To produce a bountiful fresh harvest, you must know everything about How to Grow Sweet Potatoes the right way. Learn all the tricks here.
Sweet potatoes are low maintenance plants that give a bountiful harvest compared to other fruits and vegetables. They are filling, nutritious, and delicious addition to many dishes. The best part is, you can grow them easily as long as you know how to do it the right way. Here’s all you need to know about How to Grow Sweet Potatoes!
Botanical Name: Ipomoea batatas
USDA Hardiness Zones: 9-11
Check out our article on veggies that grow underground here
Unlike other fruits and veggies that start from seeds, sweet potatoes start from slips.
What are Slips?
Slips are sprouts or shoots that grow on the sweet potato. As sweet potatoes are very common, obtaining slips is also quite easy. You can get them from any garden center. Alternatively, you can get plants from a nursery. Make sure to know whether the variety of sweet potato is vining or bushy before buying.
For container gardeners, growing bush type sweet potato is a good idea!
Start off by cleaning sweet potato thoroughly to get rid of all the dirt and soil. Then cut it in half or more large sections using a sharp knife. Place the sections in a jar filled with water in a way that half surface remains above water and the other half is immersed. You can use toothpicks to fix the potato and place it by a windowsill or somewhere bright. Sprouts will start to emerge in a couple of weeks.
- Growing sweet potatoes is very much like growing potatoes. However, sweet potatoes belong to morning glory family and potatoes are part of the tomato family.
- Grow slips/sprouts in the garden after all danger of frost has passed and the weather warms up sufficiently.
- They grow best in the temperature range of 75- 95 F (24-35 C)
- Start indoors, 12 weeks before you place them in the garden.
- For warm climates, you can grow them at any time of the year.
Growing Sweet Potatoes In Containers
Potato Grow Bags are a great option as they provide adequate drainage. Clay containers also present a suitable choice. Go for ones that are 10-12 inches deep and 12-15 inches wide.
Choosing a Variety
Beauregard, Centennial, Georgia Jet, Southern Delite, Goldrush, White Yam, and Yellow Jersey are ideal for container growing.
Requirements for Growing Sweet Potatoes
As sweet potatoes are tropical plants, they require warm conditions to thrive. Any location that receives plenty of sunlight is ideal, partial shade would be fine too. Also, vining varieties grow as long as 10 feet in length and cover a lot of area, so make sure there is enough space or try growing semi or compact bush sweet potatoes.
The plant grows above the ground, but the growth of sweet potatoes takes underground and compact soil makes it difficult for the tubers to grow freely underground, so sandy-loamy soil works best. Tilling the soil before planting is also helpful.
For colder climates, cover the soil with a layer of black plastic cover, This will help in keeping the soil warm and promote strong growth.
In the initial days, the plant requires daily and thorough watering for about a week. After that cut back watering for 3-4 days in a week. Continue to cut back each week till you get to once or twice a week watering cycle. Drought spells directly affect the harvest, so it’s essential to never mess with watering spells.
If you’re growing sweet potatoes in pots, just make sure the soil never becomes bone dry.
Temperature and Humidity
The soil temperature should be above 60 F (15 C) before you plant sweet potatoes outdoors. They can adapt to the soil temperature ranging from 60 to 85 F (15-30 C). The plant is tolerant of the surrounding temperature, going as high as 100 F (38 C).
Sweet Potato Care
Amending the planting site with compost before growing sweet potatoes is considered ideal. Alternatively, you can also feed the plant with 5-10-10 fertilizer. Check the label for the right dosage and intervals.
Add a layer of mulch to the planting site as it will keep the soil warm. Mulching also helps the soil to remain moist for a longer duration, as it traps the moisture and doesn’t allow the water to evaporate quickly. Both of these factors work in favor of sweet potato
Pests and Diseases
Home gardeners tend to neglect crop rotation, which can lead to wireworms and root-knot nematodes, so practice it. To prevent diseases, go for a disease-resistant variety. Mice may dig out holes in the garden soil and damage the tubers. Be on a lookout for them!
Harvesting and Storage
Depending on the variety, it takes 100-150 days for the tubers to reach a mature size. When you start noticing the leaves turning yellow, it’s time to harvest the plant. As you have to dig out sweet potatoes, do that carefully and gently. Their surface is tender and susceptible to damage if you turn them over roughly.
You can keep them for 4-5 months after drying sweet potatoes. To do so, keep them at a warm spot. This process is called curing and it enhances the taste.