The Sweet Side of the Sweet Potato Plant
Sweet potato is a veggie that deserves our attention because of its unique flavor. This veggie can be found in many supermarkets across the country as the natives take full advantage of this superfood.
Though sold in the supermarket’s however, many homeowners grow these veggies from their backyards. Sweet potatoes can be added to soups, stews, steam, bake, and fry foods just to name a few.
Sweet potatoes complement our famous peas soup and dumpling, which many tourists enjoy as they visit these islands so if you haven’t tried sweet potatoes as yet be sure and do so on your visit to Nassau which is the capital of the Bahamas.
In fact, if you visit any of our family islands ask about our famous peas soup and dumpling. Trust me you will enjoy it.
Sweet potato is not only limited to the island of the Bahamas but is grown worldwide on a wide scale by farmers and in many home gardens.
But how is sweet potato grown and care for, Let’s take a closer look?
How to grow sweet potato in the home garden
Sweet potatoes are grown from slips and not seeds, slips are shoots that are grown from mature sweet potatoes, or to put it another way slips are small pieces of the tuber that are removed or sliced from the sweet potato plant.
1. Sweet potato is a warm-season plant that can be planted from spring through summer. Wait until after the last frost when the soil has warmed up.
2. Look for an area that gets 5-6 hours of sunlight.
3. The soil should be loamy, sandy soil. Adding organic matter can improve the soil structure. The soil ph should be slightly acid anywhere from 5.0-6.5 some people prefer to use neutral soils.
4. 6-7 weeks before planting sweet potato slips, place the potato slips in a container or box of moist sawdust or sand. Place your sweet potato in a warm area that has temperatures of 75-85 degrees.
5. When transplanting into the ground or garden area don’t plant too deeply ensuring that the entire roots are totally covered with the soil. Plant slips in rows of 12-18 inches apart.
6. Keep the soil well-watered but not soaked or waterlogged because this will encourage fungal disease.
7. Fertilize your sweet potato slips with 5-10-10.
Container grown sweet potato
Don’t have the space container grown sweet potatoes can provide you with these superfoods you can enjoy each season.
1. Choose a container that is large enough to grow your plants, containers ranging from 7- gallon or larger. Ensure that containers have holes for excess water to escape or drain.
2. The soil should be loamy, sandy soil. Adding organic matter can improve the soil structure.
3. Sweet potatoes love warm conditions, place your pots in an area that gets 5-6 hours of sunlight.
4. Select a variety that is ideal for growing in containers.
5. When planting slips don’t plant too deeply, ensure that the roots are fully covered.
6. Sweet potatoes love moisture so ensure to water adequately. But don’t overwater because this will cause root rot.
Insect pest of sweet potatoes
Insect pest poses a problem to our sweet potato plant, the good news, however, is we can keep them under control by following these methods. Here is some insect pest to watch out for so you can reap a good harvest.
- White Grubs
- Flea beetles
Word of caution: When using chemicals follow the direction on the label because the label is the law.
1. Mites are tiny insects that are hard to spot, place a piece of white paper under your plants’ leaf, and gently shake the leaves. If the pest issue is spider mites you will see tiny specks moving around on the white sheet of paper also spider web will be attached to plant leaves which is another indication that mites are present.
Other signs include weakening of plants, stunted growth with colored specks on plant leaves. The use of neem oil, insecticidal soaps, or purchasing predatory mites will help with this issue.
2. Aphids are soft-bodied insects that are pared shape which causes injury by sucking the plant’s juice. Leaves will yellow and then turn brown, a strong spray of water will knock them off killing them.
Another solution is the use of insecticidal soap, horticultural and neem oil or a homemade mixture of soapy water in a 32oz spray bottle will help.
3. Wireworm lives in the soil and feeds on the roots of the sweet potato, damaged roots are unable to take up water and fertilizer causing the plant to stress. Yellowing and browning of leaves are also an indication that plants are being stressed.
To control wireworm drench soil with pyrethrin, applying beneficial nematodes, crop rotation, or treating with sns 203 will give good results.
4. White Grubs are insect pest that lives in the soil, white grubs feed on the roots of plants making it impossible for plants to take up water and nutrients. These insect pests are active in the spring and early summer.
White Grubs are white to brownish in color and can be found curl in a form that resembles the letter c. This insect can be controlled with the use of beneficial nematodes which is a safe and effective approach.
5. Flea beetles are responsible for blight and wilt. These beetles are black and have the ability to jump like fleas when bother. The flea beetles also have large rare legs and their bodies are small and shiny. This insect pest eats parts of plant leaves spreading bacterial diseases.
Control flea beetles by using white sticky traps, 70% neem oil, or diatomaceous earth have proven to give good results.
Diseases of sweet potatoes
- Fungal leaf spot
- Stem rot
- Sweet potato scurf
- White blister
Keep an eye out for these diseases and try these methods for control.
1. Stem rot causes the older leaves to wilt and then drop, the younger leaves, at the tip of the vines turn yellow. The inner stem at or below the soil line has brown streaks and is discolored. Planting resistant varieties have proven to give good results.
2. Sweet potato scurf is brought on by damp, wet conditions along with poorly drained soil. This disease appears as blotches on the outside of the roots that are light brown with irregular patches.
To avoid sweet potato scurf cut potato slips just above the soil line and treat seed potatoes with a fungicide before planting.
3. White blister is a disease that appears as a white crusty growth along the leaf veins that looks like grains of salt. This disease is brought on by poor cultural practices which involve overwatering where poor air circulation is an issue also high humidity during cloudy, cool conditions.
Control measures include providing proper air circulation by thinning out plants, sweet potato slips should only be watered when the top 2-3 inches of soil is dry to the touch.
If growing in containers ensure that saucers are not holding water also move the container to an area that gets plenty of air circulation.
4. Fungal leaf spot appears as black or brown water-soaked spots on the leaves in some cases with a yellow halo. Under wet conditions, those spots will become larger.
As spots numbers increase entire leaves may wither and drop. To control this disease plant resistant varieties, applying copper-based fungicides or sulfur sprays at early detection will benefit your plant in a great way.
Harvesting sweet potatoes
Congratulations you have put in the effort now it is time to reap a harvest of your labor. This is the exciting part, But what are the signs to look for when sweet potatoes are ready to harvest? I am glad that you asked.
Sweet potatoes are ready to harvest when the ends of the vines and the leaves start to turn yellow which can take anywhere from 3-4 months. Loosen the soil around your sweet potato plant with a spading fork when attempting to take them out of the ground.
Be very careful not to injure or bruise potatoes, Once potatoes are exposed, with your hands gently remove them from the soil.
Health benefits of sweet potatoes
Sweet potatoes are not only delicious but the healthy side of this superfood is amazing. Here are some health benefits that will keep your body in the best shape ever.
1. Sweet potatoes are rich in fiber which is great because fiber will help make your bathroom visits easier.
2. Sweet potatoes are loaded with antioxidants which help to fight against free radicals that impact our health in a negative way.
3. Sweet potatoes make a great choice for persons with diabetes because this superfood helps to regulate and reduce blood sugar levels.
4. Sweet potatoes are great for weight control.
5. Because of the nutrient and antioxidants content, sweet potatoes help to promote brain health.
6. Sweet potatoes are rich in Vitamin A which promotes vision health.
7. A study has shown that sweet potatoes are loaded with vitamin B6 which promotes heart health.
The final word
There you have it planting, growing, and harvesting sweet potatoes. This super veggie as we discussed is loaded with vitamins and has so many benefits so consider planting some of them in your home garden and take full advantage of this super veggie.
I love sweet potatoes and have eaten them for years. Growing and caring for sweet potatoes have never been easier, give it a try, you will be happy that you did. Sweet potatoes another superfood that works wonders.
About the author
Norman loves being in the garden, both at home and for his job....
he is 'Natures Little helper' being outdoors, growing his vegetables and flowers from an early age.
Now having spent over 22 years in the profession he want to give some of his knowledge to others...
his vast array of hints and tips you will find scattered over this site will help you no end growing plants in your garden.
24 thoughts on “How To Grow Sweet Potatoes In A Home Garden”
We used to have potatoes in our garden when I was younger, but hmm, not sure about sweet potatoes. I was so young that I probably didn’t even know the difference. But I love that you share this with us – not just this but tons of other stuff in your website. I certainly agree that growing things in your own garden tastes so much better than when you buy it off a shelf. Not just in terms of the quality but also with how good you feel after having nurturing that plant or vegetable. Look forward to reading more from you.
Hello Parmi so happy that I could help and so happy to hear from you. It is good to know that the information I am providing is helping you and I look forward to hearing more from you and your garden projects. All the best to you and have a good day.
Thank you for this very helpful article. I found it very useful because I grow sweet potato in my garden every year but I have a lot problems with that because something eats it. I have used some pesticides but still nothing. It looks like mites but I am not sure. It is not difficult to grow this plant, just good will.
Daniel sweet potatoes are very beneficial. So sorry to hear of the issues you are having but what you can do is go through the list of suggested pests to fine what is eating your plants. Please let me know how it goes. All the best of success and have a good day.
I really enjoy sweet potatoes in dishes or even baked up as fries. I don’t know why I have never thought of growing them here. I have a very limited space and we usually only grow one little thing per year just for the fun of it. Past couple years we’ve done a few carrots but I think next spring I will think about doing sweet potato. I have one area where we could put a large container. In a container of the size you suggested, which you say to just put one slip in that container or could it handle more than one? Thanks for the great idea of planting sweet potato! And someday I would absolutely love to get to Nassau to try that pea soup and dumplings!
Hello Lynne so good to meet you and thanks so much for sharing with me. You can go ahead an plant more than one slip as long as the pot is large enough. And yes the peas soup and dumpling is really, really good so hopefully some day God’s willing you will get to enjoy my culture. Please let me know how your garden projects goes. Wishing you the best of success and have a good day.
It is actually easier than I expected. I thought it would be more complicated.
I’m not very experienced in growing plants and I thought to start with sweet potatoes because they’re my favourite. I believed that it would be difficult to find instructions online, but I thought wrong. It’s kind of a rare plant here, so I was kind of worried.
Just a quick question. Will it be ok if I don’t use fertilizer?
Thank you so much!
Kate sweet potatoes are really beneficial and has such a great taste. So happy that I could help. If you don’t want to use fertilizers that is fine but then again organic fertilizers like horse, chicken or cow manure can work wonders. Please let me know how it goes and have a good day.
Wow what a great article on sweet potatos. We always had a garden growing up and sweet potatos were one of the things that we had, and insects can be a huge problem, I remember we loss an enitre batch of potatos from some sort of infestation. I had no idea that they could get diseases, I will have to keep this in mind when I decide to make my own garden. Thanks!
So good to see that you are familiar with this veggie. So happy that I could help. Have a good day.
One thing for sure, sweet potatoes is my favorite food! People wondered why I loved it ever since I was young. It’s simply delicious, whether eaten raw or cooked.
You provided some great details about the condition of soil to grow it. Little did I know it needed such specifications, as I grew up in a mountainous area where the soil is made of black volcanic soil. All we had to do was plant the leaves, and the soil will do the rest. Very healthy white tubers were continuously harvested from our gardens. Well the one on your post is red sweet potatoes.
Looking at the health benefits you highlighted, it’s just wow. By the way, how does it help for weight control? This is by far one of the best posts I’ve had to read, because it talks about my favorite.
Great post and thanks for sharing.
Hello again and it is so good to hear from you. Sweet potatoes is pretty amazing and so beneficial to our health. There are many reason why sweet potatoes aid in weight lose which are sweet potatoes has high water content, low in calories, loaded with fiber and they are natural sweet no added sugar just to name a few. Hope this help all the best to you.
Sweet potatoes are so versatile. They taste great, are healthy and you can do so much with them. Not to mention that they are super healthy too. I remember my gran used to cook them in syrup and butter which I am sure is not the healthiest way to eat them.
I never realized that they were so easy to grow or I would have tried long ago.
Thanks for all the information on what insects to watch out for while growing them.
Michel so good to meet you. It is good to know that you know about these veggies and still have those memories of grand ma in the kitchen. So happy that I could help. Please let me know how it goes, all the best to you and have a good day.
wow thanks for the in-depth guide on how to plant and harvest sweet potatoes. This is one of my favorite veggies after I put butter and cinnamon on it!
I’ve never planted a garden before, but have always wanted to. I will book mark this late so when I’m ready, I can know how to plant sweet potatoes.
Out of curiosity, do sweet potatoes that you grow taste different from the ones bought inside the stores?
Hello Michael so good to hear from you an I am so happy that I could help. Sweet potatoes are so beneficial besides their great taste. Just follow my guide and you will be just fine. Home grown garden ones and store sold ones taste the same. Please let me know how it goes. All the best to you and have a good day.
A few month ago I bumped into your site already, and I am so-so happy that I found it again. At that time I said that I would use your techniques in my garden – once I would have a garden of my own – and now we it’s just a few weeks and we are moving.
Anyway, since I lived in Africa, sweet potato became one of my favorite food. I haven’t really thought about planting it up to now, but as I read your article it seems quite easy to grow them.
What I don’t understand is this point: Fertilize your sweet potato slips with 5-10-10. What does this mean? Have you written about it somewhere before that I could read?
I saved and tried to memorize every word here, and when spring comes I will surely try planting it. Thanks a lot for your post (again). 🙂
Hello so happy to hear from you and wishing you all the best as you are moving. Sweet potatoes are pretty amazing and has so many benefits.5-10-10 is a fertilizer which can be used or organics like horse, cow or chicken manure can work wonders also. Please let me know how it goes. Have a good day.
Wow, I did not know of all the health benefits of sweet potato, I just knew the number of ways that you can prepare them for a delicious dish. I have planted potatoes before in my Canadian climate, I must say once planted, I did not pay much attention to them till it was time to harvest. Can you grow sweet potatoes in other climates than the Bahamas? And are they generally less hardy than potatoes for growing?
I am a diabetic and did not know the advantages of sweet potato before, this is interesting and good to know. I will begin to consume them more. It really has just been in the last few years that I have eaten them out of a passion for their taste and have prepared them in different ways for variety.
Sweet potatoes are so beneficial besides its great taste that just make these veggies a must for your garden. Sweet potatoes love sunlight so as long as they get 5-6 hours of sunlight. So sorry to hear that you are a diabetic but the good news is sweet potatoes is great for your diet because the sugars are natural.
They are not hard to grow and they should be somewhat the seem as growing other potatoes. So good to know that you are taking advantage of these veggies. Wishing you the best with your garden project and please let me know how it goes. Have a good day.
what I understood here on your post is, the sweet potato is not closely related botanically to the common potato?, But i guess, they shared some etymology. Right?..
I really need to learn how to grow sweet potato in my garden And I must follow the step elaborated here on your post. Thanks very much for this!And i heard, sweet potatoes are very sensitive to aluminum toxicity. So, can Sweet Potato be grown in poor soils with fertilizer?
thanks Dear, Hoping to see your reply.
Hello so nice to hear from you. Sweet potatoes are very delicious and they are a part of the potatoe family. Here is a link that will help you to build your poor soil so that you can grow sweet potatoes successfully. Hope this help and please let me know how it goes. Have a good day.
I love sweet potatos, even more than potatos. The only food I grow myself are lemons from a lemon tree in my garden. They are the biggest, juicest lemons ever and the tree has the most beautiful flowers.
Growing sweet potatos looks a but harder, how depth would my soil be at least? I am concerned that they space that I have available is not big enough.
Hello, sweet potatoes are really great and has such a delicious taste. If you have limited space then you can try planting a container garden. Here is a post that I did sometime back that may offer some help. Please let me know how it goes,