Yams are odd creatures – they have their own peculiar set of demands. But growing them is easy when you know what they like.
Here’s how I do it:
- When preparing the bed, keep your soil light by digging in plenty of compost.
- Biff on some seaweed over winter and let it rot down.
- Hold back on the nitrogen (it only grows tops – and it’s the tubers you want to encourage).
- Add phosphorus – lots!
- Source your yams from farmers’ markets, friends, garden centres, Trade Me. Steer clear of supermarket yams as they are often treated to stop them sprouting.
- Plant in spring as soon as the first frosts are over (yams like a long growing season).
- Plant only evenly shaped tubers that are no less than 6cm long.
- Plant in holes about 15cm deep and 15cm apart.
- Harvest yams after the autumn equinox (late March in NZ – when day and night are of equal length).
- If you live in a frosty part of the country, harvest a week or two after the frost has deadened the tops thoroughly.
- Wash and dry the yams and store them, covered, in a cool, dark place (as you would potatoes).
Top Tip: hungry birds like to harvest yams, too. As soon as the tops die off, cover the garden bed with a net to keep the birds from pecking the yams before you harvest them.
Did you know:
Yams come in different colours – yellow, pink, and orange. Plant a variety.
Yams are self-mulching because the tops grow rapidly to cover the ground.
If you have any yam-growing tips, or questions, please leave a comment & I’ll get back to you pronto!