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How to plant sweet potatoes
Sweet potatoes that you can buy in a store are often treated to prevent them from sprouting, so it’s best to get yourself some roots sprouts or “slips” from your local gardening shop. Put the roots in a box filled with moist, chopped leaves in a warm spot and they’ll sprout in about six weeks. When they do, harvest them and cut off the very ends of the root (about an inch’s worth).
Plant them in compost-rich soil, in parallel rows spaced about 4 to 5 inches apart. It’s important to choose the right compost: too much nitrogen will stunt the tubers and thicken the vines, while too little can alter the taste of your sweet potatoes. Since they grow and spread quite fast, it’s best to pair them with companion plants that allow sweet potato propagation. Summer savoury can help get rid of pests, while regular potatoes and beans can also intermingle with their roots.
What type of sweet potatoes should I grow?
Sweet potato grows well in almost any kind of soil and thrive in sunny conditions. Certain varieties are a better fit for home gardens like Centennials or Orange Jets (also known as yam plants) so it’s important to check what kind of sweet potato you’re getting. These are some of the common kinds of sweet potatoes for home gardens:
- Beauregard: Cost effective to plant due to its high yield. Sweet, dark orange flesh with light purple skin.
- Vardaman: Ideal for small gardens. Grows in small bushes, with golden skin and deep red flesh.
- Centennial: Has a longer shelf life than most varieties of sweet potato. Grows fast and yields well, with copper skin and deep orange flesh.
- Jewel: Similar to the Centennial, but more resistant to pests and diseases.
- Stokes: A bold, flavour-packed variety packed with antioxidants. Vivid purple skin and flesh.
When to plant sweet potatoes
Sweet potatoes should ideally be planted in the spring and summer months, where they can receive plenty of water and sunlight. Don’t worry about the heat during these seasons, as sweet potatoes can readily withstand hot temperatures!
How long do sweet potatoes take to grow?
Sweet potatoes grow fast. Depending on the care you’ve given them and the soil conditions, you can harvest them in 90 days. While they grow better the longer you keep them in the soil (about 170 days is the max) remember that they are very sensitive to frost, so monitor the weather and harvest when needed.
How many sweet potatoes per plant?
It’ll depend on the variety you have, but you can expect about five to ten tubers per sweet potato plant.
When to harvest your sweet potatoes
How do you know when potatoes are ready to harvest? Sweet potato leaves will turn yellow when they’re ready for harvesting, but this will depend on the kind of sweet potato that you’ve planted. Be gentle when harvesting since tubers can grow deep into the soil – roughly pulling them out can damage them. You can also harvest sweet potato leaves, as they can be used in dishes like stir-fried vegetables.
My sweet potato has flowers growing out of it – is this normal?
Absolutely, but beware! Sweet potato flowers take up the nutrients from the tuber below and can hinder growth. Unless you’re growing ornamental sweet potatoes, remove any flowers that you might see.
Growing sweet potatoes in water?
Funnily enough, it is actually possible to grow sweet potatoes just using water – all you need is a jar or several small pots. Take a freshly harvested tuber and place it pointing down in the jar, with about ⅓ of it sticking out. Fill the container with water and place it in a sunny place like a windowsill. Use toothpicks to prevent the tuber from sinking, and shoots should form in a few weeks.
We hope you’ve been inspired by this article to grow a few sweet potato plants of your own. Sweet potatoes are delicious, highly nutritious, and an excellent addition to any garden.
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