Growing sweet potatoes organically in your home garden is surprisingly easy, especially if you live in the southern areas. Sweet potatoes (Ipomoea batatas) grow very well in the southern regions because they require at least 4 months of warm temperatures. Although, today there are some varieties of sweet potatoes available that can be grown successfully in the northern areas too.
Sweet potato is known by many other different local names in different parts of the world. They are called ‘Yam’ in some parts of North America, and are called ‘Batata’ in Argentina, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico and Venezuela. They are also known by many other different names such as Camote, Kumar, Kumara, Ipomoea Batatas, Shakarkandi, Misti Alu etc.
You actually don’t have to plant and care hundreds of plants for enjoying this delicious vegetable. Just planting a few plants in your home garden can produce a generous harvest.
There are many advantages of growing sweet potatoes in your home garden. They are not only very easy to grow, but also they are drought and heat tolerant and have less pests or diseases. So, you should consider growing sweet potatoes in your home garden.
How to Start Growing Sweet Potatoes in Home Garden
As we have mentioned above, growing sweet potatoes organically in home garden is super easy and simple. Here we are describing all the steps for growing sweet potatoes in the home garden from planting, caring to harvesting.
Choose a Variety
First of all, choose a variety of sweet potato that grows well in your area. You can consult with some existing home gardener in your area for better suggestion. Some popular and well known sweet potato varieties are Beauregard, Bunch Porto Rico, Centennial, Georgia Jet, Jewel, Patriot, Ruddy, Stokes and Vardaman. There are also many other different varieties available in different parts of the world. You should choose a variety depending on the availability in your area. Generally the deep orange types are more popular with the home gardeners.
Like many other common vegetables, sweet potatoes are not started by seed. They are started from slips which are small rooted pieces of tuber which are sliced right off the sweet potato. So you have to collect the slips for growing sweet potatoes. You can purchase the slips from any of your nearest nurseries, garden centers or from any local farmers. You can also create your own slips for growing sweet potatoes.
Best Time for Growing Sweet Potatoes
Sweet potatoes grow well in warmer climates. So, you have to plan for growing this vegetable during the warmer months. The sweet potato is actually a warm-weather crop that grows worldwide, from tropical regions to temperate climates.
Preparing the Soil
You actually don’t need to have very fertile soil for growing sweet potatoes. They will just grow fine in any type of poor quality soil. But avoid cay soil for growing sweet potatoes, because clay soil can results in deformed roots. Generally loamy, sandy or sandy-loamy soils are considered best for growing sweet potatoes. Just add some manure or compost while preparing the soil.
Select the area where you are going to plant the sweet potato slips. Then till the area to a depth of 8-10 inches. Create raised mounds 6-8 inches tall and about 12 inches wide. Make such bed as many as you want depending on the number of plants you want to have. And then plant the slips 12-18 inches apart in the bed. Plant the slips deep enough to cover the roots and about 1/2 inch of the stem.
Growing sweet potatoes in your home garden will require less care. Although some caring will results good yield and better growth of the plants.
Immediately after planting the slips, water them with a starter solution that is high in phosphorous. Compost tea will be good for the sweet potato plants.
After planting, watering generously for a few days is important. This will ensure that the plants root well. Deep watering in hot, dry periods will help to increase yields.
Mulching will be helpful for retaining moisture in the soil, and also for controlling weeds.
Controlling weeds is important for keeping the plants growing. Hoe the beds occasionally for keeping the weeds down.
Pruning is not recommended for growing sweet potatoes in home garden. The vines of the sweet potato plants should be vigorous, so don’t prune them for good harvest.
Pests and Diseases
Sweet potato plants are susceptible to some pests and diseases. Some common pests and diseases of the sweet potato plants are flea beetles, sweet potato scurf, fungal leaf rot, stem rot and white blister. You can get rid of most of these pests if you destroy the affected leaves and if you rotate your crop each year. And choose the disease resistant varieties for avoiding most of the diseases.
Depending on the variety, you will probably be able to start harvest after 3-4 months from planting. When the sweet potatoes are big enough for meal, dig up them form soil. Generally the best time to start harvesting, when the leaves and ends of the vines have started turning yellow.
That’s all for growing sweet potatoes organically in your home garden. Good luck!