If you have a vegetable garden you have maybe tried to plant some tubers like potatoes. I personally love them because they are so easy to grow and so yummy! Sweet potatoes especially are the best. If you have never tried them before, today we are going to learn some more about them and when to dig sweet potatoes out of the garden. Let’s get going!
Sweet Potatoes Characteristics
This type of tuber requires at least 4 months of warm climate in order to be ready for harvest. So they will be usually found in southern gardens. This is true for most varieties, but there are some that will suit gardens located in colder temperatures.
There are both bush types and vining types of sweet potatoes. They are heat and drought-resistant, making them really easy to keep and grow. They are also nutritious and delicious.
How to Plant and Grow Sweet Potatoes
Making Your Own Slips
There are no seeds needed to grow sweet potatoes. You will need a slip of sweet potato to start your own plant. You can buy them already made from garden centers, order them online or local farmers.
You can also use your own sweet potatoes to create slips. You will need to start with clean, healthy sweet potatoes. Buy them at the beginning of November, which will be the best harvest. Then keep them between 65°F and 75°F until you are ready to make the slips.
Each one of them can produce a whole lot of sprouts. Even up to 50! Usually, one will yield about 12 plants.
Cut them in large pieces. 90 days before the last spring frost date place each one in a glass jar with half of the potato above and half below water. In order to do this, you will need to hold the piece with toothpicks to hold it in place.
They need warmth, so put them on a window ledge where the sun can hit them or near the radiator. After a few weeks, you will have sprouts and leaves on top and roots on the bottom.
You could also embed them in soil. If you do this, you should keep them continuously warm and moist. Use a 1 ½ gallon pot every two slips. Fill them with 3 inches of mulch and then up to the top with garden or potting soil. Do not forget of poking drainage holes in the bottom.
Planting the Slips
You will need to till the area of the garden you will be planting them into a depth of 8 to 10 inches. Create mounds 6 to 8 inches tall and 12 inches wide.
Plant the slips deep enough to cover the roots and ½ inch of the stem. Do this after the last spring frost date. Use fertile and well-drained soil. It is also beneficial to water the slips with a starter solution that is high in phosphorus.
Water them generously for a few days to make sure they root well.
Growing Sweet Potatoes
After a few weeks, you should side dress them with 5-10-10 fertilizer every 100 feet row.
What is 5-10-10 fertilizer?
These numbers indicate what amount of the 3 vital nutrients is inside the compound. They are nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. This is a national standard.
5-10-10 fertilizer then means 5% nitrogen, 10% phosphorus and 10% potassium. Remember that adding this will be beneficial for almost every soil but you should always check the nutrients present in it before adding any fertilizer.
Reshape the bed with soil or mulch and keep the weeds down. Do not trim the vines, you will have a better harvest if they are vigorous.
Also keep them watered. You will have a better yield if you keep them moist during hot periods, but do not overwater them late in the season as it will cause cracks in the potatoes. This is very important if you are planning to store them.
Harvesting Sweet Potatoes
Most varieties take at least 100 days to mature. They are usually big enough for a meal after 3 or 4 months and this is the time you will want to dig them out.
A good way to tell they are ready is the color of the leaves and ends of the vines. Once they start turning yellow they are ready. You could keep them underground until the first fall frost.
Their roots spread 4 to 6 inches underground. For this, it is best to use a spading fork. Loosen the soil in an 18-inch diameter area around the plant to avoid injuring the potatoes.
By pulling the crown, you can take them out. Be careful as sweet potatoes are very prone to bruising, so handle them carefully. Shake the dirt off but do not wash the roots.
Curing Sweet Potatoes
It is crucial to cure sweet potatoes to make sure they have a delicious and sweet taste. This allows a second skin to grow in any scratches or bruises that might have happened when digging them up.
You should keep them in a warm place, at about 80°F that is very humid. 90% of humidity is best. Store them like this for 10 to 14 days. Make sure they are not touching each other while curing.
Throw out the ones that are bruised and then wrap them in a newspaper. Place them in a wooden box or wicker basket. They should be kept in a dark place, like a cellar, basement or any other place with a temperature of at least 55°F and up to 60°F with high humidity.
In this way, you will be able to keep them for at least 6 months. Be careful when you grab them, as they are still very delicate.
What do you think? Are you going to give sweet potatoes a try? They are not so hard to grow and are definitely amazing to eat. Give it a go and send us pictures next year once you have them ready!