I planted some yams in April I only planted one and now the vine has gone crazy all over the sidewalk and in the bed I planted it in. Our dogs have peed on the plant: will that harm the plant and is it still safe to eat the yams? Also, when should I dig the yams up?
The Gardener’s Answer
Hi, Linda in California: Yams and sweet potatoes are often referred to as the same but actually belong to different families and are native to different parts of the world. Sweet potatoes are native to Central and South America and true yams are native to Africa. That being said, gardening in California you may have the extended growing season conducive to growing yams. You will want to harvest your crop after the first frost kills the foliage. If this does not happen before Thanksgiving you can dig them the day of or a couple of days before. If you do not use them all you can cure them, unwashed, in a dry shaded space for a couple of weeks and then they can be stored for up to six months. They should be stored in a cellar-like environment with cool temperatures, around 40 degrees F, with good air circulation. When digging your yams be careful not to damage them and if any of them get bruised in the process be sure to eat those first. As for your dogs, their urine can certainly damage plant material, although it has to be a consistent habit in combination with lack of rainfall/water. Dog urine is alkaline, it can over time alter the pH of the soil and damage plant material, but from the way you described your vine it seems perfectly happy. In the future if this is a problem, there are environmentally safe products out there for deterring dogs.