Sweet potatoes

sweet potato tuber
Home-grown sweet potato

We have always had a few food plants in our garden and have very gradually been moving towards growing more.

sweet potato foliage
Lots of foliage

The list at the moment includes tomatoes, at least half a dozen herbs, chillies (the same old bush is still producing), bananas (two varieties with another one promised), jaboticaba (if a handful of fruit every year or two can be counted) and the macadamias and mangoes which were already established when we bought the house.

Sweet potatoes keep better on the bench than in the fridge but early this year we left some there a bit longer than usual and they began to shoot.

Why not plant them? No reason at all, so they went into a styrofoam box full of soil and compost, the box went against the pool fence, and we waited.

Then waited some more, because Leonie Norrington (in Tropical Food Gardens) is adamant that they take four months to mature.

sweet potato foliage
Close-up of foliage

Eventually we decided that it must have been four months since we planted them, and dug them up. The good news was that we had succeeded in growing sweet potatoes. The not-so-good news was that the tubers were not very big at all – click on the top photo to see just how big that one is.

Why were they so small? I don’t think the box was big enough. The roots had formed quite a dense mat throughout the soil and I think they would have gone much further if they had had the chance. It’s also possible that they wanted more water than they got.

But we knew that the basic idea was sound enough and started looking for a better spot to grow more. Yesterday I planted out another few chunks of sprouting tuber against the fence under the bananas in ground which the scrub turkey had unwittingly helped me to clear and level. We’ll see how they go.

2 thoughts on “Sweet potatoes”

  1. Update, Nov 9:
    I planted a few more chunks of sweet potato along the fence a week after this post and then ran out of room. As of today, the best of the first lot has reached the top of the trellis and a few others have put up shoots just big enough to identify.

  2. Eighteen months later, we’ve produced three or four ‘crops’ and learned a bit about growing them: they like good soil and sunshine, and they grow best where they are allowed to sprawl.
    Last week I pulled up our last crop, which had been in our raised vegie bed since some time before Christmas. We got a kilo or so out of it and they tasted okay but we have decided not to plant another lot because we can make better use of our limited space by growing tomatoes and other compact, quick crops.

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