There are many reasons to grow a sweet potato plant. The orange flesh of sweet potato tubers is packed with vitamins and phytonutrients, and the plants add visual appeal with their trailing growth and ground cover growing habit. Learn ways to grow and care for sweet potato plants and how to harvest sweet potatoes at the end of the growing season.
Like regular potatoes, sweet potatoes (Ipomoea batatas) are simple to grow even if you have limited space. If you don’t have a garden bed, grab a large bucket and fill it with the right soil type.
These plants are such easy growers that many gardeners in the south fill their yard space with the seedlings and leave them on their own throughout the summer.
Growing and Harvesting Your Own Sweet Potatoes
There are a few things to know if you decide to grow sweet potatoes. These plants are a tropical, warm weather crop and enjoy the right soil temperature, full sun, and high humidity to flourish.
However, they are resilient and tolerate moments of shade, moderate humidity, and poor soil. Their adaptability to growing conditions makes them perfect for just about any garden.
There are many veggies to choose from when deciding to produce your own food, from yams to tomatoes, and the sweet potato is one of our favorites.
They are flavorful and healthy, and growing and harvesting sweet potatoes is easier than you think, whether you fill your backyard or grow them in raised beds and pots.
While sweet potato plants grow just about anywhere under the right conditions, they require a helping hand to get started. Learn the easiest ways to produce these tubers and when to harvest sweet potatoes for the tastiest veggies.
How long do sweet potatoes take to grow to maturity? Find out about that here as well as tips for curing, storing, and preparing sweet potatoes after a harvest. Learn the best way to know when sweet potatoes are bad so you don’t waste your time with them.
When to Harvest Sweet Potatoes
We always get impatient after planting a vegetable garden since it takes some effort to get started. You prepare the bed, plant the seedlings, water and feed the growing plants, and wait with anticipation as they fill the garden space.
While many veggies produce a visible crop above ground, root vegetables are a different story. Find out how long potato plants take to grow and when to harvest sweet potatoes for the tastiest tubers.
How long does it take for sweet potatoes to grow? Whether growing sweet potatoes in containers or the garden, there are a few stages in a sweet potato plant’s growth rate. Growing sweet potato slips is the first stage that takes about six weeks.
Once the slips develop and you transplant them in the garden or container, the young plants spread while growing more leaves and producing tubers under the ground.
There are several varieties of sweet potato, including Georgia Jet, Centennial, and Beauregard. The amount of time you have to wait before the spuds are ready to harvest varies depending on the type – they take anywhere from 90 to 120 days to reach maturity.
Growing and Harvesting Sweet Potatoes
Growing sweet potatoes is the first step to harvesting sweet potatoes. Here is how to start your sweet potato plants by growing your own slips indoors and transplanting them outside in a bed or bucket.
Explore smart plant care tips and problems to watch for throughout the season to ensure your potatoes grow healthy.
Choose a fresh and healthy sweet potato and pierce the top section with four toothpicks around the perimeter. Pour water into a jar or glass and balance the toothpicks on the edge so that the tapered, rooting end of the potato rests beneath the water.
Set it in a warm, sunny area and change the water as needed to prevent it from getting cloudy. As the days and weeks pass, roots begin to form beneath the water, with slips growing out the top.
After the last frost and the sprouts reach five to six inches tall, carefully twist them off the potato, remove the lower leaves, and place them stem-side down in another fresh jar of water. Set the container in a warm area and wait a couple of days for the roots to grow.
After the roots are several inches long, plant sweet potato slips in a prepared garden bed with companion plants for sweet potatoes or in a container with potting soil, four inches deep and 12 to 18 inches apart.
Water the garden immediately to help the plants settle in the dirt and feed them with a high phosphorus fertilizer to encourage further rooting.
Spread black plastic mulch around the seedlings to keep the ground warm, retain moisture, and lessen the chance of weeds. As the plants grow, keep an eye out for common potato plant problems.
Fungal and bacterial diseases often occur when splashing dirt on the foliage, so take care when watering the plants. Remove dead or damaged potato vines as soon as you notice them and perform crop rotation to stop the spread.
Insects like the sweet potato weevil and flea beetle are also an issue. To get rid of potato bugs, pick these pests off by hand and spread diatomaceous earth over the dirt to kill them.
The best way to determine when to pick sweet potatoes is to inspect the foliage for browning at the end of the season.
When and How to Harvest Sweet Potatoes
You’ve waited all season long, and it’s finally sweet potato harvest time. Before you grab the plants and rip the tubers out of the ground, there is a right and wrong way to harvest them. Learn how to properly harvest and cure your sweet spuds to prevent them from damage for longer shelf life.
Sweet Potato Harvest
When are sweet potatoes ready to harvest? When the very ends of the vines begin to brown, or before the first frost if you live in a northern region, it’s time to dig up the sweet potatoes.
To harvest the potatoes, use a spading fork or garden fork to dig them up. Push the garden tool into the soil far enough around the outside of the plant’s base so that you do not damage the sweet potato skins.
Work your way around the plant and use your hands to gently pull the roots out. Wipe off the excess dirt and carefully set the potato into a basket before moving on to the next plant.
After harvesting the potatoes, it’s time to cure them. The curing process is an essential step to help the potatoes’ skin harden for more extended storage while increasing their sugar content at the same time. Rest them in a single layer in a warm and dry area with good air circulation for ten to 15 days.
Storing Sweet Potatoes Short and Long Term
There is nothing more satisfying than enjoying the benefits of growing your own food. However, your harvest only goes so far if you use improper food storage methods.
Here are a few ways to store sweet potatoes for short and long-term storage so that none of your garden work goes to waste.
To store your sweet potatoes long-term, keep them in a basket or box, store them in a dry, cool, and dark area, like the root cellar, and use them as needed.
The potatoes last up to ten months stored this way. A location with a temperature of 55°F with a relative humidity of 75 to 80% is ideal for potato storage.
To keep your sweet potatoes fresh after cutting them, place the cut pieces in a container of cold water and keep them in the fridge for a day or two. If you have leftover cooked sweet potatoes, place them in a container with a lid and refrigerate them for three to five days.
Sweet potatoes are also perfect for freezing if you boil or bake them first. The way to freeze sweet potatoes after cooking is to wrap a baked sweet potato in aluminum foil or place the boiled potatoes in a freezer-safe container or plastic bags and freeze them for one year.
How to Make Sweet Potato Pie after Harvest
The growing season is over, and your cellar is brimming after you harvest sweet potatoes, but what are you going to do with all those spuds?
While there are many ways to prepare sweet potatoes, nothing beats a warm sweet potato pie. This sweet potato recipe is a favorite, and it is the perfect way to celebrate a bountiful harvest.
Wash the sweet potatoes and boil them with the skins on for 40 to 50 minutes. Run cold water over the spuds until they cool, and remove the skins. Break up the sweet potatoes in a large bowl, add the butter, and mix well before adding the sugar, spices, milk, vanilla, and eggs.
Use a mixer to beat them on medium speed until smooth, and pour the mixture into the unbaked pie crust. Bake the potato pie at 350°F for about an hour or until a knife inserted in the middle comes out clean.
While sweet potatoes are almost a plant-them and leave-them type of root veggie, they still require some attention to ensure they do not suffer from pests, diseases, and other common problems.
With the proper care, though, these plants flourish easily and fill your garden basket with delicious sweet taters at the end of the growing season.
Knowing when and how to harvest sweet potatoes after growing your own from beginning to end is a rewarding experience, so why not share our sweet potato growing and harvesting guide with the spud-lovers in your life on Pinterest and Facebook?