Guide to Growing Sweet Potatoes in a Container
Sweet Potatoes: 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 the 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 it ranks low on the glycemic index and has 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
Sweet Potato Slips (Cuttings)
Whether grown in the garden or as container grown sweet potatoes, these vegetables:
- love warm days and nights
- are planted from slips (cuttings)
These slips may be purchased from the local nursery or or you can ordered online,grow them yourself, like I show you here.
Step 1: 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.
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 encouraging the runners to go toward the trellis. Don't prune them, or trim the, as they will be feeding the tubers.
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.
Step 4: Cover the slips with soil, then water to prevent transplant shock.
One Week Later:
3 Months Later:
4 Months Later:
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.
Is It Harvest Day Yet?
How to Harvest Sweet Potatoes
How to harvest them is every bit as important as when:
- 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.
- 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.
Did you know that you can eat the sweet potato leaves?
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.
For curing, you need:
- about 10 days
- an area with a temperature of 80-85 F (27-29 C) and with high relative humidity
For storing, you need:
- 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
This is one of my favorite recipes.
© 2017 Gina Welds Hulse