Back in the spring I first wrote about my weed-free garden experiment in which I used woven weed block fabric as mulch for my sweet potato bed.
Whelp, I pulled the bed two days ago. Here’s the video:
I started a bunch of various sweet potato slips over the winter, then planted a batch of them in the bed… then it was time to wait… and wait… and wait. Fortunately, there was absolutely NO weeding to do in the interim!
I’m not exactly sure what happened, but the sweet potatoes seem to be exclusively a boniato type – and the bed wasn’t as productive as I had hoped it would be. I blame the variety in the video; however, on further reflection, I think I could have burned the holes in the landscape fabric a lot closer and planted a tighter bed.
Live and learn.
The yield was likely 30lbs. I think 60-100 would have been easily possible for a bed of this size.
On the up side, it REALLY ended up creating a super nice harvest and a totally weed-free garden. It was the best-looking sweet potato bed I’ve ever had.
NOTE: I pulled this bed earlier than I normally do. Usually, I find it best to wait until close to the first frost before pulling sweet potatoes since you’ll get larger tubers.
This year I was out and about doing a lot of yard and garden clean-up, plus we were low on roots in the pantry… so I just went for it.
Unfortunately, I don’t think I’m going to hit my goal of a ton of food this year. Nursery work, book writing, etc. put a bit of a hole in my plans… but I haven’t given up.
As a final note: this DeWitt woven nursery fabric / plastic mulch is really good stuff and lasts a long time, unlike normal plastic which you might use once then throw away. I hate that kind of waste.
This also lets water through and allows the soil to breathe. In the video you can see how pretty and fluffy the ground was beneath it. It’s good stuff for killing off weeds in a food forest, too. Just pin some to the ground and leave it for a few months and you’ll be left with nice, bare soil.
Bonus points if you grow sweet potatoes at the same time!
Wow, that is three to four times the growth above ground than I have in my garden. I too used the Dewitt fabric. We are starting to get nightime low’s in the 40’s. As soon as it gets below 38 F, I’ll pull the bed. I think that my harvest will be low as well, but for a different reason. I’ve seen evidence of maraduers…the small four legged kind. Last year they ate all my beets.
I am SOLD on the Dewitt fabric.
P.S. I’m in your neck of the woods just the now, visiting relatives. Saw a damnable palmetto bug last night…in the house. Lord Jesus I do not abide bugs, especially giant ones.
Why did say they are boniato? Are they white-fleshed? Do they taste good?
A few things I can think of for you; Boniato’s are very long season sweet potatoes. Depends on the variety, 120-250+ days. Compared to average 100 days for most.
They’re also “runners”, they tend to set potatoes on very long feeder roots.
And last, maybe a bit out there. But I know that my sweet potatoes have declined massively in the past few years… aluminum toxicity…. I’ve read that they are sensitive to aluminum, reduces yield… and what do us crazies think the planes are spraying… nanoized aluminum particles in the mix, I’ve read…. who knows..
curious, how long before I know the sweet potatoes are ready to harvest?? Tried some as an experiment this year and planted around May, I think..haven’t seen any flowers, so I’m not sure if that makes a difference or not and I don’t expect to get much of a yield.
I’ve grown sweet potatoes once. We had a massive harvest, which started from a single sprouting, rotten store bought organic sweet potato I buried whole in a raised 4′ by 4′ bed full of red potatoes on a whim. It quickly took over the entire bed and the surrounding area. I’m not an expert, but I feel that the reason we got such an incredible crop (and perhaps the reason yours disappointed) was that the vines formed sweet potatoes everywhere that they were able to root into the ground. We were even pulling sweet potatoes out of the lawn! I would question whether the fabric barrier is responsible for the reduced crop.
Actually, I’ve found that the side vines produce a lot less than the main stem where planted – unless you have a really long season. Cutting back on vine rooting is alleged to increase yields because the plants don’t spend their time making a bunch of small roots along the stems rather than building up the main cluster at the base.
It’s always a great feeling when an experiment is a success. Nice job 🙂
Your yields looked normal to me for a situation with limited potassium availability (florida sand). Also, I wonder if black planting fabric is much if any advantage in the florida climate. If timing of setting out slips is good, they should grow extremely fast, smothering the weeds quickly. One or two light hand-weedings should do it.
BTW, I have some Haymans growing in my Umatilla garden, when I get down there I can send you a piece for seed-stock.
Thanks, Pat. Just wasn’t as much as some of my previous beds. Maybe I should up the potassium.
You said you’d been better to plant them closer…
How close did you plant your slips?
I do not remember on this bed, but I now plant them at about 16″