By now, we hope that you’ve heard a little about Green Venture’s Grow a Row initiative — and may have even received your sweet potato seedlings! Grow a Row encourages gardeners to grow an extra row of produce in their gardens to donate, helping to fight local food insecurity and bring fresh, healthy produce to those in need. You can learn more about Grow a Row and the Backyard Garden project by visiting this post.
Grow a Row is all about sharing what you know and what you grow to help build healthy, sustainable, and independent communities. Green Venture knows that for many Growers, sweet potatoes is a brand new gardening experience, so today we wanted to provide you with some tips to ensure your planting is as successful as possible!
Sweet potatoes are great to plant for a variety of reasons. They provide healthy, filling, and nutrient-packed vegetables that can last for several weeks, are easy to cook with, and have attractive foliage that can be quite versatile when creating your garden!
Sweet potatoes enjoy warm climates and are extremely frost sensitive, meaning they often need to be planted slightly later than other vegetable plants. They are grown from sweet potato slips, which grow off of sprouting sweet potatoes. One potato can often provide upwards of 15 slips and yield about one pound of sweet potato per plant! Once planted, sweet potatoes will mature to harvest anywhere from 90-170 days.
For optimal planting, ensure that there is no risk of frost. Plant your slips at least one square foot apart to maximize growth and yield of the plants. An optimal environment will include long, wide, 10-inch-high ridges spaced 3.5 feet apart. Use compost or other fertilizers, but avoid anything high in nitrogen, as this can affect the growth of the tubers. Dependent on how much space you have in your garden, or if you are dealing with pests, you can also try planting your crops in large pots.
Within the first week of planting, ensure that the slips are kept well-watered. Continue to ensure your plants are well-watered throughout the summer, but avoid over-watering. Sweet potatoes prefer full sun environments.
Once your sweet potatoes are ready to be harvested at the end of the growing season, there are a few things to consider! The leaves on your sweet potato vines will begin to turn yellow, indicating the potatoes can now be dug up. Sweet potatoes won’t grow in the cold and can begin to rot once the frost hits, so avoid leaving your crop too late.
Prior to harvesting, let the soil dry out. Carefully dig around the tubers to avoid damaging or bruising them during harvest. Your sweet potatoes need to be cured in order to fully develop their flavour and be stored properly later. After digging out the potatoes, let them dry in the sun for several hours. They will then need to be brought inside and kept in an 85-90F environment for 10-15 days. After this period has passed, you can store your sweet potatoes in a cool, dark environment. Leaving them for another month will help their flavour fully develop. They are then ready to be consumed!