots to dry out right where you have dug them up, for a few hours. Put them in a warm room for curing around 85F with high humidity, if possible for 10 to 14 days. Try to handle the sweet potatoes as little as possible so you don't bruise them. Sweet potat0es don't store as well as some root crops so you do best to use them up right away. You can bake them, make them into soups, serve them as a side vegetable or bake them into rich custard pies, and dream of Polynesia. Address questions or comments to Paul Barbano c/o the Cape Gazette.