Today’s article is all about how to grow sweet potatoes. As it turns out, you can grow sweet potatoes for multiple purposes. Granted most people will grow sweet potatoes as a food item, but the vine they produce is quite elegant on it’s own.
You can use sweet potato vines in planters, trellises and arbors, or even on railings. In fact, several years ago I lived in Austin, Texas. When I lived there in an apartment setting, I would grow sweet potatoes on the patio so that the vines would climb over the balcony railing. It was quite the sight. With that being said, let’s talk about how to grow sweet potatoes!
The very first thing to do, is to decide where and how you will grow your sweet potatoes. As mentioned before, there are many different ways that range from in the garden, containers, or using them as a temporary ground cover or in an arrangement. This is a plant that does thrive in sunlight, but I have had luck in partial shade (my balcony).
Overall, they are really forgiving. However, if you are growing sweet potatoes as an edible, you will want to pay attention to your soil. Poor soil will often times lead to a low quality potato. For your soil, you can use organic compost for potatoes you plan on eating. This will lead to healthy tubes. Nitrogen rich fertilizers will lead to a lower quality tube, but lusher vines. Also, they tend to prefer a slightly acidic soil that is between 5.0 and 6.5 on the pH scale. If your soil is neutral or basic, you may need to add sulfur or organic compost to lower the pH.
After your soil is ready, it’s time to find your root sprouts. These root sprouts are also called slips. Typically, you will find slips at nurseries or your favorite gardening store. Store-bought potatoes are usually treated so they do not sprout slips. Previously, I have planted the entire potato. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. If you have an extra that you can spare, go for it. Otherwise, just pick up slips or untreated potatoes from a nursery.
You will want to plant the slips after the last frost. In cooler climates, you can spread black plastic on the soil to help warm them. Space your slips about 12-18 inches apart, and 3 – 4 feet between rows. The potatoes will produce vines, and this will provide them room to fill in. As I mentioned before, using fertilizer tends to only develop the foliage of your potato plants. So skip the fertilizer if you plan on eating them. They require regular watering, and can only tolerate drought for brief periods. Regular watering will help prevent splitting. Also, during the last month prior to harvesting the potatoes, stop your watering as this will also help to reduce splitting.
Sweet potatoes are quite a versatile plant. From being a food item, to being a hanging basket. They are definitely one of my favorite plants to have around. Have you tried growing sweet potatoes before? Do you have any tips for beginners? Be sure to sound off in the comments!