Growing and Saving Sweet Potatoes
Sweet potatoes are a delicious and nutritious member of the morning glory family. The roots of this starchy, cold-sensitive vining plant become massive and swollen. Plants are heat tolerant. They are also fairly drought tolerant and unafflicted by insect pests, making them a super reliable crop.
Sweet potatoes are native to Latin America, but their exact origin is a matter of debate. Spanish conquistadors took the tubers back to Europe, where they were embraced and quickly spread across the east.
- Sweet potatoes are not grown from seed, but from live plants. The rooted plants will arrive ready to plant, and you can soak the roots in water or wrap them in a damp paper towel to hydrate them.
- Sweet potatoes are cold sensitive, so you may want to pot up your plants and set in them a protected area, and wait o plant outdoors after all chance of frost has passed in spring.
- Alternatively, you can harden off and plant out when they arrive if your region's chance of frost has already passed.
- Sweet potatoes are a long-season crop, and in northern climates, using black plastic mulch to warm the soil can be helpful.
- Set plants 12 to 18 inches apart in beds mulched with either plastic or a thick layer of straw. Do not skip this step! Without weed supression, the vines will quickly get out of control. The mulch will also warm the soil and retain moisture.
- Provide full sun and average quality soil. Be sure to keep young plants well watered as they become established. The plants will become more drought tolerant as they vine out and mature and you can cut back on the watering to every few days.
Sweet potatoes are not propagated by seeds, but rather by saving tubers over the winter to replant the following spring. Be sure to select the most healthy tubers for replanting.
Follow this comprehensive guide to curing and storing sweet potatoes over winter.