How To Plant Kumara Shoots

You’ve nurtured your mother kumara all spring long and now that the shoots are 20cm or so its time, for them to leave mum, and go make their own babies. Planting time is upon us!

Prepare the bed

kumara ridges ready to be covered in plastic and warmed up

The key to a boomer crop of kumara, is warmth. The soil must be atleast 18 and better yet 20°. Thing is we cant wait forever for these temperatures – kumara need a long growing season, 120 – 150 warm days and nights. For some of you this is easily achieved, but for most of us its not and we need to fake up some warmth in order to get going as soon as we can.

If its cool at your place, make north south ridges to plant into and cover with black plastic on top of the soil, or set up a cloche with clear plastic, or plant in a tyre.

Kumara also grow well in containers, an advantage to those of you with loose soil. Loose soil/ sand has favour here in regards warmth and free drainage, but is disadvantaged in that the roots run for miles producing either tiny tubers or none at all. In an ideal world, the roots would bump against something hard – the bottom of a container for instance or a hard pan of soil, in order to stop them running away. Its one of those gardening balancing acts – and mounds of compost atop a heavier soil is a great combination. So don’t dig! Simply spread compost on top your existing beds.

Get your soil warming pre planting, then check it with your thermometer to be sure you’ve reached the magic 18/20°. If you don’t have one, you’ll know its warm enough by feel – nice and cosy, or as folklore goes – you’d happily sit your bare behind on it! Hold the plastic in situ with planks, until the foliage covers it and weights it down.

Prepare the Shoots

kumara shoot

Get yourself ready with a small bucket of weak seaweed or fish or comfrey solution.

Tip the sand box over and ease the mother out. Hold her as you peel the shoots off. If a bit of the mother sticks to the bottom of the shoot, break it off (disease prevention 101).

Put the shoots into the liquid feed as you go (its important they don’t dry out). You can hold them in this container for a few days.


kumara shoots planted into plastic

Choose the strongest shoots, and plant them at 40cm spacings, into your prepared bed by bending the bottom in the shape of a “j”.

If you have it, a bit of seaweed in the base of your planting hole is a bonus. Nestle the shoot in right up to the base of the leaves, with the front of the “j” facing north.

Give the seedlings a water and liquid feed of seaweed. Pile up mulch if you aren’t using black plastic.

Slugbait is smart – slugs love young kumara shoots! I use Tui Quash, the least toxic bait I can find. Otherwise get out at night with a torch and drop your finds into a bucket of limey or salty water.