How to Grow Sweet Potatoes
One thing that I can’t stress enough is to become self-reliant rather than only relying on grocery stores for your food. A backyard garden is a perfect way to start becoming self-reliant, and learning how to grow sweet potatoes is a great first step!
Before you learn how to grow sweet potatoes, it’s important to know those sweet potatoes are not grown from seeds but from slips. You can buy slips online, or you can use slips from a sweet potato you bought, or one from your garden.
Why Grow Sweet Potatoes?
Sweet potatoes are one of my favorite crops to grow. Not only are they delicious, but they are healthy and easy to grow. If you aren’t sure if you want to grow sweet potatoes in your garden, here are 4 reasons why you should:
#1 Nutritional Value
Beyond being sweet and delicious, sweet potatoes are super healthy for you. Packed with nutrients, sweet potatoes have helped many survive famines throughout history. Take a look at what a sweet potato has to offer you:
- Beta carotene- eye health
- Vitamin C-healthy immune system
- Fiber-digestive health
- Manganese- Crucial for healthy bones and absorbing calcium
- Potassium- Needed for your heart
Not only do sweet potatoes provide a plethora of vitamins and nutrients, but they have been proven useful in helping diabetics control blood sugar levels and insulin resistance. The nutrient profile of a sweet potato promotes heart health, good digestion, a strong immune system, and enduring eyesight.
Although sweet potatoes need warm weather to grow, they can grow just about anywhere. If you grow them in climates that remain warm year-round, they make great perennial plants. Additionally, if you grow them in cooler areas, they are productive annual plants.
#3 Easy to Grow
Sweet potatoes really aren’t too picky when it comes to growing them. They prefer loose rich soil, but can do well with less. Even though they need regular moisture, they can endure drought conditions and get back to growing once it starts raining again, if that’s your main source of water for the plants. A consistent watering routine from your hose or sprinklers adds that confidence the plants will do well. Pretty much the only thing sweet potatoes can’t tolerate is cold weather.
#4 Long Storage
Sweet potatoes are one of the best foods for storage that we can grow, and as a prepper, this is great news! In fact, after harvesting, you can store your sweet potatoes for 3-6 months. This means that if you live in colder climates, you’ll have fresh food even during the winter months.
Recommended Sweet Potato Varieties
If you are looking for the fastest growing sweet potato varieties, you’ll want one that has orange flesh, but you could consider other varieties as well. Here are some of my recommendations that take 90 -100 days to harvest:
- Beauregard– This variety is from Louisiana, but can grow in the northern states as well. It has dark red roots, dark orange flesh, and stores well. It can be harvested in about 90-days.
- Centennial– The centennial is the leading variety in the U.S. Its color is similar to a carrot, and it’s a good variety for those who live in the north. You can harvest this variety in about 100-days.
- Georgia Jet– This variety has a red skin with a deep orange flesh. It’s an extremely fast growing type for the northern climates and can be harvested in about 90-days.
- Jewel– The jewel variety is a disease-resistant sweet potato. It has a copper colored skin and orange flesh.
- Stokes– This variety is a vibrant purple sweet potato. It’s packed with extra health benefits and is great for savory dishes and mashes.
How to Grow Sweet Potatoes
These plants originated from tropical areas, so it’s important to wait to plant your sweet potatoes until the soil is warm. Don’t plant them outdoors until the temperature of the soil reaches 60℉. They need soil temperatures of 60℉ to 85℉ to thrive. I actually love the look of the plants as they grow.
Follow the steps below on how to grow sweet potatoes:
Step 1: Select a Planting Site
First, you’ll need to determine where you’ll plant the sweet potato slips. Sweet potatoes thrive in average well-drained soil that gets lots of sunlight.
Sweet potatoes need full sun to part shade. If the soil where you live is too dense or rocky, consider growing them in a raised bed.
In addition to lots of sunlight, choose well-drained soil that is high in organic matter. Sandier soil is better than dense or clay soil.
Step 2: Fertilizer
Sweet potatoes do need balanced nutrition, but they are not heavy feeders. In fact, overfeeding tends to promote the growth of foliage rather than the tubers. To give your plants the best chance, add compost to the beds before you plant your sweet potato slips. Or, you could apply a liquid fertilizer before planting.
Step 3: Plant the Slips
Once you’ve prepared your soil, it’s time to plant your sweet potato slips. Position the slip so that the bottom half is covered with dirt while the top half with all the leaves is above ground.
You want to plant the slips about 12 to 18 inches apart from each other with 3 to 4 feet in between each row. The vines of the plants will spread and fill in, so it’s important to give them plenty of room.
Step 4: Water Your Plants
Once your slips are in the ground, it’s best to water your plants with about 1-inch of water. You want the plants to be evenly moist. Continue to water your plants once a week with 1-inch of water. During the final 3-4 weeks, don’t water your sweet potatoes unless you are having a dry spell.
Step 5: Harvest Your Sweet Potatoes
Finally, it’s time to harvest your sweet potatoes. Sweet potatoes can be harvested when the leaves and ends of the vines have started turning yellow, which is about 100-days from the day you planted them.
How to Harvest Sweet Potatoes
When harvesting your sweet potatoes, you want to avoid injuring the tubers. You’ll want to harvest your sweet potatoes before the first fall frost. Follow these steps to properly harvest them:
- Loosen the soil around each plant. Loosen 18 inches around and 4 to 6 inches deep.
- Then, cut away some of the vines.
- Pull up the plant’s primary crown and dig up the tubers by hand.
- Be careful when handling your sweet potatoes as they can bruise easily.
- Shake off any excess dirt, but do not wash the roots.
Can I Plant Sweet Potatoes from the Grocery Store?
You can try it, but I wouldn’t recommend it because the only way to ensure you have disease-free roots is to buy slips from a reputable seed supplier. Most sweet potatoes grown for consumption are usually planted using purchased slips.
How to Store Sweet Potatoes
Sweet potatoes can last for several months if stored properly. If you want long-term storage of your sweet potatoes, follow these steps:
- Cure the sweet potatoes
This step is crucial if you want them to last through the winter. Simply lay your tubers carefully and let them dry out for 10-days to 2-weeks in an area with high humidity. A temperature of 80℉ to 85℉ with humidity of 80% are ideal conditions for curing sweet potatoes.
If you want to cure them indoors, you’ll want to store them near a running furnace, covered with a cloth to enhance the humidity.
- Brush Off Remaining Dirt
After you have cured the sweet potatoes, brush any remaining dirt off of them. Do not wash them. The curing process dries them out, and you don’t want to add moisture to your potatoes. Wash them before eating them.
- Pack them in Boxes
Next, pack them in paper boxes or wrap them in newspaper and store them in a cool, dark pantry or closet. You want to keep them at a temperature of 55℉ to 60℉, if possible. Do not refrigerate them for longer than a few days as they are susceptible to cold injury.
Sweet Potato Recipes You’ll Love:
- Baked Sweet Potatoes
- Roasted Sweet Potatoes
- Sweet Potato Fries
- Creamy Sweet Potato Soup
- Sweet Potato Casserole
More Gardening Tips:
- Back to Eden Gardening Steps
- Gardening Techniques
- Self-Sufficient Garden: What to Grow
- How to Maximize Your Garden’s Production
Now that you’ve learned how to grow sweet potatoes, let me know if you have grown them, what variety you planted, and how things went? I’ve always LOVED growing them, but I wish more of my family and friends enjoyed eating them like I do. May God Bless this world, Linda
Copyright Images: Sweet Potatoes Depositphotos_353851994_S, Sweet Potato Growing Depositphotos_464522700_S, Sweet Potato Slips Depositphotos_354754164_S, Cultivating Sweet Potatoes Depositphotos_511999194_S, Sweet Potatoes in Box Depositphotos_365178974_S, Sweet Potatoes AdobeStock_146104119 by WavebreakMediaMicro
10 thoughts on “How to Grow Sweet Potatoes”
Thank you for this wonderful information. I had tried growing sweet potatoes before but was not very successful. Now I know why!
Can you recommend some online vendors to order the slips from?
Hi Sue, this is where I purchased mine. Boy, the prices have gone way up. They usually will not ship until your area can plant them. You enter your zip code. I would split them with some neighbors or family. They spread and you get a huge crop. Let me define a huge crop! I grew more than I could physically eat. I gave away sooo many to neighbors. Thank you for your kind words!! Linda https://parkseed.com/potato/c/potato/filter/100000000641eq100000000569/
I grow sweet potatoes every year. One of the very easiest crops to grow for sure. Plant, water as need, and watch them spread their beautiful vines. Rarely need weeding as the vines shade the ground and prevent weed growth. Bugs very rarely any issue at all (hope I did’t just jinks myself) We hill the dirt 12 to 18 inches high and then plant the slip on top of the hill. This allows the tubers to grow large in the loose dirt of the hill, and makes for an easier dig and removal of the potatoes. We lay a soaker hose on top of the hill -ready for the occasional watering that might be needed. I find my sweet potatoes store well ( in a cool basement in boxes ) even up to the time to plant the next batch.
Hi Ellen, I totally agree, they rarely need to be weeded. And I LOVED the vines flowing over my raised gardens! I had no idea until the first time I planted those that #1, the company wouldn’t ship them until it was safe to ship them as I remember. #2 Always start with the best sweet potato slips. You know when you think you have dug all of them up and nope, you missed a few, yep, that was me! They were easy to plant and I never had to replant. I’m not sure I will be so lucky where we moved now, it freezes here. I love hearing you stored them in a cool basement until the next planting. I need a basement! LOL! Linda
Someone asked about vendors–I get my slips from Johnnyseeds.com. Since they’re in Maine, I figure whatever they’re raising is suited to my area too!
Raised beds really do well for sweet potatoes! Makes the quite a bit easier to dig, too–other than one year that they were so exuberant they burrowed out under the sides of the bed! (Didn’t have that problem this past year. Something, I suspect a rabbit, kept browsing off the leaves. I got just enough for Thanksgiving out of the whole bed!)
Something that I’ve found works *really* well is plastic–I’ve always used clear (which I saw in one of the photos), but I’ve seen black recommended too. I put the plastic on the well-watered raised bed (tucked down into the sides) a week or two before I expect the slips to arrive, which gets the soil well-warmed ahead of time. When ready to plant, I cut X-shaped slits a foot apart, stick my finger in to make a hole and drop the slip in, and gently press around the slip so there’s a slight depression. Then a place a small rock next to each slit–this makes sure the plastic stays pressed down, so when it rains, or you water, the water runs in the X at each plant. The plastic keeps the soil warmer, which sweets love, besides helping discourage weeds.
If you’re trying to extend your growing as long as possible, and get hit by frost, the leaves will blacken. Just be sure to dig the tubers themselves right away–otherwise the rot can work down the stem and harm the tubers.
Curing–use your car! The way it will warm up in the sun during the day is just about right. Might have to take the sweet potatoes in if it gets too cool at night, though. As for storing, I put cardboard boxes under a bed. We rarely have the heat over 60 anyway, so it’s perfect. (One of the reasons grocery sweet potatoes aren’t as good is apparently that they often get stored at too low or even refrigerated temperatures.)
Did you know the tender young leaves are also edible? Not remarkable (just my opinion) but good to know!
Hi Rhonda, oh I just love your comment, we are here to help one another, thank you!! Okay, you keep your home temperature at 60 degrees? OH MY GOSH, I would have to wear mittens and a jacket all day. That is cold to me! I’m giggling because I love hearing this but know full well, I would be freezing! Thank you so much for the tips on the plastic covering, I hope I can plant this year. I may be planting my vegetables at my friend’s house because our home construction may be too much to put the drip system back together for a few months. Love your comment, Linda
If you can find Covington sweet potato slips you should give them a try. They are simply the best all around sweet potato I’ve ever grown. They do beautifully in raised beds, are very resistant to diseases and pests, store well for months and even if you let them get really big they maintain their delicious flavor. I think I got mine from Gurney’s.
I sometimes bake them with butter, brown sugar, raisins, pecans, and, once in awhile, mini-marshmallows. Here’s a link to the best way I know to bake them.
Hi Ray, oh yes, I want to plant those Covington sweet potato slips for sure if we can put our garden back together after construction (which hasn’t started yet) LOL! Thanks for the link to that recipe. I need to try adding raisins, I love it! Linda
I will allow my son to plant a few sweet potatoes in my garden but he is going to have to take care of them if I can find some potatoes that I thing will be good enough to grow. I would love to find some different colored potatoes to plant but I just can’t find them around here.
He will have to plant and to harvest them I will stay far away from those tubers.
Hi Jackie, I always have to buy potato seeds online. It’s hard to find them locally for me as well. Linda