Growing Sweet Potatoes



Sweet potatoes are a straight-forward but frost-tender crop - they thrive in hot conditions and are drought-resistant once established. They don't need high soil fertility levels or a lot of organic matter. Field planting comes later than most spring crops, leaving you free to deal with other transplants first. Likewise, after the vines cover the ground they need little attention during the summer (apart from watering) until harvest.

Sweet potatoes are often called yams, but this is inaccurate! They are related to morning glories. Sweet potatoes are roots, not tubers, and will not even cross with yams. True yams are tropical tubers, not morning glory cousins. Enough about yams!

A good introduction can be found in the ATTRA publication Sweetpotato: Organic Production. One baked sweet potato of 114gm (4oz) has 185% the RDA of vitamin A, 28% the RDA of Vitamin C, 100% of vitamin E, lots of anti-oxidants, and 160 calories, none from fat.

Deer are the main pests of sweet potatoes. The main successful ways to deal with deer are guns, dogs and fences, although we have success with motion-sensor water sprinklers too.

Sweet Potato Varieties

Modern varieties such as 'Georgia Jet' can grow to a good size in only 90 days, so sweet potatoes are not just for the South! As well as the traditional orange kinds, there are purple, yellow and white ones. There are ornamental kinds used for city beautification. Some have fancy-cut or heart-shaped leaves. There is the 'Bunch Porto Rico' which has short vines, ideal for those with not much space.

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