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PunkRotten
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Tips on growing Yacon?

Hi,

I am really considering growing Yacon. I can spare a 3x3 area that gets about 4 hours morning sun in Spring with some filtered and indirect sun. Since I hear this plant gets huge I assume I should only plant 1 in the 3x3 correct? When is the best time for me to plant it if I am in Zone 9? What kind of watering and fertilizing schedule (if any) does it like? Could someone explain what would be the yearly care for this plant? I understand that at harvest people separate crowns and make new plants. But I don't know when that is and do you hang onto them for a certain time or plant them back immediately? Is there any special handling of the tubers at time of harvest?

Thanks in advance for any help.

DoubleDogFarm
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Good topic. I'll be watching.

Eric

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!potatoes!
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this was my fourth year growing yacon (grew nearly 70 plants as my only crop to market this year, not done digging them all yet!)...i'll take a stab at this. warning: many words.

yes, put only one in a space as small as 3x3. plant as soon as danger of frost is gone in spring (or a little earlier and cover well for mild frosts). a hard frost or freeze will kill them back to the ground. in my experience yacon likes good thick mulch and fairly regular feeding (i like to build a sheet-compost style mulch around them once the plants are in the ground, with alternating layers of leafmold and chopped greens [comfrey, for preference], and do occasional extra feedings up until sometime in about september [we get our killing frosts in november, usually]). decent nutrition and avoiding dry out is key.

regarding harvest/care: for me, harvest happens anytime after a decent hard frost kills the tops. be careful when digging, because the tubers are super brittle when being dug. i usually find it best to loosen the soil around the whole plant at a diameter of about 3 feet, and then pry the whole rootball out with a well-placed deep shovel and someone lifting on the stems, cut at 6 or 8 inches long for handles (i've gotten pretty good at prying and pulling by myself, but it's like awkward weightlifting/yoga, and i'd recommend it being a 2-person job) once the rootball is out, i gently separate out tubers and the crown. where i am, it makes sense to bring the crowns in for storage in a cool dark place (the basement, in damp mix or soil) while winter happens. they're usually starting to grow again in late winter/early spring, so then i start separating the pieces and potting them up as weather allows. it's nice for the plants to have decent-sized leaves before they go in the ground.

i've experimented with storage/care of the harvested tubers a bit. stored in the basement, under damp soil, they keep just like when they were dug (probably with slight chemical differences), with thin skin, firm/hard feel, and not much sweetness in the flavor. if they aren't covered down there, they begin to wrinkle. on the other hand, once you clean the tubers and bring them into a room-temperature environment, the real curing and sweetening starts, and the skin gets a little thicker and darkens toward purple (they can dry out a bit and get a little wrinkly, but frequently the thicker skin minimizes this), and they get sweeter and sweeter. i like them after they've been curing in a spot that gets some sun for a week or so. refrigerating tubers at any point seems to lead to a slimy blackening that is most unappealing. there may be some value in curing them all together in a waxed cardboard box, as opposed to a loose pile or single layer, to minimize water-loss. the ones i've collected in 1/2 bushel boxes for selling seem to be curing without wrinkling up much.

that's enough for now. i'll try to get a couple picture to add to this when i get a chance. gardenRN jeff may have insights from his first year growing them, too...

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lorax
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Potatoes: have you tried the Incan method of tuber treatment after digging? We brush off the dirt and then lay the tubers out in the sun for about 3-5 days (bringing them in at night) until they're nice and purple and have a relatively thick skin, then store them in boxes of sand in a cool, dark place. That way they maintain their crispness while at the same time developing maximum sweetness.

Then again, we don't have frost at harvest time....

ETA: incidentally, I grow mine in a loose mixture of sand and compost, which makes digging them much, much easier than I expect it would be of growing them in just soil. I feed daily with algae paste, which is in with their water. And yes, one plant in 3x3. If they're happy, Yacon will get huge. And if you haven't got a frost to kill them down, watch for the flowers. Once those have passed you can collect the seed and cut down the plants for harvest.

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PunkRotten
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Cool thanks for the tips so far. I am excited to try it next year. By 2014 it is possible I will have space for more plants.

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!potatoes!
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lorax: haven't tried that method. may check it out. running out of containers to fill with sand for the basement, though.

most of my plants this year were a 40 minute drive away. i think I'm glad to dig them out of soil, since it's done a good job of holding onto water this dry year, when i can't get to visit the field for a couple weeks at a time....

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lorax
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!potatoes! wrote:lorax: haven't tried that method. may check it out. running out of containers to fill with sand for the basement, though.

most of my plants this year were a 40 minute drive away. i think I'm glad to dig them out of soil, since it's done a good job of holding onto water this dry year, when i can't get to visit the field for a couple weeks at a time....
I use 40-gal buckets, which hold way more tubers than you'd expect....

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!potatoes!
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just knowing what a 5-gal bucket can hold, i would expect some serious capacity.

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PunkRotten
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Are Yacon flowers attractive to bees? If they are I probably won't grow any Sunflowers next year.

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!potatoes!
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i never get the flowers here. maybe you would, with your longer season? if so, they'll probably show up late. keep the sunflowers.

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lorax
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Keep your sunflowers. Yacon flowers are small and bee-friendly, but they're also something that appears at the end of a loooong growing cycle, and you're unlikely to see 'em before the frost kills the plant.

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rainbowgardener
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PunkR in SoCal probably doesn't have a killing frost ever.
Twitter account I manage for local Sierra Club: https://twitter.com/CherokeeGroupSC Facebook page I manage for them: https://www.facebook.com/groups/65310596576/ Come and find me and lots of great information, inspiration

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PunkRotten
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Yep no frost at all. I will probably keep the sunflowers anyway since the bees really like them.

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