Learn how to grow sweet potatoes in your garden. Sweet potatoes are a fascinating plant that grow underground like potatoes, however, it is a vine plant on top of soil with flowers similar to their relatives, the morning glory. Learn more tips on growing sweet potatoes successfully in this article.
How to Grow Sweet Potatoes
Sweet Potatoes grow under the ground just like regular potatoes. However, that is the end of their resemblance to each other. Above ground, Sweet Potatoes are sprawling vines that can take up a lot of room in the garden.
Unlike regular potatoes, Sweet Potatoes are a warm-weather crop and need about 4 months of high temperatures to mature. However, if you live in a northern climate, you can still grow them through proper propagation and maintenance.
You can also have Sweet Potatoes in a small garden if you choose a bush-type variety or grow them in containers (containers like these).
For best results, make sure you buy your sweet potato slips from a high quality organic seed company.
How to Grow Sweet Potatoes: Position:
**Choose a warm site in full sun, and someplace where sweet potatoes have not grown recently. Make sure the soil has good drainage.
**The best soil for sweet potatoes is a light, sandy soil. It should be slightly acidic, and have a good supply of phosphorus (like this) and potassium (like this) in the soil. Check your soil’s acidity with a good soil test kit like this one. Click here to learn more about how to test your soil properly.
**Do not give Sweet Potato plants very much nitrogen (a key ingredient in most fish emulsions) because it will harm the plant.
How to Grow Sweet Potatoes: Propagation:
**Sweet Potatoes are NOT grown by cutting up the potato and planting it (like regular potatoes), but instead, you plant “slips”, which are sprouts from the large, swollen root.
**To get “slips”, place a root, or just the round end of a root, into either moist sand OR suspend it in a glass of water (use 3 toothpicks to hold it in place). Change the water often, and when the slips are about 8 inches long, pull them off the root with a twisting motion. They are now ready for planting.
**Here is a Youtube video that I found on Sweet Potato slips; it’s nice, sweet, and to the point, which is something that I found helpful: CLICK HERE for video.
**In southern climates, save some sweet potatoes from your fall crops and sprout them during the winter. You can also buy the slips and plant them in Early Spring. For more information on what to plant early, check out my post on Early Spring Gardening.
**In northern climates, it is a bit more difficult to find roots to sprout that are good for colder climates. You will probably have to grow your first crop from slips/roots that you have to order from a good gardening company for your specific region. It might be a bit expensive for your first crop, but just remember that you can save some of your first crop to make your future crops.
**If you order your first roots/slips from online or a catalog, when they come in the mail, make sure you open the packages immediately and remove them from their wrappings. Put the stem part in a bucket of water to keep them fresh until planting.
**It is important for the soil to have warmed up before planting, which is usually about 2 weeks after the last frost date for your area. It is much easier to have warmed soil for your Sweet Potatoes in raised beds or mounded-up garden rows.
**You can also warm up your soil by laying down black plastic over the ground. The slips are then planted through slits cut into the plastic.
**Plant them about 1 foot apart, with about 3 or 4 feet between the rows. Plant them deeply and cover as much of the stem as possible while also making sure that most of the leaves are above ground. It is a good idea to pre-moisten the planting holes to help the plants become established quicker.
How to Grow Sweet Potatoes: Maintenance:
**Keep the sweet potato slips well-watered once they are planted. You should give each plant some liquid fertilizer, preferably one high in phosphorus (like this one) after planting to give them each a good start.
**Keep the beds weeded until the vines cover the ground.
**If your sweet potato plants are suffering, you can give them a top-dressing of liquid fertilizer; just make sure it is not a fertilizer that is high in nitrogen.
**Rot diseases can be a problem, but they can mainly be avoided if you plant them somewhere with good drainage and do active crop rotation with the plant each year.
How to Grow Sweet Potatoes: Harvesting:
**It is time to dig up your sweet potatoes when the foliage turns yellow and dies OR when the frost cuts it down. DO NOT allow your roots to freeze in the ground.
**Use a digging fork and lift the plants carefully. Those that are nicked or bruised should be used right away.
**Your good sweet potatoes should store well. For better storage, you should cure them for about 2 weeks (at 85 degrees) to harden their skins. Then store them at 50-60 degrees Fahrenheit and in a moderately humid environment. They will keep for 3-4 months in these conditions.
**Don’t forget to keep a few aside to use as slips for your next year’s garden!
Do YOU grow Sweet Potatoes?
**If so, how do your crops thrive where you live?
**If not, do you think you will grow them this year? Why or why not?
I hope you learned a lot about how to grow sweet potatoes in this article! Feel free to ask me any questions about growing sweet potatoes in the comments below! Or mention any important tips that I forgot to mention. 🙂
More Gardening Tips:
- How to Grow Zucchini and Yellow Squash
- Early Spring Garden Planning Tips
- Fall Garden Planting Guide
- Finding Joy in the Garden in Summer