Growing Sweet Potatoes
Get A Bountiful Harvest With A Few Simple Tricks
Subspecies: Ipomoea batatas
Sweet potatoes are a root vegetable that require a long warm season to grow.
Sweet potatoes are sometimes referred to as yams in the Unites States, but are actually a different vegetable. They are best known in the United States as a traditional food for winter holiday dinners.
Growing sweet potatoes is relatively straightforward, requiring only a few steps. Read on to learn the details of how to grow sweet potatoes in your garden.
Growing sweet potatoes is always done from transplants. Transplants can be purchased from nurseries, from seed companies that ship the transplants by mail, and sometimes small amounts can be purchased from commercial scale farmers.
Sweet potatoes will not tolerate frost and the transplants must be placed into the ground 3 – 4 weeks after the last frost for your area has occurred. For this reason, Sweet potato transplants should be planted the same day they are purchased or received. Have the ground prepared ahead of time, the roots have to be kept moist throughout the transplanting process. Plan to transplant in the early evening hours so the plants will have time to ‘take’ to their new environment before being stressed by the sun.
Put plants in the ground in rows with 12 -18 inches between them and gently pat the soil around each plant. Plants should be placed into damp soil and watered again as soon as they are planted.
Beauregard is a large variety with red skinned roots and orange colored flesh.
Porto Rico is a good variety for small gardens. It has short vines and tapered roots. The skin is a coppery color and the interior is a light red.
Centennial is a good quality variety, with roots that are good for boiling and mashing.
Georgia Jet is an early season variety with high yields. It has purplish red skin and the flesh is an orange color. It is known for its moist flesh and is good for baking. Jewel is a hard, high yielding variety good for storing.
Sweet potatoes do not generally have insect problems. If flea beetles are present, diatomaceous earth can be mixed into the soil for pest control.
Any beetles noticed on plants should be removed manually and destroyed, before their populations can take hold.
Like potatoes, sweet potatoes will diminish in flavor and quality the longer they are stored. Keep sweet potatoes in a cool, dark place with good air circulation. Do not refrigerate sweet potatoes. The cold temperature will cause the potatoes to become over sugared. The starch changes to sugar and the potatoes will not cook consistently or long enough to mash, without becoming brown and overdone from the extra sugar content.
Sweet Potatoes can be kept on a shelf or in a pantry for two weeks, provided there is air circulation, and the temperature does not rise above 75°F.
Sweet potatoes can be prepared in many of the same ways as regular white potatoes. They can be mashed, baked, or cut and fried as french fries. Sweet potato ‘fries’ can be baked in the oven until they are almost done and then frozen for 3 – 4 weeks. They can be thawed and finished in the oven, or fried in oil, much the same way commercial frozen fries are prepared.