Growing Sweet Potatoes
Your Get Growing SC June Box contains a live sweet potato plant- let me tell you a little about this really awesome southern staple and how you can grow them in your own backyard.
Sweet Potatoes like it hot, hot, hot. I'm sure you heard of that song by David Johansen, Hot, Hot, Hot. Be sure to keep that song in your head as we talk about sweet potatoes.
Sweet potatoes are thought to be originally from Central South America, where it “Hot, Hot, Hot.” Central South America's tropical climate allows for sweet potatoes to be grown and harvested year round. South Carolina, however, has a much shorter growing season than South America, so we need to get our sweet potato slips out in late May to early June.
Sweet potato vines like to spread and run all over, but in our neck of the woods, with the shorter growing season, it is best to not let the vines produce roots or potatoes all over. Planting your potatoes against a fence or up against a trellis allows you to produce the most amount of potatoes in the least amount of space. The foliage from the potatoes are beautiful too and will compliment any yard.
Sweet Potatoes do well in raised beds and buckets that are at least 24 inches tall. They like well drained soil, so make sure you have plenty of drainage holes in your buckets. My favorite soil to use is the Sungrow Fafard 3b Mixed with a bag of Black Cow Compost. For sweet potatoes, add some sand into the mix, to ensure drainage.
Plant one potato slip or plant per 12 inches. If all the planets align, you can expect 10-25 lbs of potatoes per each slip. When planting, bury the roots and a little bit of the stem, into your pot or raised garden bed. The hot June sun will promote rapid growth. Train the foliage to run up a trellis or fence.
Your sweet potatoes are ready for harvest in around 100 to 120 days, or when the vines and leaves have started to yellow. You can leave your potatoes in the ground until frost, and use them as you need them.
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