You can purchase sweet potato plants or slips or grow your own. I’ve done each of these options. While I can hunt for sweet potato plants at the end of May or early June at my local nursery, this is not always a successful option in Pittsburgh. I’ve been purchasing the slips online from the Steele Plant Co. When the slips arrive, they look like dead plants. Not to worry. . . they will be revived.
Unlike regular potatoes, sweet potatoes will grow down and spread out under the soil. I’ve been growing sweet potatoes in grow bags and have had more success growing sweet potatoes than regular potatoes.
Here are some tips for growing sweet potatoes: 1) If you have slips mailed to you, put them in water right away. After the slips perk up after a day, then plant them. 2) I would suggest using a grow bag so it is easier to find the tubers. Unlike potatoes, you do not have to periodically hill the soil so you will need to fill your potato bag all the way up. 3) Even though it is recommended to space sweet potatoes about 12 inches apart, I space the slips around 8 inches apart. If you space them closer together, you will get some smaller and more medium sized sweet potatoes. 4) I usually sprinkle some bone meal or coffee grounds around the slips/plants. This will add phosphorus to your root veggies so they will develop stronger roots. Also, you can use a balanced plant food if needed. 5) I use a drip system to water the plants at the soil line. 6) Also, I top the soil with some straw or leaves to keep the soil moist during the hot growing season. 7) In the past, I have noticed some pests in the soil that like to eat the roots. I will sprinkle some Sluggo Plus which usually takes care of the problem. 8) If you get invaded by some bugs above the ground, I would use some small spaced netting or a lightweight cloth over hoop tunnels during any wet rainy and buggy seasons. Cooler rain seems to encourage the bad bugs. Once the vines start expanding, I would take any covers off because you will want to see the leaves and flowers. 9) As noted above, I try to use trellis the vines – vertical gardening!
Overall, I don’t have too many issues with growing sweet potatoes and they are so good for you!
Next topic will be harvesting and storing sweet potatoes.