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Sweet potatoes (Ipomoea batatas) are incredibly versatile vegies to grow at home. It doesn’t matter what size space you have either as they are easy to grow in both garden beds and pots.

There are a few different varieties of sweet potato to choose from, and they differ in colour and taste. They are grouped according to their skin colour: the common orange flesh variety ‘Beauregard’ and ‘Orleans’, the red skin (often mistaken for purple skin) ‘Northern Star’ or the white-skin-purple-flesh ‘Murasaki’ and ‘Hawaiian Sunshine’.

Sweet potatoes are vines and if given the space, they will ramble and set down roots – so take care on where you choose to grow them in the garden. When planting, we recommend purchasing slips from nurseries or obtain cuttings from friends, family or neighbours. It’s best not to use produce bought from the supermarket, as it is not guaranteed to be disease-free.

Location

Sweet potatoes grow best in warm climates – they will not tolerate frost. Plant in a spot that receives between 6-8 hours of full sun, with protection from strong winds.

Soil

The soil should be friable, moist, and well-drained. Prior to planting, use a fork to break up the soil and enrich with plenty of compost and organic matter, like Yates Dynamic Lifter Soil Improver & Plant Fertiliser. If planting in pot, choose a pot at least 500 mm wide and only plant one vine per pot (see How to grow sweet potato in a pot for detailed instructions).

Fertiliser

Once leaves appear, feed regularly with Yates Thrive Vegie and Herb Liquid Plant Food.

Water

Water regularly to keep the soil moist. Once established, sweet potatoes are quite hardy and can tolerate dry periods, but they will grow better if regularly watered.

Pests and diseases

The most common pest of sweet potatoes is the sweet potato weevil. The larvae of the sweet potato weevil feed on the tubers, causing them to be riddled with holes that eventually spoil the harvest. The damage is normally not noticeable until tubers are harvested. Unfortunately, there is no current treatment for the sweet potato weevil.

Harvest

Tubers are ready to harvest once the leaves yellow and die down. Use a fork to gently lift the soil and reveal the tubers. But you don’t have to wait for the tubers to fully form to enjoy the plant – the leaves can also be harvested and eaten raw, sautéed or stir-fried.

How to grow sweet potato in a garden

  1. Choose a sunny spot in your garden with well-drained soil. Enrich with Yates Dynamic Lifter Soil Improver & Plant Fertiliser.
  2. Start plants from either cuttings or slips.
  3. Cuttings: Bury soft tip cuttings directly to the prepared soil: 40-50 cm apart, 5-7 cm deep with 100 cm between rows.
    Slips: Plant the slip in a box of moist sand and position in a warm spot. When shoots appear, cut and place them in water to develop roots before planting.  
  4. Feed weekly with Yates Thrive Vegie and Herb Liquid Plant Food for leaf harvesting, no additional fertiliser needed for tuber harvesting. 
  5. Harvest by digging up the tubers carefully in early winter, when leaves turn yellow.
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How to grow sweet potato in a pot

  1. Choose a pot at least 500 mm wide and deep and position in a sunny spot. Fill with quality potting mix, such as Yates Potting Mix with Dynamic Lifter. Plant cuttings or slips and water in well.
  2. Water regularly through summer to ensure good sized tubers. Feed weekly with Yates Thrive Vegie and Herb Liquid Plant Food for leaf harvesting, no additional fertiliser needed for tuber harvesting. 
  3. Harvest by digging up the tubers carefully in early winter, when leaves turn yellow.

How to grow sweet potato indoors

There is a growing trend to grow sweet potatoes in a glass of water and display them as indoor plants. While they won’t sprout tubers, they do look rather fascinating with the vines growing sculpturally from the head of the tuber. You can even use sweet potatoes you have purchased from the supermarket, or it’s the perfect project for ones that have been sitting in the pantry for a while. Here’s how:

  1. Fill a glass jar or vessel with water. Ensure its large enough to house half the sweet potato and developing roots.
  2. Insert the sweet potato into the jar and allow the tip of the base to be submerged in water. Insert toothpicks into the sides of the sweet potato to help hold it in place.
  3. Position the sweet potato in a bright spot and change the water at least twice a week or earlier, if it becomes murky.

Growing tips

  • Planting on a raised ridge makes for better drainage and easier harvesting. 
  • Cure fresh tubers in the sun for a few days before storage. 
  • Gold skin, orange flesh: Beauregard, Orleans.
  • Red skin, white flesh: Northern Star.
  • White skin, purple flesh: Murasaki, Hawaiian Sunshine.


Project guides & articles

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Cauliflower

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Alfalfa

Alfalfa sprouts grow quickly, sprouting in just 3 to 5 days. You can grow them in a glass jar or a small tray & are great fun for kids.

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