The irony is that they are weeds. You pull them out and when you don't remove all of the stems, they sprout and spread again.
You've got me fretting over my patches, trying to decide on the best method of attack. So easy to get going so you want to pursue the most productive route.
In the New Guinea highlands , the growers scrape dirt and mulches together each season and plant inside that. The setup works as a kind of slow action anaerobic composter.
I've shared images like this before -- right -- and it gives an idea of the local DIY. But in Africa the farmers are seriously into ridges.See below.
Previously -- ironic as it may seem, given my habits-- I've just used raised beds. Although i have some kumara growing in a succession of mounds, like rolling hills -- but they aren't as high as what I built this week.
Aside from concentrating nutrients, the mounds define the plants' spread -- as it tumbles down the slope.In the images above - 3-4 plants per mound...but my guess is that the traditional Maori mound was smaller.
I'm thinking also that in both examples, the soils are heavy and, of course, they have a wet season -- although currently the New Guinea highlands are devastated by drought and frosts.
The one variation I can find, is that traditionally, the Maori added stones to their mounds in order to elevate heat retention.
Since I'm converting my whole garden to mounds -- the topography looks a lot like the image :above, right. I lay down old paper and cardboard scraps, twigs and whatevers, in the gullies to retain moisture.
While I walk through the gullies to water and harvest, I also plant out there: this week, Taro; in places pigeon peas, cannas, some of the ;'spinaches' do well (like Brazil) in these depressions come valleys...tomatoes during the dry months it seems.
But Kumara mounding is still a novel experience, although it's an obvious approach for tubers.
The method worked OK for my potatoes this year, especially Pontiacs. Already Purple Yams (Dioscorea alata) are coming on in places ....but my current exercise is exploring different sizes of mounds for different plants and plant intercrops.
It's like Godilocks' chairs and beds...So the mother of all backyard mounds is going to be dirt tested with kumara.
The thing about mounds, I'm learning, is to over come any bias against turning over the soil because they aren't intended as stable structures.
It's have mound/will travel.
And it's taken me this long to have the confidence to build a seriously big Kumara mound.
It's my Kosciuszko.
So let's see if size and structure matters...
An observation with Sweet Potato is that they are almost surface croppers. Grow in a deep bin and the fruits are all a couple of inches below the surface. They don't make use of the depth.
Thanks Elaine, that is one of the things that I wanted to know. I did think about the fact that taking the tops off would inhibit the growth. They are just small slips that I have and now I will move them into a grow bag with less depth next to the fence and tie them up. There is a barrier there so they won't escape to the neighbours. Gardening is an experiment for some of us, and we learn by our mistakes. This old dog is learning new tricks.
We only stop learning when we drop off the twig ;-)
I have grown sweet potatoes that were sold as ornamental plants (three varieties), and at least two of them supposedly have good/sweet flavour (a lime leaves one which I forgot the name, but I think it starts with M, and Ace of Spade) according to Jerry coleby williams. They were put into soil with no preparation, and neglected, the plant did alright but didn't have any decent size tubers. Could have been different if they were put in a veggie bed. They maybe a good option if there's not much space for them to "run", because I noticed the internodes between leaves were shorter than Hawaiian and a lot shorter than Beauregards. Haven't seen them around for sale lately... though they are grown at Southbank's epicurious garden.
I have not been to the Southbank epicurious garden. It sounds interesting Florence. The soil I have planted the tubers into, has some chicken manure in it, hopefully it does not take over the backyard. The depth of the soil may make a difference with the tuber growth.
Your setup looks very good, Darren. I wonder what would happen with mine if I kept the greenery trimmed. Would it affect the growth of the tuber underground. I grew the orange kumera a few years ago in a dry bed. They were neglected and I thought that they had died, but when I dug it up, it was full of sweet potato. Let's hope the purple fleshed one does the same.
The few varieties other than Beauregard that I have tried, have not been as fruitful as Beauregard nor as weevil-resistant. I can see why commercial growers stick to Beauregard!
If you keep the greenery trimmed then there won't be as much leaf area to make food for the plant. The tuber is the plant's way of storing food for itself in lean times. Plants grow for their own purposes, we come along and harvest their storage organs for ourselves.
Growing up a trellis works well. The stems lean, they don't twine so they need some support and sometimes a little tying.
Hi Christa ,I really do think the jury is still out on this as I grew them mainly for the leaves and used lots of nitrogen for this but still harvested tubers.I think if you cut them back to nothing it may effect your tubers.If you have a few plants then they can take turns on who gets the haircut.Would love a cutting of the purple one I have a white coloured flesh type and also another one with red skin but not flesh.
If I can get them on the go, you can have some of my cuttings, no worries. They first have to survive my gardening skills.
Dont, worry most sweet potatoes are pretty well bullet proof its amazing how resilient and forgiving they are and you will be surprised how quick they can grow.There is just one rule and that is never feed them after midnight lol.