Growing Sweet Potatoes in a 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.
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:
Overall, I planted perhaps 20 slips in the spring… and just let them run through the food forest around my trees and shrubs. Some made plenty of roots… some didn’t.
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:
The biggest sweet potato tipped the scales at 3lbs, 12 oz.
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.
By the way, we buy our baskets from local thrift stores for a dollar or two each. They’re great help on the homestead and much cheaper than buying new baskets or totes. Plus they’re all different and homey.
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. Growing sweet potatoes is SO simple you’ll wonder why you’d never done it before.
I’ve created a video on growing sweet potatoes and planting them easily – check it out here:
The best part about growing sweet potatoes every year and harvesting bushels? We’ll be enjoying these well into the winter… and when they’re done, it’ll be time to plant again.