Sweet Potato Plants are a great vegetable to grow in the warmer southern U.S. but you can also grow them in the northern zones with a warm summer and some tricks to warm the bed up.
Some of the best varieties to grow in cooler weather are Beauregard, Georgia Jet, and Porto Rico.
I will provide you with tips on growing your own Sweet Potato slips to grow a large crop for yourself even if you do not live in the warm weather of the South.
How to Grow Sweet Potato Plants from Slips
From one organic sweet potato, you can get lots of starts for planting without having to buy them.
Go to the store to purchase your favorite organic sweet potato. The reason for buying an organic sweet potato is that the others may have been sprayed with a sprouting inhibitor to prevent them from sprouting. You want to make sure yours will sprout.
To keep them from rotting you need 4 500 mg vitamin “C” pills ground up in a blender with enough water to cover your sweet potato. once you have this blended up you want to pour it into a container that you can cover the sweet potato for about 15-30 minutes to soak in. This will help to reduce the chance of the sweet potato rotting.
The use of vitamin “C” absolutely works, my sweet potato lasted for 5 months producing a huge number of starts. I finally planted it in June with the other starts.
The best way to promote the sweet potato to root and grow slips is to use high-quality potting soil, laying the sweet potato flat in the potting mix just about covering it but leaving the very top uncovered. Once you have the potato placed in the potting mix you can water it in.
Place the sweet potato in a sunny window indoors and within 3-4 weeks you will notice growth starting.
As the slips grow to about 6 inches you can pinch them off and strip off the bottom leaves before placing them in a jar of water. Place them in a sunny window sill until the roots have good strong growth. It can take another 2-4 weeks before they are ready to plant in the ground.
Leave the sweet potato in the potting soil to get more starts as long as it has not rotted. If one end is beginning to rot you can cut that end off.
Planting the slips
Get good slips to start your sweet potatoes as early as possible to lengthen the growing season and allow the potatoes to grow as large as possible. You should wait until Spring Frost dangers have passed or use a frost cloth to cover the newly planted sweet potato starts.
Prepare your bed with good organic matter to provide a sandy soil. You can feed the plants with a good liquid fertilizer every 2 weeks since they are heavy feeders. Sweet Potato roots like room to grow and expand so be sure to allow a deep organic soil for them to grow.
Sweet Potatoes and regular potatoes can be grown near each other as companions.
If you live in the south where it is warmer for a longer period of time you can plant the sweet potato vines in any sunny location. For those that do not live in the South you can warm temperatures by planting on a south-facing bed and using black plastic to heat the soil up.
If you live in a cooler climate you will need to find the warmest and sunniest area in your yard and mound up the area and cover the garden soil surface with black plastic to keep the soil warmer. You can actually do this several weeks prior to planting to increase the soil temperature and provide your sweet potatoes with the best conditions to produce a large crop.
In this picture, I covered the area with weed cloth to heat up the soil and cut several holes in the cloth to plant each sweet potato. There are many Sweet Potato varieties to grow, you may look for varieties that are best for the zone you live in.
Another way to improve growing conditions in cooler climates you may need to provide extra heat to your sweet potatoes. You can do this by using a cloche or a row cover to create a mini greenhouse.
You can harvest the leaves in late summer to eat as well as the potatoes themselves, in the north you may get more of the leaves to eat rather than the potatoes themselves.
To harvest your sweet potato crop you can either dig by hand or use a pitchfork or garden fork starting far enough out from plants to not dig into the potatoes before a winter freeze.
Update on Sweet Potatoes
It has been a few weeks now and the sweet potatoes are showing signs of them rooting as they continue to root (3 weeks)
The sweet potatoes that I have in my greenhouse without heat are showing some signs of rotting.
The sweet potatoes that I have indoors are looking great with 8-10 sprouts and a few just about ready to pick and put in a jar of water after 1 month (see picture above).
After 1 month the sprouts are reaching 6 inches, and are ready to pick and place in a jar of water. The first one I picked had lots of roots which will kick start them rooting.
As you can see in the above picture the sweet potato starts are doing great, I have 17 starts from these 2 sweet potatoes and they are still producing more each week and they are not rotting so I will be sharing some of these starts with others.
So far this process to grow sweet potatoes appears to be working very well, keep coming back to see the progress.
As you can see in mid-July my sweet potato patch is growing very well above ground and I hope that they are doing as well underground.
I am actually going to plant a 2nd crop to see how they do since I have many other starts from my original sweet potatoes.
July 9th update: I just planted the 2 sweet potatoes that had several plants still growing from early in the year, I did not have a place in the garden so I am experimenting with planting them in a large pot to see what they will do. I will post updates to see if this is successful.
Here we are in October and I harvested my sweet potatoes, the crop as you can see in the picture above was huge providing me with my first crop of sweet potatoes.
Curing for storage
After curing for 8 days I baked one of the smaller sweet potatoes to see if the sugar content was good to store them. This first one was good but I will allow them to cure for another 3 days before temperatures drop drastically here.
I live in zone 8b and in October we do not have warm nights and temps in the daytime have been in the 60’s and 70’s not ideal for curing sweet potatoes. In my greenhouse they seem to be curing nicely just taking a little longer. After 10 days I have baked several and the sugar content is good so I will store them for use later.
As I harvested sweet potatoes I also harvested some of the leaves and flowers to cook them and see how they tasted, not only did I like the flavor I found that they contain high levels of vitamins and minerals surpassing even what you can receive from kale or spinach.
Wilted Sweet Potato Leaves
Collect 1 large bowl of leaves for 3-4 servings
Wash and rinse leaves several times and drain water
Use large frying pan to cook leaves
Add 1-2 T Olive Oil
1 T chopped garlic
Heat oil and add leaves on medium heat
Add Sweet Potato leaves, cook until leaves have reduced and turned dark green
Sprinkle with salt
One of the easiest ways to enjoy sweet potatoes, wash off the sweet potato for baking
Poke several holes in each sweet potato
Preheat oven to 400 degrees
Place on foil or in pan to prevent juices to overflow in oven
Depending on how large your sweet potatoes are they will need 45 minutes to 75 minutes to bake
Enjoy without adding anything or you can add salt, pepper, and butter
Chunk up the following vegetables, sweet potatoes, potatoes, onions, and carrots in a bowl
Add Olive oil to make sure all your vegetables are coated
Spread the vegetables on a cookie sheet
Sprinkle with garlic salt and pepper
Bake at 350 degrees for 30-45 minutes depending on how soft you like your vegetables
This is one of the easiest side dishes that is great tasting.
I hope you have enjoyed getting started with How to Grow Sweet Potatoes as much as I have and know you can grow them almost anywhere and they are very easy to grow.