Growing Sweet Potatoes:
How to Grow Sweet Potatoes Organically

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.

Growing Sweet Potatoes: Plant Snapshot (Ipomoea batatas)

Growing Sweet Potatoes
  • Family: Convolvulaceae (Bindweed family)
  • Annual or Perennial? Annual: Ready to harvest 100 to 140 days after planting.
  • Recommended varieties: Golden Jewel, Georgia Red, Oklahoma Red, Ringley’s Porto Rico
  • Cold tolerance: Warm Season – Will not survive frost and their seeds will not germinate in cold soil. Plant them at about the average date of the last 32 degree F (0 degree C) temperature in spring.
  • Required Sun: Full sun (at least 6 hours each day)
  • When planning vegetable crop rotation, group with crops from this family: Convolvulaceae (Bindweed Family)
  • Companion plants (see Companion Planting Charts for more info):
    • Companions: Root crops: beets, parsnips and salsify
    • Avoid: Tomatoes
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Growing Sweet Potatoes: Planting the Seed

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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.

Snapshot: Planting Sweet Potatoes

  • Planting depth: about 4 to 5 inches (5.08 to 10.16 cm)
  • Spacing in rows: about 18 inches (46 cm)
  • Germination soil temperature: 60 to 85 degrees F (15.5 to 29.4 degrees C)
  • Days to germination: 10 to 20 days
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Growing Sweet Potato: From Germination to Pre-Harvest

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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.

Snapshot: Growing Sweet Potatoes

  • Preferred soil pH (see soil pH tester for more information): 5.6 to 6.5
  • Growing soil temperature: 75 to 80 degrees F (23.8 to 26.6 degrees C)
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Growing Sweet Potatoes: Harvesting Time

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.

Snapshot: Harvesting Sweet Potatoes

  • Time to harvest: About 12 to 16 weeks
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Storing Sweet Potatoes and Freezing Sweet Potatoes

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.

Snapshot: Storing Sweet Potatoes & Freezing Sweet Potatoes

  • Storage temperature: 55 to 60 degrees F (12.7 to 15.5 degrees C)
  • Humidity: 80 to 90% relative humidity
  • Storage life (unfrozen in above conditions): 2 to 6 months
  • Storage life (frozen): 6 months
  • Seed longevity: About 2 to 4 months
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Growing Sweet Potatoes: Pests & Diseases

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.

Pests

  • Aphids
  • Cutworm
  • Flea Beetles
  • Jerusalem cricket
  • Leafhoppers
  • Nematodes
  • Potato psyllis
  • Potato tuberworm
  • Snails/slugs
  • Whiteflies
  • Wireworms

Diseases

  • Bacterial ring rot
  • Bacterial soft rot and blackleg
  • Common scab
  • Early blight
  • Late blight
  • Mosaic viruses
  • Potato leafroll
  • Powdery mildew
  • Powdery scab
  • Seed piece decay
  • Verticillium wilt
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YOUR Experience & Advice About Growing Sweet Potatoes

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