Monday, November 10, 2014

How I Use a Weed-Eater to INCREASE Sweet Potato Yields

It's time to reveal the sweet potato harvest totals!  But first, here's a pic of my awesome harvest-buddy!

Alright, cuteness over; down to business.  Drum roll, please...

I planted 3 beds of sweet potatoes this year.  Here's the first: a 29 square foot bed.  Wanna guess how many pounds of potatoes we got from this bed?

If you guessed 47.7 lbs. (give or take a few ounces of course), you're right!  In this bed we averaged 1.6 lbs. of sweet potatoes per square foot of growing area.  Pretty good!  Here's our next bed:

This 19 square foot bed produced 31.3 lbs of potatoes.  That's another 1.6 lbs per square foot!  Does it get any better than that?

This 4x12 foot bed (48 square feet) produced 52.5 lbs. of sweet potatoes, an average of....get ready for it...

1.1 lbs per square foot.  One point ONE?  Where's the grand finale?  That's a big let-down.  Yeah, it was for us, too.  But it begs the question: Why? 

I think I know the answer, and this is a key to maximizing your sweet potato growing capabilities.  The two beds that performed the best were in boxes that I had to weed-eat against every week or so, meaning I had to LIFT THE VINES OFF THE GROUND once a week.  The lesser-performing bed didn't have to be trimmed, so I never lifted the vines.  What's the point?  Sweet potatoes will attempt to send down roots and grow a tuber at any point where they touch the ground, diverting energy into dozens of small potatoes.  When we lift the vines off the ground or train them to grow up a wall or on a non-porous surface, the plant is forced to send the growing energy into the main tubers at the plant's source, which grows a few really large potatoes rather than dozens of tiny tubers.

So there's your hint for growing really big sweet potatoes: Get the vines off the ground!  

But even with this year's little vine faux-paus, we're proud of our 131.5 lbs of sweet potatoes from 96 square feet of growing area.  We averaged 1.4 lbs. of food for every square foot of growing space!  I can't think of another veggie garden plant that performs that well.  And because they store so well, we'll be eating these super-food tubers all the way to March of next year.  

There you have it: a great crop and a trick for growing it, a great way to get the most food out of your backyard farm.  If you haven't tried sweet potatoes yet, I plan to have slips available for sale next April/May for purchase.  Let me know if you'd like to pre-order.  


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