This morning I harvested sweet potatoes from a garden bed that I started last fall. The first 12 years I lived here I had mowed this spot. In a post this spring, I described how I created it with the lasagna method. I sprinkled corn meal to attract worms, then smothered the grass with a layer of newspaper covered with leaves. Earthworms were plentiful in the spot so the con meal tip I had read about seemed effective. But just before I was ready to plant the sweet potato slips, I noticed a problem. Bermuda grass shoots were poking through the leaves. A covering of 3 to 4 layers of newspaper with leaves on top will smother almost anything. Bermuda grass is an exception.
That is the reason no till is in quotes in the title. With the fork in the photo, I dug the Bermuda roots out of the bed before planting. A few shoots appeared through the growing season, but I hand weeded as they appeared. The yield was 7 pounds of sweet potatoes. I did harvest a bed of sweet potatoes of equal size a couple weeks ago and get twice as many potatoes. But that was in a spot I had been gardening for four years and had a cover crop of crimson clover on last winter. After a few more years of compost, lime, and cover crops, the new spot will likely be better.
Sweet potatoes benefit from curing in a humid spot before using. The ones in the photo below are some of those I dug earlier. They were in the oven with today’s bread and on the way to becoming a West African style sweet potato and peanut soup.