Sweet potatoes are the ultimate comfort food—these hearty, filling root vegetables are the perfect mix of savory and sweet. Whether you’re making buttery mashed sweet potatoes, a cubed hash with onions and spices, or crispy sweet potato fries with a side of aioli, this nutrient-rich plant never fails to satisfy. Grow them in your garden this year for a huge harvest filled with good-for-you nutrients!
When And Where To Plant Sweet Potatoes
To plant your own sweet potatoes, you’ll need to purchase slips—or rather, sprouted plants that pop out from a mature sweet potato root. You’ll want to buy your slips from a garden center like Living Color instead of sprouting your own, as our garden center slips are free of disease. Sweet potatoes are prone to weevils, so ensuring you’ve got a healthy plant from a reputable grower will lead to the best results. Look for slips that are around 6–9 inches tall.
Plant your slips sometime between April and early June, in rows spaced at least two feet apart, with each plant spaced at least one foot apart. If you have sandy soil, that’s perfect! Sweet potatoes do quite well in sandy, loose soil because they need to be watered very frequently, but don’t do well sitting in stagnant water or heavy clay soils.
Before planting, we recommend testing your soil for nematodes. While some nematodes are beneficial, there are some bad nematode species that can really muck up your plants. Testing and treating your soil ahead of time will save you heaps of trouble! If you plan on planting again after your first harvest, it’s a good idea to rotate your crops, because pests that are specifically attracted to sweet potatoes will be less likely to show up if your crops aren’t always in the same spot.
Caring For Sweet Potato Plants
The key to growing healthy, firm sweet potatoes is consistent watering. Though they can be quite drought-tolerant, if you’re not maintaining a regular watering schedule, your sweet potatoes might end up splitting. Keep them intact by giving them about one inch of water every two days. If you’re the forgetful type, it helps to set an alarm in your phone as a reminder. For the final three weeks before your harvest, you can stop watering altogether.
As for fertilizer, you don’t actually need any! Fertilizer will just end up causing your plants to grow more leaves instead of developing big, edible roots, so you can skip that step. Instead, layer some compost on top of your garden bed, or pour on a compost tea to soak into the soil.
Harvesting Sweet Potatoes
Your sweet potatoes should be ready to harvest about four months after planting. You’ll notice the leaves of your plant will begin to turn yellow once they’re ready to be pulled. While it may be tempting to leave them in for longer so you can have bigger potatoes, they’ll end up getting a bit too tough and won’t be quite as tasty. Take care when you dig them out—their skins can be a bit delicate, and since they grow close to the soil surface, you won’t want to crack them open with your trowel accidentally.
After harvesting your sweet potatoes, we recommend waiting a while before you eat them. By storing them in a dark, dry, warm place for 2–3 weeks, the starches will start to break down and become sugars, resulting in a much sweeter potato! Once they’re ready to go, store them in the cupboard—don’t put them in the fridge. The cool temperatures of the refrigerator will lessen the flavor and can speed up decomposition.
If you like, you can also harvest and eat the greens from your sweet potato plants! Take off small amounts at a time while the plant is growing, so you can enjoy some fresh garden greens without compromising the growth of your plants.
While they require some patience to grow, these vitamin-rich veggies are always a treat, and since they can be stored for quite a while, you can enjoy them at family dinners well into autumn—even up to Thanksgiving! For all the supplies you need to start growing sweet potatoes at home, visit us in-store, or place an order over the phone! We’re happy to arrange for curbside pickup or delivery.