How to Grow Sweet Potatoes

Sweet potatoes may be associated with southern gardens, but they can actually be grown in most locations throughout the country. This tuberous root plant is typically used in many types of recipes, but can also serve as a ground cover plant.
 
No matter the intention, here are some general guidelines on how to grow sweet potatoes so you can enjoy a full, healthy garden.

 

Tricks & Tips

Sweet potatoes can withstand different types of soil conditions - both good and bad - but should be grown in an area that receives a sufficient amount of sunlight.
 
It's best to start growing sweet potatoes from sprouts, which are also called slips. You can purchase sprouts from your local nursery, or use your own that have sprouted roots. Apply compost and time-released fertilizer high in potassium to soil, but avoid excessive nitrogen which can stunt growth.
 
You'll also need to build long and wide ridges - 10 inches high and 3 feet apart - as the vines can spread out to 20 feet. Because of the space needed to grow, sweet potatoes do not fare that well in containers.
 
When placing slips into soil, make sure you bury them to the tops of their leaves, about 6 inches deep and 1 foot apart. Water generously, but as they further develop, do not overwater; they can handle drier conditions.
 
Sweet potatoes will begin to mature between 90 and 170 days of warm temperatures. Like most vegetables, sweet potatoes do not like to compete with weeds, so keep your area clear of invaders.
 
Root-knot nematodes and wireworms are pests that can affect your sweet potatoes. To prevent damage of your sweet potatoes, choose disease-resistant varieties and implement crop rotation into your gardening techniques.
 
You can start to harvest your tubers once their leaves begin to turn yellow. Since sweet potatoes grow close to the soil surface, cautiously dig and pull the harvest from the ground to avoid damage.