Growing Sweet Potatoes in my Florida Food Forest
In Florida sweet potatoes are one of the easiest crops you can grow. Healthy, nutritious, low water needs, plus high in calories - you can live on these roots.
Bonus: you don't have to grow them in a conventional garden.
The first way I grew them as a kid, long, long ago, was in my neighbor's flower box when she was out of town. They took over and smothered the petunias.
It was awesome.
Later, I've grown them here and there in raised beds and in deep mulch gardens and even in my blueberry patch.
I don't recommend doing that anymore, since my blueberries grew really slowly thanks to the root competition.
I also tried growing them around cassava but the canopy overhead was too much for them - if I do that again, it will be with widely spaced cassava plants.
Now I'm sold on a better way to grow them: right in the food forest.
I've done that for a few years. It was a nice ground cover; however, the yields were poor due to the lousy compacted sand they were growing in.
After dumping a few loads of mulch last fall, however, along with doing a lot of chop and drop (and shredding stuff), everything is starting to look really, really good.
And the sweet potatoes know the soil has improved.
I went out on Sunday afternoon and started rooting around.
There was something good in the ground... I could feel it...
AH! Here's the mother lode!!!
Look at all the fungal mycelium in there - those are all those white patches. That's good stuff. I planted the original slips through 6-12" deep mulch into the soil, but they put roots everywhere. Check out this view of the path where I tossed the sweet potatoes I unearthed:
|Mrs. Survival Gardener is my photographer. And lover. Shhh.|
The total yield?
Not bad at all considering I didn't water or fertilize or do anything from March all the way through November. I just let them ramble and occasionally pulled vines out of the paths.
Some of the tubers ended up getting quite large:
|Check out my foxy new glasses. And my giant sweet potatoes. Which are more awesome? Hard to say.|
I really pulled in a decent yield considering the lack of work involved. Just some cuttings in spring, some deep mulch, whatever rain the Lord sent and then a little digging.
Fortunately, I received a lot of help from our two-year-old. That boy is great at filling baskets.
|Babies + sweet potato harvesting = a great afternoon.|
If you haven't planted sweet potatoes in your food forest or mulch beds, why not try some in the spring? They're a wonderful crop and very rewarding. Pulling them up is like digging for treasure.
And the best part? We'll be enjoying these well into the winter... and when they're done, it'll be time to plant again.
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