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How do you grow sweet potatoes?

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  • How do you grow sweet potatoes?

    This is one type of potato that I have never grown. Do you grow them just like you do regular potatoes.

  • #2
    they are a different species than Irish potatoes, they go in later (around now where I live, still trying to sprout my own slips instead of buying!?!)

    regular spuds get harvested after they flower and the tops die down, sweet potatoes grow all season- they should be loosened and allowed to dry before the first frost- frost will wipe out the vines and the potatoes may rot if you dont get them up ASAP! Dry in a single layer I think, then you can store them for a while. Like common spuds, try not to hurt the skin- eat any bruised tubers first!


    • #3
      Sweet potatoes are planted from a "slip" which is a sprout which shoots up from an eye on a sweet potato, is then removed and put in water to root. A potato will produce many, many slips simply by putting one end of the potato in a glass of water in a warm, sunny place. The rooted slips are planted in a hilled soil bed - so that later the potatoes can expand without fighting soil pressure. I grew 50 plants, of 4 varieties 2 years ago in Upstate NY, planted on May 25 and dug up around mid September before frost. Got over 100# of produce. From those I harvested I sprouted and rooted my own slips (though they won't be guaranteed virus free) and I did avoid using any potatoes that had blackened skin as they seemed to store poorly and I suspected virus.

      Handle gently and avoid bruising, knicks, abbrasions to skin. Before storage, I cured them in a 85 degree room with high humidity (inside the house the first year, used a utility room, fried my electric fixtures due to the moisture) so the second year I used a new root cellar by adding a heater and a humidifier and that was successful. Curing in a single layer, for 10 days sets the skin and lets it convert sugars and ward off bacterial invasion and heal cuts, etc. I got 200# last year in same bed, probably due to adding some leaf compost. I eliminated the varieites of Centennial (developed black skin) and Georgia Jet (cracks in skin). I continued with Vardamon and Beurgard which both have good flavor and size. One is a vining and the other is a bush style, can't remember which.

      Be sure to roll the vines and keep them from rooting down during the summer, because the vines will try, but fail to produce more bearing plants whereever they root and that lessens the size of the main plant's crop. You can clip and save some vines for the following year's plants if you want to keep them living indoors. I used my rototiller to create two long parallel hills, a foot high and 18" wide, about 6 feet apart, with the trench down the middle for walking. I used black plastic 10x40 over the entire bed and planted slips through into my hills, which eliminates weed competition and helps keep the temp up. I made an X and used a dibble to make a hole and stuck the slip down a good distance into the hole - so the roots were 2-3 inches below grade. I watered into the plastic X where I planted the slips initially until they started throwing leaves, and then periodically throughout summer, if hot and dry (watch for wilting). First summer the rain kept the crop most of the season.

      My second season, I went for a longer growing period as we were not having frosts, but ran into the fall rains and then, thought I would have trouble harvesting them if soil was heavy and wet, and left them for a month when they were getting lots of moisture (instead of drying out like they are supposed to) and this caused many of the potatoes to sprout in the ground. Fortunately after they were cured that did not lead to any further sprouting or failure to store well. I keep them in a covered box under my piano next to my pellet stove, so they stay around 65 degrees all year long. I'm a little late getting my crop in the ground this year...


      • #4
        Can you cut the vines short to keep the vines from getting to long and starting new roots or will it hurt the plant to cut the vines short and hurt production?


        • #5
          cutting sweet potato vines

          I have never cut the vines. I assume they are busy gathering nutrients and feeding the plant. The bush variety I grow is compact, relatively - they don't start spreading until mid summer when they have really gotten established, and then, maybe they spread 3' in either direction? The plant produces a radiating root system from the crown, and all the roots have the potential to expand into tubers - they start out pencil diameter and swell up from there. You can dig into the side of the hill and carefully steal one without damaging the plants, these are called fingerlings when they are small. The black plastic keeps the whole thing weed-free. The trailing vines can be curled back up onto themselves - but if not, they can go 10' straight out. But they are petite leaves, nothing huge like squash - so they can be managed. Maybe nipping the ends off would cause them to branch sideways, I don't know?


          • #6
            Don't forget, sweet potato leaves are edible and delicious.



            • #7
              and high in nutrients for bunnies, if you raise them


              • #8
                How far apart do you plant slips?