Tips 4 successfully growing Sweet Potatoes

ourhappyhome(7B)April 28, 2008

Last year I planted 25 sweet potato slips as a trial (Vardaman, Porto Ricos and Beauregard). They did horribly! I got fewer than 10 potatoes from that many plants. I didn't hill them because I read it wasn't necessary, but I did work the soil to a depth of 10 - 12 inches. I amended my red clay with sand and garden soil and watered once weekly until plants were established. It rained (I thought enough) so I didn't provide additional water. They were in full sun for most of the day.

Bottom Line, I'd like to give them another try. Hopefully with more success. I've ordered Centennial slips from tatorman.com, same as last year, and plan to put them out in early May. I'm in zone 7b Georgia.

Anyone out there have any advice for a country girl who loooves her sweet potatoes. What's the trick to getting a decent harvest? To hill or not to hill, secret fertilizer recipes, magic wands, etc.

I don't want many, but I surely expect more than I got last season. Is 10 potatoes per plant a reasonable expectation?

Thanks loads!

April

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goatster(7bGa)

I am in the same zone as you in West Central Georgia. Last year I bought my slips from a man on EBAY. The Georgia Ruby Reds. Wow they did fantastic. I think he is selling them again this year, but I opted to make my own slips. I just put some taters in a mason jar with water and in about 2 weeks I started noticing white roots then sprouts. I let the sprouts get about 6-8" in length and snap them off and plant them. I just keep them well watered and damp until I feel they have taken root. I don't recall fertilizing mine last year at all and I got a good yield. Seems to me like 10 per plant is a decent amount. I let mine grow until just before the first frost if possible.

    Bookmark   April 28, 2008 at 9:30PM
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denninmi(8a)

OK, I think they're actually a really easy crop to grow. Last year, I had a fantastic crop, about 2 bushels from 15 plants, and when I was reworking the ground a few weeks back to plant peas and fava beans, I found the frozen, mushy remains of at least 12 big sweets I never found when I was digging last fall - that was a bummer.

Some of the keys -- loose, sandy soil, lots of water, lots of fertilizer. Here in Michigan, I use black plastic because we need the extra heat, but that isn't an issue in Georgia.

Last summer was very, very dry for us (but nothing like you're going through in the Southeast). I watered my garden very deeply once a week, letting the sprinklers run for 4 to 5 hours, which probably put on 2 to 3 inches of water. And, I fertilized 4 times -- early June, mid June, early July, and mid-late July, with Bayer Advanced all-purpose fertilizer, which has a time-release formula.

Because I was planting through black plastic, I didn't hill them up -- never have done this with sweet potatoes or regular potatoes, for that matter.

And yes, I would say about 10 potatoes per plant was what I got last year, or close to that, maybe more like 8, I'm not really sure. A lot of mine were what I would call a "jumbo" -- really big, like the biggest ones you'd ever find in the supermarket, if not larger. One was so big it was almost scary -- I bet it was 2 1/2 lbs.

    Bookmark   April 28, 2008 at 9:31PM
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ourhappyhome(7B)

Great tips. Sounds like I fell short in the watering department. Goatster, do you have sandy soil? Just wondering since you had such success. Email me if you'd be interested in a trade by mail. I'd love to try one of those potatoes. SP are super easy to root. Just snip and dip.

Denninmi, 2 bushels from 15 plants is amazing. I have some of the bayer fertilizer. Seems I remember reading that SP don't like much fertilizer. I think I was being too careful and didn't give them enough. May have been a little short of sand as well. I think I'll try the mounding method with black plastic this year. I've got the perfect spot set-aside. Just needs more sand.

One last question. How far apart to you position plants?

    Bookmark   April 29, 2008 at 9:46PM
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denninmi(8a)

I put mine about 18 inches apart last year, so that they would have lots of room to spread. I just had a single row.

    Bookmark   April 29, 2008 at 11:22PM
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sinfonian(U8b A2 S5 SeaWA)

I have no idea if sweet potatoes grow anything like regular potatoes, but my research for normal potatoes (for me I'm growing a russet and yukon gold variety). I don't have much space so I'm going with Build-As-You-Grow Bins. It's an alternative to get upwards of 100 pounds of potatoes per bin.

Here is a link that might be useful: Build-As-You-Grow Bins page...

    Bookmark   April 30, 2008 at 12:18AM
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goatster(7bGa)

I have clay soil. The area my garden is in was once a cow pasture/watering area. I think it is probably very fertile :)I space mine 12-15" apart and still make plenty. I don't normally fertilize them. I just plant the slips, keep them well watered until they root and forget em.

    Bookmark   April 30, 2008 at 6:09AM
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larry_c(z6 Stl. Mo.)

All right. You made me do it. I just bout 5 long skinny sweet potatoes from shop til ya drop. Is that too many? I would likne to plant 2 ridges about 11 foot long.

I read that the ridges should be 10" high. How far apart? 2 feet?

CrAzY LaRrY

    Bookmark   April 30, 2008 at 9:47PM
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ourhappyhome(7B)

Mine are in one long row, but 2 feet apart sounds about right. Also, many people don't ridge. They just plant soil in pre-worked soil. I will be mounding up to about 8 inches and covering with black mulch. Good Luck CL

    Bookmark   May 1, 2008 at 5:13PM
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