How To Grow And Take Care Of Sweet Potatoes

People who are new to gardening are often advised to take up sweet potato farming. Not only is this venture less tasking when it comes to maintenance practices, but farmers can also enjoy bountiful harvests once the plants mature. The steps required are pretty simple to follow, and it all begins with the making of slips. These plants do well in sunny climates where they have adequate access to water. You can thus plan your propagation around the sunny seasons, or you could grow them indoors where you can easily regulate the conditions. Let’s get into how to grow and take care of sweet potatoes:

Slips

Unlike other plants where the best form of propagation is through the use of seeds, with sweet potatoes, the planting begins with slips which are small sprouts attained from existing plants. The choice of slip will depend on the sweet potato variety that you would like to have in the end. The most common types are the Beauregard and the centennials, amongst others.

If you would like to skip the making of the slips and move straight to planting, there are many garden centers and online stores where you can source the slips. However, you can always make your own as it will help you save on costs as well as learn something new in the process.

The Conditions

Sweet potatoes do well in tropical climates, and you must thus plan the planting around favorable weather conditions. Where you are in USDA hardiness zones from 9 to 11, you should have an easy time planting the sweet potatoes, and you can schedule the making of slips to sometime in March or April. In this way, you can have the slips in the ground come end of May, or towards the beginning of June. Where you plan on having the sweet potatoes indoors, say in a wooden shed where you can alter the conditions, you can grow them at any time, provided that you give them adequate access to sunshine, water, and nutrients.

Preparation

If you intend to make the slips yourself, you need to get at least two fresh sweet potatoes of the variety of your choice, which you can source from an online store or your local nursery. The good thing about sourcing plants locally is that they have already adapted to the conditions in the region and will thus grow well. You also get to have an expert weigh in on the matter, and you will walk away with a few tips that will come in handy during later stages. Take the sweet potatoes and wash them thoroughly, ensuring that they are free of dirt and without scratching them. Where the potato is medium-sized, cut it in half. Where the sweet potato is quite big, you can cut it into three or four pieces to increase your yield.

Slip-growing works such that your potato should be half immersed in a jar of water, and you can use a glass cup or any other container for this. Fill the vessel with water and place the potato, cut side down into the water with toothpicks on the edge of the potato, holding it in place. Use different jars for the separate pieces, ensuring that only half the potato lies in the water, with the other suspended by equally spaced toothpicks.

Place the jar near a window where it can get lots of sunlight. A south-facing window will allow the slips to receive at least six hours of direct sunlight, a factor which will, in turn, increase the growth rate. It should take about two weeks for slips to sprout from the immersed potato. For best results, it is advisable to let the potatoes sit in the water for at least four weeks before cutting the slips as this will give them adequate time to mature such that they can easily survive without attachment to the potato.

At this point, the slips will not have roots and will resemble a stem with short leaves. You should be careful when harvesting them to avoid any damage coming to them. The best way to collect them is by twisting them off the potato, one by one. Place the harvested slips in a fresh bowl of water, filled to a depth of at least one inch. This process will enable the slips to develop some roots which will allow you to transfer them to the outdoors or an indoor pot. The slips require care during this time, and you should change the water each day. Where any of the slips start to wilt or do not develop roots, you should remove them from the bowl as they could adversely affect the healthy plants in the lot. The development of roots should take two to three days, at which point you can drain the water and plant the slips.

Garden Preparation

Sweet potato vines grow above ground, and they can be as long as ten feet when they have adequate access to water, nutrients, and sunshine. You thus need to make allowances for this expansions as you prepare the garden. You should also select a site that receives lots of sunlight and one where the soil is well-draining so you can avoid issues of waterlogging.

The sweet potatoes grow deep in the earth, as they are tubers. You thus need to till the soil to about 12 inches so that the tubers can have an easy time growing in the ground. The soil in play should be rich in nutrients, and you can enhance this through the incorporation of compost as well as the adjustment of the pH levels which should be neutral.

The best time to plant the slips is when the soil is warm, which is preferably at the beginning of spring, at least a month after the last frost. As you plant the slips, ensure that their holes are only big enough to hold the parts under the base and not more than that and that their spacing is at least twelve inches to allow them adequate room to expand.

From this point, everything else should be smooth from the watering to the mulching to the harvesting and all other processes which you would carry out for other plants. Remember to water the plants, only when the earth feels dry and not to soak the tubers. All the best!

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