How to Plant and Grow Sweet Potatoes in Your Backyard

How to Plant and Grow Sweet Potatoes in Your Backyard

This tutorial is for the people who recognize that when a waiter gives you the choice between getting sweet potato fries or regular fries, there is a correct answer. And it is not the one that begins with “regular.”

Sweet potatoes, after all, are anything but regular. They are unbelievably delicious, extremely versatile, and packed with nutrients. They are also extremely easy to grow!

This tutorial will teach you how to grow sweet potatoes so you can have an endless supply in your backyard. You will never even have to think about regular fries again.

What You Will Need

  • Sweet Potato Slips
  • Soil
  • Water
  • Common Gardening Tools
  • Fertilizer (optional)

Growing Sweet Potatoes: Before You Get Started

 

Can you grow sweet potatoes in containers?

Container gardening is a great alternative for people who don’t have a garden or garden space.

When you grow sweet potatoes in containers you can use them as a decorative plant. This “spiller plant” is overflowing with beauty, having vines that vary in color and shape depending on the type of sweet potato you plant.

You do have to choose a sweet potato variety that is well-suited for growing in a container. It should be a variety that does not sprawl but rather remains compact. One such variety is Porto Rico, which is also referred to as Vineless.

You also have to choose a suitable container. It should be big and have drainage holes. A great option is containers that were specifically made for growing potatoes like potato grow bags, which ensure there is proper drainage, excellent root aeration within the soil, and an easy harvest.

Place your container in a spot that will get maximum sunlight. Fill it up with 4 inches of your soil of choice. A loose container mix full of nutrients would be best. Then, place your slips in the soil and add 3 more inches of soil on top of them.

Keep in mind that you do have to water your sweet potatoes more in a container than you would have to in the ground. If the soil is dry, water them.

Can you grow sweet potatoes from store-bought potatoes?

Yes, you can grow sweet potatoes from store-bought potatoes. However, you cannot grow them from every store-bought potato. Make sure that the potatoes you use are organic bush or vining types that have not been sprayed with sprout-suppressors.

 

sweet potato sprouting slips to grow

How do you grow a sweet potato plant from an old sweet potato?

Take your potatoes of choice and cut them into large sections. If you have smaller sweet potatoes, just cut them in half.

Place the sections in glasses of water, only submerging half of each potato section in the water. This can be done by sticking toothpicks into the potato sections and balancing them on the rims of the glasses.

Leave the potato sections there, changing the water when it gets murky. Roots should begin to grow after a few days. A few days later, sprouts should begin to grow.

When the sprouts reach a length of at least 4 inches remove them from the potato by gently twisting them off.

Place them in a shallow bowl of water, making sure only their bases are submerged.

Once roots grow out from them, you can plant them in your garden!

How Long Do Sweet Potatoes Take to Grow?

The sweet potato growing season normally ranges from summer to fall’s first frost. Unlike their “regular” potato cousins, sweet potatoes cannot stand cold weather. They must not be planted until the soil warms up, reaching between 70-80 F.

In total, they can take 3-5 months to fully mature, depending on which variety you choose to grow.

How to Grow Sweet Potatoes

Step One: Prepare for Your Potatoes

Sweet potatoes grow from slips, which are pieces of potato tuber. You can either buy slips from your local garden center, or you can grow your own using my handy-dandy instructions above.

If you decide to grow your own, set 4-6 weeks aside to do so.

Keep in mind that you can plant sweet potatoes as soon as the weather gets warm, and the soil reaches a temperature between 70-80 F.

sweet potato in glass jar sprouting slips

Once you have collected sweet potato slips, decide where you want to grow them.

The best spot is one with a lot of constant sunlight. Sweet potatoes love the heat.

Use moist, well-drained, loose soil, with lots of organic matter.

Pro Tip: You can use fertilizer but make sure that it is one that is not high in nitrogen because that will help the vines more than the tubers.

Step Two: Plant Your Potatoes

Plant the slips in raised ridges of soil. The ridges should be 8 inches tall and have at least 3 feet of space between them.

Dig holes in the ridges that are 4 inches deep and 3 inches wide. The holes should be at least 12 inches apart from each other along the ridges.

Place your slips in each hole with the roots pointing downward and the leaves pointing up. Gently cover the bottom half with dirt but the leaves should remain uncovered above ground. Carefully, press the dirt on top of and around the plants to remove air pockets.

Step three: Pamper Your Potatoes

Water your slips immediately after planting them, soaking the dirt around them.

During the first week, water them every day, ensuring the soil is moist. During the second week, water them every other day. Then gradually move to once every few days, and then eventually, once a week. In the two weeks leading up to harvest, you should refrain from watering them at all so they can dry out a bit.

flowering sweet potato vine backyard gardenSweet potatoes need about 1 inch of water a week. It is better to underwater than overwater sweet potatoes- they can survive drought, although they will produce less, but will rot in swampy soil.

You should be wary of weeds around your sweet potatoes. Remove them when you see them growing. Mulch around the sweet potatoes to smother weeds, retain moisture, and keep the soil loose.

Pro Tip: If you live in a colder climate keep your rows covered in black plastic to keep the soil warm.

Step Four: Harvest Sweet Potatoes

It is time to harvest sweet potatoes when their leaves turn yellow.

It can be a delicate balance deciding when to harvest sweet potatoes because the longer you leave them in the ground, the more that will grow, and the higher their vitamin content will be. However, if their vine blackens, the sweet potatoes are in danger of rotting.

To harvest your sweet potatoes stick your shovel into the side of the ridges they are growing in. Find the sweet potatoes and pull them out. Be careful not to nick the sweet potatoes you are harvesting or ones that are growing near them because then they will spoil much quicker.

It is best to harvest sweet potatoes when the soil is dry on a sunny day.

Step Five: Enjoy!

There are countless delicious dishes you can incorporate sweet potatoes into! Whether you are boiling, baking them, or frying them, they are a great addition to so many dishes.

If you can’t eat all your sweet potatoes, even though you sure will want to, try storing them.

After harvesting dry your sweet potato tubers in the sun.

Then, move them to a spot that stays between 85-90 F for 10-15 days. Once they are cured you can store them at around 55 F for several months in a cool, dry place.

Conclusion

Sweet potatoes are a great plant to grow. They are absolutely delicious, easy to care for, have beautiful vines, and also are very nutritious.

homemade sweet potato fries in a bowl

Sweet potatoes have tons of health benefits, providing necessary vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients that keep your body healthy, like fiber, Vitamin A, and Vitamin C.

Overall, they are a great plant to grow and an easy one to grow. I hope you enjoy planting them, and that you also enjoyed this tutorial. If you did, be sure to share it, and also let me know what you thought in the comments.

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