Growing Sweet Potatoes

Sweet potatoes are an important root crop around the world, but do not tolerate frost. This guide is about growing sweet potatoes.
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November 22, 2010 Flag
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Although most often thought of as a food for the holidays, sweet potatoes are becoming more and more popular as a garden crop. And why not? This warm season crop is easy-to-grow, contains a high amount of vitamins and a relatively low amount of calories, and tastes delicious!
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A Sweet Potato is Not a Yam

Some confusion exists over the difference between sweet potatoes and yams because the terms are often used interchangeably (this tends to come up a lot during the holidays). Related to the morning glory, the sweet potato is a tender tropical vine. The part that we eat (the potato) is actually a root and not a tuber (as with white potatoes). There are two basic types of sweet potatoes. One has a light-colored flesh, which is dry, mealy and less sweet tasting (like white potatoes). The other type has a dark orange, moist and sweet-tasting flesh.

All of the so-called "yams" grown in the United States are actually sweet potatoes. The U.S. Department of Agriculture now requires labels with the term "yam" to be accompanied by the term "sweet potato", if they are in fact really sweet potatoes. True yams are much harder to find in many U.S. grocery stores. Although they look similar to some sweet potato varieties, they are in no way related and belong to an entirely different plant family. Yams are grown in tropical areas like South America and the Caribbean. Their outer skin is typically rougher and their flesh sweeter than sweet potatoes.

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Not Just for Southern Gardens

Sweet potatoes typically need a long, warm growing season of at least 100 to 120 days to reach maturity. Although usually thought of as a southern crop, many northern gardeners (north of Zone 6) have achieved success by starting slips indoors, and growing cultivars like "Georgia Jet", "Beauregard", or "Centennial", which can mature in as early as 90 days. If you garden in the north, you might also try warming up spring soil temperatures by covering your garden with black plastic for a few weeks before planting.

Getting Started With Starts

Sweet potatoes are grown from slips (rooted shoots) or sprouted cuttings. They are not grown from seeds or by using grocery store sweet potatoes. Slips can be purchased from mail-order suppliers or found at local nurseries. If you have a sweet potatoes from your garden (or a neighbor's) that has survived winter indoors, you can start your own slips. About 12 weeks before your last expected frost date, submerge the bottom third of the potato into a jar filled with water (Use toothpicks to support the potato on the rim of the jar). Place the jar in a sunny spot. In a few weeks sprouts will start to form on the potato. Once these reach 5-6 inches long, carefully remove them from the potato and stick them in damp sand to root. When garden soil temperatures warm to 55-65 degrees F, harden off the seedlings and transplant them into the garden.

General Growing Requirements

Site: Full sun. Plant them where sweet potatoes have not been grown for at least 2 years.

Soil: Not too fussy. Loose, nutrient-rich soil with a pH of 5.5 to 6.5 is ideal. Once established, plants are drought tolerant. The "Centennial" variety is said to be tolerant of clay soils.

Spacing: Mounds 12 inches apart in rows 3 feet apart. Mulch: Use black plastic or mulch around plants to keep soil warm and suppress weeds.

Number of plants: 2 to 4 plants per person.

Additional Tips:

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September 21, 2006 Flag
1 found this helpful

Sweet potato plant, beautiful and easy to grow!

By Christine from Sanremo, Italy

Sweet Potato Vine Bloom

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September 21, 20060 found this helpful

I keep a vine in my kitchen window all year. I used an over size coffee cup, just make sure to keep the water at least half full. A vine is so pretty in the winter.

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September 21, 20060 found this helpful

I have tried growing one of these so many times but never any luck. This is beautiful. Marianne upstate N Y

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September 21, 20060 found this helpful

This doesn't look like a sweet potato plant. Are you sure you did not plant Morning Glory? Sweet Potato plants have fleshy stems and heart shaped leaves, usually bear white, "insignificant" flowers. When I plant them, they usally come from cuttings or "eyes" from the tubers, just like what regular potatoes have. Sweet potato plants come in different colors. Some are reddish, some are purplish and others come in this new variety of chartreuse green which they are now using everywhere for hanging plants.

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August 20, 20080 found this helpful

I found this and thought you would like to to:

Columbia Encyclopedia: sweet potato,

trailing perennial plant (Ipomoea batatas) of the family Convolvulaceae (morning glory family), native to the New World tropics. Cultivated from ancient times by the Aztecs for its edible tubers, it was introduced into Europe in the 16th cent. and later spread to Asia.

My sweet potatoe has a flower just like that:

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March 28, 2011 Flag

You can grow sweet potatoes in a wooden barrel. Cut off your sprouts, leaving a medium amount of potato on the sprout. Get your wooden barrel and place some small size rocks in the bottom of your barrel. This is so you will have good drainage when it rains or you water it.

Then start layering your soil about 12 inches on your rocks. Layer the potato sprouts about 8 to 10 inches apart in the barrel. Keep adding soil and potato sprouts all way to the top.

If it is a dry year, you can water them. Make sure you have good drainage from the bottom. Just pull off the tops and turn over the barrel when ready for harvest in the fall before frost.

By mamacrafter from TN

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March 27, 2012 Flag
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I have never planted sweet potatoes, hints?

By Steve J.

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March 29, 20120 found this helpful

Plant sweet potatoes in a slightly acid soil, pH between 5.0 and 6.5. If you feed sweet potatoes, they will only produce foliage, so plant in soil with lots of organic matter in it, and don't feed again. 3 to 4 weeks prior to harvesting, don't wanter the plants or the tubers will split.

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April 1, 20120 found this helpful

Hi Steve I live in Queensland Australia which is a hot and dry place, not sure where you are but if its a hot place. I buy some small sweet potato from the shops and leave them in my shed to sprout, it takes a while but it will send out shoots. Bury them leaves and all just under the surface or cover them with soil so you can't see them. You will notice in a few weeks the vines start to come through.

I wait a year and then starting in one corner follow the vine with your hand, when you reach a join in the vine; that's where you will find a sweet potato. then just bury the vine again don't dig them all up. sweet potato for ever. you can chop up the vines that grow too long out of the garden beds and give them to your friends. Good luck from gail

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November 22, 2010 Flag
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I know the potatoes should of been in already. Someone just gave me some sweet potatoes. Do you plant them just like the other potatoes, or is there a certain way of planting them.

Hardiness Zone: 3b

By Joyce wis from Janesville, WI

Answers:

Growing Sweet Potatoes

Look it up on google. They aren't planted like regular potatoes, you have to let the 'eyes' grow into sprouts first---there are several good sites, but make sure that they refer to a growing area that is close to where you live. You could try your states Dept of Agriculture site. (05/29/2009)

By fatboyslimsmom

Growing Sweet Potatoes

My understanding was that you soak them for a while first with half in the water and let them sprout roots first. (05/30/2009)

By mctc

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