Sweet potatoes are tubers that grow under the ground just as white potatoes do, but there the resemblance ends. Above ground, the plants are sprawling vines that can take up a lot of room in the garden. Sweet potatoes are also a warm-weather crop. Hence it is needing four or even five months of fairly high temperatures to mature.
Nonetheless, gardeners can grow them in the northern climates. You can also adapt them to small gardens, either by choosing bush-type varieties or by growing them in containers. The sweet potato is a dicotyledonous plant that belongs to the bindweed or morning glory family, Convolvulaceae.
Sweet potatoes are an excellent source of vitamin A in the form of beta-carotene, and a good source of vitamin C, copper, manganese, Pantothenic acid, and vitamin B6. Furthermore, it is a very handy source of potassium, dietary fiber, niacin, vitamin B1, vitamin B2, and phosphorus.
For diabetic patients, it provided food that neutralizes their blood sugar level and increases their immune ability, which our human body kills off bad bacteria and viruses. Sweet potatoes do also contain incredible anti-inflammation agents that assist to decrease Crohn’s and chronic inflammatory disease and support many patients suffering from it. Sweet potato is rich in fiber-solvable food. If you have food poisoning, then it will purify your blood and detox the metal compounds and wastage’s in your body.
Select Site and Soil for Sweet Potatoes
Well, you need to select a site in full sun where sweet potatoes have not grown recently. They need warm soil and good drainage, so raised beds are appropriate. Moreover, the best kind of soil for sweet potatoes is a light, sandy loam, slightly aside, with plenty of phosphorus and potassium.
Too much nitrogen can produce rampant vines and distorted tubers. Sweet potatoes are not cut up and planted but grown slips sprouts from the tuber. These slips are produced by placing the tuber, or just the round end of it, in moist sand, or by suspending it in a glass of water three toothpicks will hold it there.
Perhaps you did this when you were a child, just to see the sweet potato sprout. Change the water often, and when the slips are about 8 inches long, pull them off the tuber with a twisting motion. They are then ready for planting.
Plant the Sweet Potatoes
Southern gardeners save sweet potatoes from their fall crops and sporut them during the winter. Else they buy the slips and plant them in early spring. In the north, it is hard to find tubers to sprout that are good cold climate varieties so gardeners often order them by mail. They then wait for the soil to warm up usually about 2 weeks after the last frost. The process can be hastened, however, by using raised beds or just mounded up rows.
This will improve drainage too. The soil may also be warmed by laying black plastic over it the slips are then planted through slits cut in the plastic. Still another shortcut is to root the slips in sand or some other potting medium so that they will have developed good root systems by the time they are planted. This is also a handy way to hold them if they arrive in the mail before the soil is warm. They should be planted about a foot apart, with about 3 to 4 feet between rows. Make sure that at least 4 inches of each slip are in the ground.
Growing Sweet Potatoes
Once in the ground, the slips should be kept well watered to keep them from wilting. A cupful of liquid fertilizer per plant, especially one high in phosphorus that is designed for transplanting, will also help get them off to a good start. You will not see lush foliage immediately; the plant is working on its root system.
Moreover, while the tubers are developing they do not need a great deal of water since their roots go deep into the ground. The water supply should be moderate and steady. Heavy soaking during drought can cause the tubers to crack.
Pests and Diseases
If your sweet potatoes contract any of the rot diseases to which the plants are prone dip the slips in a fungicide next time you try growing them and rotate the crop. But do not expect a lot of problems from them, especially with northern crops.
Harvest Sweet Potatoes
Dig sweet potatoes when the foliage turns yellow and dies, or when frost cuts it down. The tubers should not be allowed to freeze. Use a digging fork, and lift them very carefully. Any that are nicked or bruised should be used right away. But the rest will store well, especially if cured for a week or two if possible at around 85 degrees to harden the skins. Then store them at 60 degrees or so in a moderately humid environment. Keep a few for sprouting if you want to repeat the same crop next year.
Varieties of Sweet Potatoes
Well, some good early varieties include the early ‘Porto Rico’ or ‘Bunch Porto Rico’ and ‘Jewel’. ‘Vardaman’ is a bush type and ‘White’ Yam is white-fleshed. A good variety for the north is ‘Centennial’.
Sweet potatoes are an excellent source of vitamin A in the form of beta-carotene, and a good source of vitamin C, manganese, copper, pantothenic acid, and vitamin B6. Additionally, they are a good source of potassium, dietary fiber, niacin, vitamin B1, vitamin B2, and phosphorus.