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The Sweet Taste of Homegrown Sweet Potatoes

Sweet potatoes, with their vibrant orange hues and rich flavor, are a delicious addition to any garden. Imagine the satisfaction of nurturing your own and enjoying them on your table! 

Let’s walk through the necessities of cultivating sweet potatoes, from selecting the perfect variety to savoring the harvest. 

Choosing the Right Variety

Embarking on a sweet potato journey starts with the crucial decision of selecting the right variety. Sweet potatoes come in various types, including orange, purple, and white flesh varieties. Each type offers a unique flavor profile, so choose one that suits your culinary preferences.

Cultivating the Perfect Soil

Sweet potatoes thrive in well-drained, loose soil rich in organic matter. Here’s how to prepare your garden soil for these delightful tubers:

Soil Composition

Sandy loam is the best soil for sweet potatoes – that is, a well-balanced mix of sand, silt, and clay. This composition ensures excellent drainage while retaining the necessary moisture.

Soil pH

Aim for a slightly acidic to neutral pH, ideally between 5.8 and 6.2. Conduct a soil test to determine and adjust the pH accordingly.

Soil Enrichment

Before planting, mix compost into the soil. This enhances fertility and promotes optimal tuber development.

Planting the Sweet Potato Slips

Planting Time

Wait until the soil has warmed to around 60°F (15°C) before planting, typically in late spring or early summer.

Now, it’s time to get your sweet potato slips into the ground. Follow these steps for a thriving sweet potato bed:

Planting Depth

Slips are rooted sprouts from an already-developed sweet potato. These are similar to “eyes” on potatoes.

Bury the sweet potato slips about 3-4 inches deep in the soil. Space them approximately 12-18 inches apart in rows.

Sunlight

Sweet potatoes love basking in the sunlight. They should get 6 to 8 hours of direct sun during the day.

Order Sweet Potato Slips

Murasaki Purple
Sweet Potato Slips

Centennial
Sweet Potato Slips

Beauregard
Sweet Potato Slips

Watering and Feeding

Maintaining consistent moisture is key to sweet potato success. Keep your sweet potatoes well-nourished with careful watering and fertilization.

Watering

Sweet potatoes prefer consistently moist soil. Water deeply, especially during dry periods, but avoid waterlogged conditions.

Fertilization

Use a balanced fertilizer at planting time and provide additional fertilizer when the vines start spreading. This supports robust tuber development.

Tending to Vines and Managing Weeds

Sweet potato vines are sprawling and can cover a considerable area. Keep them in check and safeguard your harvest:

Trellising

Consider using trellises to support the vines, preventing them from sprawling excessively.

Weed Control

Mulch around the sweet potato plants to suppress weeds and retain moisture. Regularly weed to minimize competition for nutrients.

Recognizing Harvest Readiness

Sweet potatoes are ready to harvest after between 85 and 120 days. Start checking them around 80 days; they’ll continue to grow and could split open if you wait too long. 

Look for these signs that they’re approaching readiness:

  • Vines: As the vines start to yellow and wither, it’s a sign that the sweet potatoes are approaching maturity.
  • Tubers: Gently dig around the base of the plant to check the size of the sweet potatoes. Harvest when they reach the desired size.

Harvesting and Curing

Harvesting sweet potatoes is the payoff for all your efforts. Follow these steps to make sure that the final step goes well!

Harvesting

Carefully dig up the sweet potatoes, taking care not to damage the tubers. Use a fork or your hands, and avoid bruising the delicate skin.

Curing

Cure the harvested sweet potatoes by placing them in a warm, humid environment for 1-2 weeks. This process enhances flavor and promotes storage.

Storage

Store cured sweet potatoes in a cool, dark place to prevent sprouting and maintain freshness.

Cultivating sweet potatoes in your garden is a flavorful adventure. With a little care, you’ll soon savor the sweet satisfaction of homegrown tubers. So, dig in, embrace the earthy aroma of your garden, and relish the joy of growing this delicious vegetable!