Beans and peas defy the season
known as yams, just to make things more confusing), are a perennial species of tuberforming, rather than bulbforming and weedy, oxalis. If well-grown and harvested with care, they are a rewarding, no-fuss winter crop. It’s only when lots of small tubers are left in the soil that they can outstay their welcome. • Yams are frost-tender. Bury the seed tubers after the risk of late frosts has passed in spring, and wait ‘til frost knocks down the leafy tops of the plants the following winter to start harvesting. The flavour of the tubers is better after a few frosts. • Because yams are dug after their tops die down, it’s a good idea to put in a stake next to each plant, so you don’t miss any come harvest time. • When harvesting, use a spade to lift and dump all the soil out on to a tarpaulin or into a wheelbarrow. Then you can sift the soil thoroughly to make sure you don’t leave too many tiny tubers in the ground, as these will sprout the following year but are unlikely to amount to much more than a nuisance. • You can grow your own yams from storebought or home-saved tubers, or buy seed tubers of special varieties from garden centres. They come in a range of colours from gold to orange and traditional red. • Plant yams in fertile soil in a sunny position. Space them out 30-40cm apart, burying the tubers 5cm deep, and mound up. Dig in compost prior to planting and side dress with fertiliser when the tops emerge. • To store yams for replanting in spring, just keep them in a paper bag in a cupboard indoors. This column is adapted from the weekly e-zine, get growing, from New Zealand Gardener magazine. For gardening advice delivered to your inbox every Friday, sign up for Get Growing at: getgrowing.co.nz
If you have an abundance of organic seeds, sprout any spares. And if you have heaps of flower seeds, mix them all together to make your own wildflower mix to scatter over a patch of bare ground next spring.