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Sweet potato harvest around the corner
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Sweet potatoes are one of the most nutritious vegetables we have. I did not grow any this year but quite a number of you gardeners out there did. I really like the taste so if you have any you want to get rid of, you can bring me a few.

Sweet potatoes should be dug in late September to early October, depending on the variety you grow and how early they were planted in the spring. Sweet potato roots do not mature, but keep getting larger as the season progresses. Dig a plant or two, and if the roots are the size you prefer, harvest all of the plants. If roots are too small, let them grow another week or two. The vines are very susceptible to freezing, so listen for the weather report and dig the crop before any impending frost. If they cannot be harvested before frost, leave the foliage on the plant. This serves as a blanket to protect the roots from cold temperatures.

To keep sweet potatoes for extended periods, they should be "cured." Put the unwashed roots in a warm (80 to 90 F), humid (use damp towels or pans of water) location for 7 to 10 days. This allows bruises and scratches to "heal over" so the potatoes won’t rot in storage. Sweet potatoes are a tropical crop and require warm storage temperatures above 50 throughout the winter.


Control sycamore anthracnose now

Hey, what’s the deal? Sycamore anthracnose is a springtime disease. Why are we talking about control this time of year? Besides, the disease wasn’t even bad this year. Why worry about it now?

Sycamore anthracnose is indeed a springtime disease. The fungus overwinters in small cankers on diseased branches. In early spring, the fungus can infect the developing buds and cause dieback of young shoots and small twigs. Although the disease is very unsightly, it rarely causes permanent injury to established trees.

Typically, the tree "releafs" in mid- to late May and the tree suffers no permanent injury. In certain locations, the disease may be severe enough to cause a bushy appearance, or witches broom, to the branches. However, I don’t consider it a killer type of disease. I can’t recall of a single sycamore that was killed by anthracnose in recent years.

Sycamore anthracnose is sporadic. It tends to be very severe during cool (not cold), wet springs and mild during dry springs. We had relatively severe outbreaks of the disease in 2007, 2008, 2009 and in some cases even in 2010 in spite of cold, dry conditions in some locations. Thus, in spite of us having relatively few sycamore trees, there is plenty of inoculum out there to cause problems next spring provided weather conditions are favorable.

Control of sycamore anthracnose is based on preventing infection of developing shoots in spring. This can be accomplished by making routine foliar fungicide applications to emerging shoots in the spring to protect against fungal infection.

Unfortunately, foliar applications are hard to make to large sycamore trees in urban areas. Furthermore, the applications must be made at the correct time. Most arborists are very busy this time of year and it is difficult to get the sprays on.

Alternatively, sycamore anthracnose can be controlled by fungicide injections.

Injections are usually done by trained arborists. The material and products are not readily available to homeowners.

Injections are made in the fall (September) in two consecutive years. They systemically protect new buds in the spring from fungal infection and also reduce the amount of fungal inoculum in the tree. Overall, arborists have been pleased with the level of anthracnose control following injection with the fungicide thiabendazole

(Arbotect) or propiconazole (Alamo) in the fall. Remember that fungicide injections are usually not necessary for tree survival, but they may help the overall appearance of the tree during years with severe anthracnose.

If you are planting new trees and like that big wide leaf and smooth bark of the sycamore, try a London Plane tree which is a cousin and much more resistant to anthracnose.


Begin poinsetta treatments

To have your poinsettia in flower for Christmas, place it in darkness now from 5:30 every evening until 7:30 the next morning.

If you have saved last year’s poinsettia and want it to flower again this year, you must follow certain procedures. Poinsettias are known as "short-day" plants.

Growers found out long ago that poinsettias can be brought into bloom if they are

given short days and long nights.

Originally, it was thought that short-day plants needed a short duration of daylight in order to flower. Now we know that flower formation is actually triggered by long periods of uninterrupted darkness. For poinsettia, at least 12 hours of each

24 must be uninterrupted dark. Night temperature also has an effect and should be below 70 degrees F with 60 to 65 degrees F preferred.

During the day, place the plants in the sunniest location of the house. This high level of light is needed for the plants to have the energy required for good bract coloration. Day temperatures should range between 65 and 75 degrees F.

Providing uninterrupted darkness can be a problem for gardeners unless there is a room in which the lights are never turned on. If you don’t have such a room, place your poinsettia in a dark closet or cover it with a cardboard box each night for the required 12 hours. If using a cardboard box, tape all the seams with duct tape to cut off any light. Poinsettia takes anywhere between eight and 11 weeks to flower once the dark treatment has been started. Normally, people start the dark treatment in early October. The first six weeks are critical. For every night you miss during the first six weeks, add two days to the bloom time. After the six-week dark treatment, the buds have set and the dark treatment is no longer needed.

Rick Snell is the Barton County Extension Agricultural Agent for K-State Research & Extension. He can be reached at 620-793-1910 or The Barton County Extension Office is located at 1800 12th Street in Great Bend.