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Dear Editor,

I hope you can tell why my sweet potatoes are deformed. We had lots of pretty vines and not very big potatoes, and those were deformed. I am thinking we might have used too much goat manure in the bed. Would that also cause them to be deformed? Thank you for your help.

Dear D-

There are a lot of things that can contribute to poor sweet potato production. The reasons for your poor performing tubers could come from more than one source. First, too much nitrogen fertilizer. Sweet potatoes have low nitrogen needs. Till in fertilizer before you begin planting, and then that should be about it. No additional sidedressing is needed. Was your goat manure composted before you used it? Did you add more as the plants were growing?

Sweet potatoes demand sandy, loamy soil. They are very particular about any obstructions in the soil (it will cause deformity), and also need soil that drains well. If you’re planting in clay, that can also affect the end result. In addition, drought can be a contributing factor. While they’ll rot in overly moist conditions, they still need sufficient water. They’re a shallow-rooted vine and are sensitive to lack of moisture.

And of course there are the pests that attack them as well. You have the sweet potato weevil, the cucumber beetle, and root-knot nematodes (microscopic worms that live in the soil). Proper soil preparation, crop rotation, or leaving an area fallow a year will all help keep disease and pests at bay. If you do have crops that appear to have some type of disease, do not add those to your compost pile. Burn them. This University of Arkansas publication on controlling nematodes in your garden is very informative and helpful. Go to to download the pdf.

The Editor



Dear Editor,

I confess… one thing I’ll miss in a world off the grid is soda pop. Are there any recipes for making your own carbonated drinks?


Dear M-

Believe it or not, there is! Years ago people used tartaric acid and bicarbonate of soda (baking soda) to create fizzy drinks. Dissolve 2 Tbspns. of your syrup (a recipe for a vanilla syrup is given below) plus 1/4 tsp. of tartaric acid in an 8-oz glass of ice cold water. Then add a 1/2 tsp. of baking soda and stir. A 1/2 tsp. of lemon juice can be substituted for the tartaric acid, or you can purchase tartaric acid online. It’s available on many wine-making supply websites or from Amazon at

Vanilla Syrup

1 qt. water
4 cups of sugar
4 tsps. cream of tarter
1 Tbspn. vanilla
3 egg whites, beaten until stiff

Heat 1 quart of water to near boiling and dissolve the sugar and cream of tarter in it. Add the vanilla. Allow the mixture to cool. Add the beaten egg whites to the mixture and stir thoroughly. Bottle and store in the refrigerator.

The Editor

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