School garden: What is the most productive way to grow Sweets in limited space?
We are an urban school with 750 students and have very limited space in our school garden. We are interested in learning and then teaching how to garden productively in limited space. We want to grow enough sweets that all our students can get to taste them. We want to plant enough all the students in our K classes (100+) can raise slips and plant them out. We have found that potato (nightshade) plants produce more in mulched raised beds than in grow bags for us. Maybe the soil in the bags gets too hot for them? However, we have limited raised bed space. Since sweet potatoes are supposed to thrive in warm soil, can we grow them productively in bags, saving bed space for other plants? If we trellis the vines to save space are we reducing production since the little nodes along the vines can't root? If we snip off tender ends of vines, in moderation, to teach that the those tips and leaves are also tasty, will we reduce productivity substantially? Thanks!
District of Columbia County District of Columbia
The sweet potatoes should tolerate warm roots better than ordinary white potatoes (a cool climate plant) would.
Using a trellis for the vines and pruning them back "moderately" should have minimal effect on tuber production, but of course will depend upon just how much foliage volume is lost. Rooted nodes do not correlate to tubers, though fewer rooted nodes would mean a little less uptake of water and nutrients. On the other hand, if you are limiting the expansion of the foliage, then that extra water and nutrients shouldn't be as necessary.
Altogether, your plan seems sound. We'd love to see a photo of your trellised vines.
In addition, you might want to try sweet potato varieties that take up less space, such as Vardaman and Bush Puerto Rico.