If you didn’t have candied yams growing up, then you missed out. But, it’s not too late to give them a try. In fact, why not learn how to grow yams of your own by growing slips from adult yams and planting them in the garden?
They are just as easy as growing sweet potato slips, and you get to enjoy a harvest of delicious and healthy tubers at the end of the growing season.
Many people confuse a yam (Dioscoreaceae) with a sweet potato plant (Ipomoea batatas). However, true yams are from the Dioscoreaceae family, have skin similar to tree bark and starchy flesh.
Sweet potatoes are from the morning glory family and have reddish-brown skin and sweet flesh. Sweet potatoes are also more healthy than yams, but they both have many benefits.
These tubers are a great addition to your pantry, whether you enjoy yams roasted, boiled, or candied, or added to soups, braises, and stews.
The best thing about them is they are nearly effortless to grow in a garden, and a packet of seeds isn’t necessary. All that’s required is a yam from your local farmers market or grocery store.
Growing, Planting, and Harvesting Yams
Growing your own garden is an excellent practice for keeping your pantry and fridge full of healthy food. You know precisely where it comes from and the steps it takes to get it from the ground to the dinner table.
If you like to grow sweet potatoes or regular potatoes and want to try your hand at growing other tubers, you’re in luck since planting yams is just as easy.
Growing yams is similar to growing sweet potatoes, and the only thing you need to get started is an adult yam.
While many other foods grow from seeds, fruits and veggies like onions, pineapple, celery, small and large potato varieties, and yams grow from parts of the original vegetable. We explain how to grow sprouts from a yam and plant them in the garden for new yam plants.
How to Grow Yams from a Yam
Yams grow from splits that come from sprouts, so it’s necessary to grow sprouts from an adult yam before planting yams in the garden. This is the first part of the growing process, and it only takes a few minutes.
The first step is to pick a healthy yam from the different varieties. Choose a disease-free tuber that does not have lesions or discolorations which tend to grow diseased sprouts.
Cut the yam in half and insert four toothpicks around the outside to form an X-shape. Pour water into a glass and position the toothpicks on the rim, making sure that the cut half of the yam sits in the water.
Set the glass of water on a sunny windowsill, change the water every couple of days to keep it fresh and level, and wait for it to begin sprouting in a few weeks.
Growing potatoes from scraps is possible, too. It works just as well with yams and sweet potatoes, as well.
Growing Yams for the Garden
The next step in growing yams is to remove the developed sprouts from the yam in the jar of water and root the slips. This sounds more complicated than it is, and all that is required is a glass of water.
Once the yam sprouts are leafy, it’s time to grow the slips separate from the yam. Use your fingers to gently twist each sprout from the yam surface.
Pour water into a container and position the sprouts with the stem in the water and the leaves hanging on the rim. After several days, root development begins on the stem ends as the plants begin growing.
Once the roots are an inch long, it’s time to prepare them for the garden or raised bed a few weeks after the last frost.
Planting Yams in a Garden Bed
Once the slips reach the appropriate size and the outside temperature is just right, it’s time to plant them in the garden. Here is how to plant yam slips by preparing the soil with the proper spacing and depth. Planting potatoes in straw bale is an effective growing method, too, as well as with yams and sweet potatoes.
Once the danger of frost passes and the soil temperature is warm, prepare the garden for planting by loosening the soil eight to 12 inches deep and removing rocks and other debris.
Make the bed large enough to accommodate about three feet of space between each yam plant and ensure it is in a place where they receive full sun.
Spread manure or compost eight inches into the loamy, loose soil to enrich it, and spray it with water two to three days before planting the seedlings.
Dig holes three inches wide, four to five inches deep, and eight to ten inches apart. Carefully position each seedling in a hole with the leafy tops above the potting soil, push the dirt around the bottom, and pat the ground down firmly around them.
Water the newly planted yam slips generously right after planting them, and then give them a drink of water every day for the first week and every other day after that, or when needed.
As the plants grow, feed them low nitrogen, high phosphorus fertilizer every two to four weeks, and provide them with a trellis or stake for support since these plants grow similarly to sweet potato vines.
Spread a layer of black plastic mulch as ground cover to maintain moisture and stop weeds.
Finally, keep an eye out for bugs, nematodes, and diseases. Mealybugs, aphids, and white scale insects are a common yam problem, and insecticidal soap is necessary if you discover infestations.
How Long do Yams Take to Grow?
As you grow yams and give them proper care, you probably wonder when those tasty tubers are ready for picking. We explain how long it takes for yams to mature and how to harvest and store them.
Yams are fast growers and typically take about 14 weeks to grow to maturity, depending on the cultivar. The easiest way to tell when they are ready for harvesting is to inspect the leaves. After the foliage starts to turn yellow and wither, it’s time to begin pulling them.
At the end of the growing season before the first frost, begin digging around the plants, making sure that you’re a safe distance from the yams to prevent damaging the skins.
Pull them gently from the ground and set them in boxes or baskets, and place them in a warm, dark area for two weeks to cure. This step is important since the curing process allows bruises and cuts to heal while sealing out bacteria.
After curing, sort through the yams and toss out any rotten ones. Place the healthy tubers in a cool, well-ventilated, dry area of your pantry or kitchen and use them as needed for several months.
Whether you grow sweet potatoes or yams, picking vegetables from a garden that you grew yourself is a highly satisfying experience. While the entire process takes a bit of time, the reward is well worth your effort, and a single yam is all that’s required to get started.
We hope that you enjoyed reading our information on how to grow yams of your own, and we’d love it if you’d share our yam growing and harvesting guide with the potato-lovers in your life on Pinterest and Facebook.