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Have you always been too overwhelmed by the presumed complexity of apple tree grafting to give it a whirl? Me, too – until last year. Daunted by the multiplicity of instructions, the warnings, and lists of do’s and don’ts, I almost went through life without ever realising mere mortals can do this kind of stuff. But, in the end, frustration got the better of me and I grabbed the secateurs and a sharp knife and went out and grafted for all I was worth. This season, although the results may not look brilliant (and I probably left the grafting tape on too long), I’ve scored a 70% success rate. So, what are you waiting for? Be bold and brave and source some good rootstock (a tree specially grown as one that is good to graft onto) or simply eye up a tree you already have growing. You have nothing to lose and all the excitement of watching your grafts succeed.
Here’s how to divide your yakon, and winter them over in the greenhouse.
#After digging, sever the stem 20cm above the rhizomes (the knobbly bits which grow above the edible tubers).
#Gently break the rhizomes apart (or slice them with a sharp knife if necessary. (For best results each rhizome should weigh no less than 80-120 grams.)
#Dust the broken/cut surfaces with copper powder.
#Half fill large bags or pots with compost. Place the rhizome on top and cover with more compost. Add a mulch (such as sawdust) to suppress weeds.
#Store the bagged rhizomes in the greenhouse (or in a sheltered spot where frost will not reach).
#The rhizomes will send up new shoots and leaves. After all danger of frost is past, plant the new yakon into the garden.
Top tip: Yakon sweeten 2-3 weeks after harvest so don’t be disappointed if your freshly dug tubers taste bland.
DO YOU GROW YACON?
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!