In addition to being a certified herbalist and aromatherapy consultant, Gina finds the unrelenting allure of gardening very strong.
Sweet Potatoes Are a Super Food
The sweet potato is often considered a staple food at Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners and has been referred to as a "super food" due to a large number of vitamins and antioxidants it contains. Packed with both nutrients and a sweet flavor, sweet potatoes are:
- One of the most versatile and healthful vegetables available.
- Chock-full of disease-preventing, cancer-fighting, and immune-boosting benefits.
- Good sources of the anti-inflammatory nutrients vitamins A and C, making them an excellent food choice for those suffering from arthritis or asthma.
- Great for people with diabetes because they rank low on the glycemic index and have less of an effect on blood glucose levels.
If you don't have room for a full garden but want to grow sweet potatoes, you might consider container gardening as an option. They grow well in containers, and the container offers additional protection against slugs and other pests that might damage the plants in a standard garden.
What You Will Need
- Large container. Avoid metal containers. Clay is great, and a whiskey barrel makes a fine choice.
- Potting soil or homemade potting medium.
- 15-30-15 fertilizer (eventually). I also use Moringa liquid fertilizer.
- Sweet potato slips.
What Are Sweet Potato Slips (Cuttings)?
Whether grown in the garden or as container-grown sweet potatoes, these vegetables are planted from slips, which is another word for cuttings. These slips may be purchased from the local nursery or ordered online, or you can grow them yourself.
Step 1: Drill Drainage Holes in the Pot
Be sure the pot has four or more holes for drainage. I also drilled the sides of the container.
Step 2: Choose a Sunny Area
These plants love warm days and nights.
Step 3: Fill the Pot With Soil
Potted sweet potatoes prefer well-draining, sandy soil with added compost.
- Fill the container and create a raised area on one side of the container with the soil.
- Lay down the slips across the mound with the roots at the lowest end of the soil.
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Step 4: Cover and Water
Cover the slips with soil, then water them to prevent transplant shock.
Tip: Plan Ahead for a Trellis
Sweet potatoes are a vine and want to grow horizontally across the ground. If you don't want them growing all over your yard, try to build some sort of trellis for them to grow vertically on. However, they are not natural climbers. They are runners, so you have to train them to climb, but encourage the runners to go toward the trellis. Don't prune them, or trim them, as they will be feeding the tubers.
When Do You Harvest Sweet Potatoes?
When to harvest sweet potatoes depends largely on the seasonal growing. In order to grow a good crop, you need:
- adequate water
- sunshine (hot weather)
- to wait 100–150 days after planting, depending on the variety
A good rule of thumb is to watch for the first signs of yellowing leaves. Usually, this occurs in late September or early October before the first frost.
How to Harvest Sweet Potatoes
How to harvest them is every bit as important as how to plant them, since sweet potatoes have delicate skin that is easily bruised or broken.
- Don't toss them around after harvesting.
- If you are using a garden fork, be sure you sink it far enough out from the plants to avoid hitting and damaging the tender roots.
- Don’t toss the freed potatoes into your carrying container. Place them carefully.
- If you do happen to damage any, set those deeply-cut roots aside to be eaten first.
- Don't wash them! Washing the newly dug roots is another common mistake made by many home gardeners. Leave the dirt on during the curing process. Newly dug roots should be handled as little as possible and moisture should never be added.
Gallery: My Harvest
How to Store and Cure Sweet Potatoes
You can have homegrown tubers for months past the growing season if you know how to store them. Sweet potato storage requires careful curing to prevent mildew and trigger the formation of sugar-producing enzymes.
What You Need for Curing
- about 10 days
- an area with a temperature of 80-85 F (27-29 C) and with high relative humidity
What You Need for Storing
- a cool, dry place between 55-60 F(13-16 C).
You may also freeze or can, if desired.
Pros and Cons of Container Gardening
- Great for small, limited spaces
- Good option when in-ground soil is poor quality
- Can be inexpensive
- Soil can dry out faster, so you may need to water every day
- Can yield a smaller harvest or smaller potatoes
- Plants can become root-bound
Sweet Potato Recipes
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2017 Gina Welds
Jennifer Cork on June 09, 2018:
Thank you for the information. Can you tell me why metal containers should be avoided? If an old washtub has drainage holes drilled into it, what kinds of problems would the metal create?
Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on July 23, 2017:
No, I did not know that I can eat the sweet potato leaves. I do know that I like sweet potato pudding. There are several other facts to be gleaned from this article. Thanks also for the clear instructions and pictures.
Gina Welds (author) from Tampa, Florida on July 22, 2017:
Hi BlossomSB. Thank you. I just took a look at your hub. I have saved some pieces of the vine, and they are already rooting. I'm excited to see if they make sweet potatoes as well.
Bronwen Scott-Branagan from Victoria, Australia on July 22, 2017:
Some really good photos accompanying this article. Have you seen my hub: 'How to grow sweet potatoes in a container', published in April last year?
Gina Welds (author) from Tampa, Florida on July 22, 2017:
Thank you, Martha and Chitrangada Sharan. I am so glad you found the article helpful. It certainly was an exciting journey in growing the sweet potatoes. Thanks for stopping by.
Chitrangada Sharan from New Delhi, India on July 22, 2017:
Excellent hub about growing sweet potatoes!
You have explained all that is needed to know to do it yourself and in such a simple way.
Thanks for sharing the pictures and the precautions one must keep in mind .
Martha Bienert on July 21, 2017:
This article covers each phase of growing the sweet potatoes and offers great information. It is very helpful. Thank you.