Sweet Potato Cultivation


#41

They look healthy and like they are doing well. I hope you have a boutiful harvest of nutritious tubers.


#42

That looks great to me. Muddy surely knows her stuff!!!


#43

Yes Muddy does have great advice! My mom is very thankful and those sweet potatoes are taking off now!


#44

We planted 18 Beauregard sweet taters from Lowes around Memorial Day. They had maybe a couple small leaves on them in about a large thumb-size amount of soil while in the containers.

Two or three of the plants died, but the other plants are doing great. Lots of big dark green leaves and what looks like runners spreading out. They were set out about two feet apart and they are starting to encroach on each other. Do the taters grow down under those runners or under the main part of the plants like a regular tater?

I’ve noticed that a few leaves have been nipped off, but don’t think it’s our usual suspects (deer), because I kind of fenced them in. Maybe it’s rabbits getting in there?

We tried to grow them before, but deer just kept grazing on them to the point where they never had a chance. So, we’re excited to maybe get some sweet potatoes this year. I’ll pass along some pics of them soon.


#45

Somehow I missed this thread until now. I absolutely love growing sweet potatoes. And for me, there is just something really exciting about digging them up in the fall. It really is a little like a treasure hunt or digging for gold. With each shovel scoop I pull up, I can hardly wait to see if there are any nice potatoes. And its a real thrill to get that scoop that is just full of big, beautiful sweet potatoes!

I honestly suspect its just an old wives tale without true merit, but where I’m from most people have heard and believe that the sweet potatoes will keep better if you let the frost kill the vines before digging them. I can see how there could be some truth in that- perhaps the tuber can “tell” winter is coming and the frost death of the vines could cause them to produce some biological agent in reaction to the loss of the tops to help them remain viable to sprout next year. But it’s equally likely that this is just another agriculture superstition.

I generate my plants almost exactly like Muddy. I am curious, though…do most of you who grow sweet potatoes plant them in “hills” or “furrows”. I always pull my lose dirt up in a big, long “hill” that is about 18 inches to 2 feet high and in a solid row. The sweet potatoes form inside the hill. The idea is that drainage is better and the soil is much looser and it also a bit of a tradition- but might be another one without merit. Making those hills with a hoe and/or rake is a LOT of work and I’d like to get away from it, so I’m interested to hear if the rest of you use hills for your potatoes (esp sweet)? Thanks


#46

Thecityman,
We grow sweet and Irish potatoes in raised hill’s. We did not grow them in raised areas years ago and one fall our sweet potatoes were rotting in the ground when we dug them. Our main moisture comes in the spring and fall. We could not save any sweet potatoas to winter over that year. We had to cut off the rotten spots and cook and freeze them that year. It was a huge amount of extra work that was uneeded.


#47

I hill my regular potatoes with used potting mix from the local hydroponic store. They give it away for free. It’s light and fluffy - the roots love it and harvest is a dream - the only problem is that the wild turkeys think it’s an ideal bedding mixture!


#48

Wow Scott, that is an unusual medium that I’d love to be able to use, but of course I don’t have a hydroponic store to go to around here! But your last comment intrigued me more than it might most…I’m a big fan of wild turkey’s and have been lucky enough to hatch a few eggs over the years in an incubator when I find them. Are you saying they actually make nests in your used potting mix, or do they carry it off for use, or did you just mean they bed down in it, not nest? Just curious.


#49

Same for me. This thread was a bit of an eye opener for me. Until now, I assumed that one planted sweet potatoes in the same way as normal potatoes- plant one with eyes. The process of generating slips sounds interesting and I may try it sometime.

This year is only the 2nd time I’ve planted sweet potatoes and both times were just due to having some which went to seed. It sounds like I’m being pretty wasteful doing it that way, when I could be generating 20+ slips per potato. Of course, I didn’t dedicate all that much room for them (more like- “oh- I found 6’x4’ of space, what should I put here…”), so it didn’t really hurt any.

The same is true of digging potatoes. My older daughter likes doing this a lot, but somehow, she is nowhere to be found when I need to weed.


#50

Well, the turkeys are running around with all their baby turkeys - so they must have nested somewhere else. But at some point in the day, they come into my veggie garden, eat everything with tasty green leaves, and then scratch out hollows in the potato hills.

They may be smarter than i give them credit for. my veggie area is fenced off with barbed wire and electric fencing to keep the deer out of it. The turkeys just step through the fence. It should keep them safe from predators.

One of the benefits of the cannabis industry is that they produce a lot of used growing media. I assume they don’t re-use media because of fear of problems, plus it’s a high-margin crop where they’re not worried about soil costs. So the local hydroponic store lets growers drop off bags of used media, and people are free to take it and use it. Primo stuff. I amend my raised beds with it - and use it to hill up my potatoes.


#51

Thanks for the compliments, @mrsg47 and @clarkinks . I’m far from a sweet potato growing expert, but do have experience growing them because they are one of the few relatively easy veggies to grow here in the summer. Easy is something I need in the summer. :smile:

@thecityman stick with the raised rows vs. trenches if there is any chance of getting soggy soil during the summer or especially near harvest time. The tubers will rot if the ground stays wet too long. That one I know from experience. Our 9,000 year flood, and continued sogginess throughout the fall last year totally wiped out my regular fall potatoes and most of sweet potatoes. Even though the sweets were raised, the water was relentless. Even though they do need some water, especially during droughts, they also do best in well draining soil. You can still grow large tubers in clay, as long as it isn’t over watered. Save your richest soil for something that needs it. Soil that is too rich in nitrogen will give you lots of green growth at the expense of tuber growth.

All parts of the sweet potato plant are nutritious and attractive to hungry animals. Many will eat the leaves. One year something was attacking my tubers. I found a rat had discovered the patch! He was quickly dispatched. Yuck!

Those running vines also like to put down roots. Whether you allow them to, or not, is up to you and your length of season. If they are not allowed to peg into the soil the energy from the vines will concentrate storage in the original clump, giving you larger and more tubers there. The extension beyond the newly rooted sections will send its energy to the closest roots, which may not have time to amount to anything worth keeping.

I’ll do a separate reply on harvesting.


#52

OK, here are some pics from our Beauregard sweet potatoes. They are doing really well, despite some of the vines getting nipped by some varmits. I am suspecting rabbits more than deer, due to the fact that the area is kind of fenced in. As you can see, I’m using my fishing line/caution tape hybrid fence.

@MuddyMess_8a, OK, I guess then I should maybe pull up gently on the vines to keep them from trying to root, to allow the central part of the plant to make more larger tubers? We planted them about 6 weeks ago, so they were started kind of late, so we prob should just let the central root do the producing.

We planted them straight into the ground, no hills, although we’ve been piling up dirt around the bases.

We planted out over 200 regular potatoes, but it looks like just about all of the tops have died back. Don’t know if they did that because of all the cool, wet weather we had in April or May. Or maybe the tater beetles got after them too much. We also had a freeze on May 16, while a lot of the plants were blooming. We’ve been digging up some decent size spuds, but not as big as we had hoped.


#53

This is my first year to try sweet potatoes; I ordered slips from Sand Hill. They were slow to get going, but were putting on steam. Then they got eaten by an animal, probably rabbits. Rabbits are rife in the garden this year and have also been eating down carrot tops and beet greens. Darn.


#54

If they were mine, I would. You can save yourself some effort with the dirt piling. They aren’t like the kinds of white potatoes that keep making more above where the eyes were planted as long as you keep adding coverage. The sweet potatoes can spread out and down from where you planted the slips. They don’t need you to shovel more dirt over them.

@HollyGates You’re raising some healthy rabbits! Have you thought about tossing some tulle or other fine netting over the top and sealing up the edges? They need to grow lots of leaves for photosynthesis.


#55

Wait…I’m learning something after all these years of growing sweet potatoes! (why I love this site). Are you saying that if I prevent my vines from rooting into the ground it will make my potatoes bigger? How cool. I actually figured it was the other way around…that when they rooted it was just that much more energy/food/nutrition for the tubers. But what you say seems plausible. Also, you’re right about the rooted vines not having enough time to produce anything. At least where I live, the only place I’ve ever gotten tubers is at the base of my original plant. BTW…how do you prevent the vines from rooting? Just pull them up every few days or something?

Also, last year I had something dig down and gnaw chuncks out of several of my sweet potatoes. I was at a complete loss to what did it but leaned toward a rabbit. I certainly hope that I don’t have a RAT!!!


#56

A rifle might come in handy when rabbits are rife. (couldn’t resist)


#57

@MuddyMess_8a - Yeah, clearly they need to be covered or caged. But I kind of wrote these off since I don’t think they can recover from complete defoliation this late in the season. Only three months to frost. But I’d like these to work for me, even though my wife says no one but me wants to eat them. So if I try them again next year I’ll keep them covered until they get a lot bigger.

@thecityman - Ha ha, nice one. I’d love to have some rabbit dinner one way or another, but the rest of the family is not on board with that approach. Though after the bunnies ate my the tops off the carrots in my 5yr old son’s little plot he told me he wants me to eat the bunnies even if he doesn’t want to.


#58

We have not done a great job with weed control but here is an updated picture


#59

Your plants look like ours Clark, with the weeds. The hybrid tape/fishing line fence gave the plants a chance to really grow without interference from our cloven hooved destroyers. So much so, that we’re going to have to expand our fence out some. We had a lot of rain last week, so hope that didn’t hurt the tubers too much.


#60

Pulling that grass almost pulls the potato so sometimes I leave it late in the season. Foxtail grows like that overnight practically.