Harvest Monday, January 23, 2012 – Growing Sweet Potatoes

Sweet potato, Ipomo batatas, a member of the morning glory family, is easy to grow but requires a long frost free growing period and room for the vines to spread. If you have limited space consider the “bush” varieties, these have shorter vines. If you live in the northeast, look for varieties that require a shorter growing season.

This year I will be growing 2 early maturing (90 days) heirloom varieties: Korean purple (purple skin, white flesh) and purple (purple skin, purple flesh). Go to: http://gardentowok.com/harvest-monday-october-31-2011/ and scroll down to see the color of the purple. The slips for these 2 varieties came from Sandhill Preservation Center last year. This year I am starting my own slips using sweet potatoes saved from last year’s crop.

I may also plant 2 – 3 plants of a variety that I have no information. A friend gave me a bunch of sweet potato vines she purchased (at $3.99 a pound) from NYC Asian market. The leaves were delicious so I saved a few of the vines which are rooting (photo at right). Growing these for the delicious leaves and if I get any tuber they will be an added bonus.

Growing: Plant in garden after danger of frost and soil is warm. Sweet potato does best planted in loose well drained soil and full sun. Prefers a low pH, between 5.8 – 6.2. Space plants 12 inches apart in row about 36 inches apart. The spreading vines will root at the nodes where it touches the soil and develop tuber.

Harvesting: Harvest when leaves begin to turn yellow and before frost. Beginning in August, I start to observe the soil near the base of the original plants, if there is heaving of the soil, I carefully dig that area to get to the tuber, being careful not to disturb the mother plant or any nearby smaller tubers (these will continue to develop).

Storing: Freshly dug sweet potatoes need to be cured to develop the sweet flavor. To cure, store sweet potatoes in a warm (80 – 90F) and humid place for 7 – 10 days then move to a cool dry place for long storage, do not refrigerate.

Starting sweet potato slips: Sweet potato slips are easy to start but require a bit of planning and, you will need a sweet potato that is suitable for growing in your zone, a local farmers market is an ideal place to find one. You could also use sweet potato from the health food store. The sweet potatoes from the food markets may be treated with growth retardant and may or may not root.

Go to http://gardentowok.com/2012/01/23/growing-sweet-potato-slip-update/ to learn which end of the sweet potato to immerse in water.

Sweet PotatorootingPoke 3 toothpicks into upper third of potato. Place in a jar and add water. Photo top left. After 4  – 5 weeks roots will begin to appear. Photo top right.

Sweet Potatorooting2

After another 2 – 3 weeks slips will begin to appear. Photos above.

Sweet Potatorooting3

When the slip reaches about 4 – 6 inches, remove and root in water or place directly in potting mix to root.

Copyright © by Norma Chang

Visit Daphne’s Dandelions http://daphnesdandelions.blogspot.com/ for more Harvest Mondays

About Norma Chang

I am the author/publisher of 2 user-friendly Chinese cookbooks: "My Students' Favorite Chinese Recipes (updated edition)" and "Wokking Your Way to Low Fat Cooking" A gardener who enjoys cooking and eating and loves to think outside the box A garden volunteer at Locust Grove Heritage Vegetable Garden Conduct hands-on cooking workshops for teenagers Conduct cultural programs for children and family Conduct healthy cooking classes for adults
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24 Responses to Harvest Monday, January 23, 2012 – Growing Sweet Potatoes

  1. GrafixMuse says:

    Thanks for the detailed information on sprouting and growing sweet potatoes. Until last year I had dismissed growing sweet potatoes thinking that they couldn’t grow in my area (Maine Zone 5A), but I am learning that there are some successes with short seasoned varieties. I may give them a try someday.

    • Norma Chang says:

      Hello Grafix Muse,
      I am in zone 5A and am able to grow sweet potatoes, yes we need to select the short seasoned varieties. I just posted an update on which end of the sweet potato to place in water.

  2. kitsapfg says:

    I would love to grow sweet potatoes but unfortuantely our summer weather is never quite warm enough to make them happy and definitely not warm enough long enough. I do love to eat them though and wish I were in a more suitable climate for them.

  3. Barbie says:

    Think I’ll link back to this since I’ve been talking ‘taters so much recently. 🙂

    I start slips for sweet potatoes, but recently bought WAY too many seed potatoes. Guess some will be food since no one around me gardens. LOL.

  4. Daphne says:

    About how many slips do you get from a single sweet potato?

    • Norma Chang says:

      Hello Daphne,
      I never really counted. I think it all depends on the variety. I started both purple and Korean purple on the same day. To date, I have only 4 slips (2 long 2 short) on the purple, but 10 (some longer that others) on the Korean white. As I remove the longer slips, more slips be sprouting, so you can get a lot of slips from just one potato it all depends on how soon you start rooting your potatoes. For Locust Grove, last year we grew a few dozens plants of Georgia Jet and all the slips came from only 2 sweet potatoes that I rooted for them.
      I just posted an update on which end of the sweet potato to place in water.

  5. I really do need to give this a go. I hear they are good to grow under bananas, and I love to use every available space. Maybe next year!

  6. Andrea says:

    Hi Norma great info on sweet potatoes, i love them but thought i couldn’t grow them in our region but will look for a short season variety and give them a go. Thanks.

  7. Rick says:

    It’s very hard for us to grow sweet potatoes in our Zone 5 garden. It is really hit and miss on the frost free days for us. For example last year our last frost was May 1st and first was October 15th. Plenty of time. But the year before our last frost was June 1st and the first was September 29th. That year we even had to replant some tomatoes that we lost in the June frost!!

    • Norma Chang says:

      Hello Rick,
      I am in zone 5 and know what you mean by hit and miss. I grow sweet potatoes for the vine also so if there is no tuber I am OK. One year I ate so much of the vine, the poor plant did not have a chance to develop tubers.

  8. Juliana says:

    Norma, that is so cool!
    Hope you are having a fantastic week and thanks for this nice and informative post 🙂

  9. maryhysong says:

    My TX garden with acid sandy soil grew sweet and regular potatoes like crazy. Here in the desert on alkaline caliche clay it’s hard to even keep the plants going, let alone get them to make potatoes. So perhaps this year I will try some in big tubs, half and half peaty potting soil and compost 😉

    • Norma Chang says:

      Hello Mary,
      Planting sweet potatoes in big tubs with peaty soil and compost sounds like a good plan. Do remember to let me know the results. I imagine the brassica family does well in your garden, am I correct?

  10. Great facts and info on growing sweet taters. Thanks for sharing Norma 🙂

  11. Hi Norma, you’ve just inspired me to try rooting some sweet potatoes this year. I’d never thought about it, but I have some from my CSA, and I think it would be fun to give a try and put them in my little raised bed garden if it works out. Fun site and a great post, thanks!

  12. Pingback: Harvest Monday, March 16, 2015 – More Indoor Seed Starting + Updates | Garden to Wok

  13. Pingback: Harvest Monday, April 13, 2015 – Bumping Up Snap Peas Seedlings + Sweet Potatoes Slips | Garden to Wok

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