Growing sweet potatoes is easier than growing regular potatoes, especially in warmer climates. They are started from transplants and vine cuttings instead of seeds.
Sweet potatoes need full sun and can tolerate poor soil and conditions that are fairly dry. Once established, sweet potatoes are also somewhat drought-tolerant.
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Learning how to grow sweet potatoes involves using sprouts taken from mature rooted cuttings about twelve weeks before the date you want to plant them. Sprouts may be obtained by submerging (roughly) the bottom third of a sweet potato in a jar half filled with water.
Place the jar in a sunny location and remove sprouts when they are about six inches long. Place the sprouts in damp sand until they root, which will take about three weeks.
In a bed with good drainage, plant sprouts about a foot and a half (46 cm) apart.
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Once your sweet potato seedlings have been placed in their permanent garden spot, water them daily for the first week and every other day during the second week. Sweet potatoes produce less if their soil is dry.
Keep garden weeds pulled until the vines are developed enough to spread over the area. Pinch out the tops of the growing stems for bushier plants.
In the three to four weeks before harvest, limit watering to help protect the roots.
You’ll know your sweet potatoes are ready when the leaves on the vines start to turn yellow.
Harvest your sweet potatoes with a hand trowel before the first frost. You can also use a garden fork, but be careful as the vegetable is easily damaged. After they’re out of the ground, arrange them in the sun or a dry humid room to cure for about ten days - 80 to 85 degrees F (27 to 29 C) is ideal.
The green leaves left on the sweet potato vine are edible.
Proper storage is necessary for about six weeks after curing so that the sweet potatoes can develop their sweetness and characteristic moistness. After this time, sweet potatoes held under ideal conditions will keep for two to six months.
For freezing, place sweet potatoes in freezer bags after baking them whole, peeling them or wrapping them individually in foil.
Sweet potatoes can also be stored in containers and frozen after washing and by cooking them in water or after steaming then cooling, slicing or mashing them.
Since sweet potatoes are grown from whole tubers, the seeds are viable for the same length of time as a whole fresh sweet potato.
The following pests and diseases have been known to affect the success of growing Sweet Potatoes. For more information about preventing and controlling them, see Organic Garden Pest Control.
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