Long-season varieties tend to produce more because the tubers will continue to grow in size until frost. A tuber grown in water will continue to produce slips until the tuber’s reserves are exhausted. Sweet potatoes can be harvested by various methods. Japanese beetles and other leaf-eating insects may cause light damage, but sweet potatoes are so vigorous that they usually outgrow foliage pest problems. Plant sweet potatoes about 12 to 18 inches apart, and allow 3 feet between rows so the vines will have plenty of room to run. In warmer climates, gardeners sometimes harvest eight or more tubers per sweet potato plant. Shake off soil, and then lay the unwashed sweet potatoes in a warm (80°F to 90°F), well-ventilated place for about 10 days. Before cooking, let unwashed sweet potatoes cure in a warm, well-ventilated area for 10 days. Harvest before frost because cool temperatures can reduce the quality of the potatoes and their ability to keep. Fortunately, you can avoid scurf by always planting certified, disease-free plants such as those sold by Bonnie. Too much nitrogen in the soil causes long, thin roots. Soil and Fertilizer. Many intensive gardeners space sweet potatoes 12 inches apart. And it’s blessed with the best upbringing a young plant can have: Miracle-Gro Head Start. Sweet potatoes are tropical perennial vines that belong to the same family as the morning glory. Use a garden fork to unearth tubers, starting at the edge of the patch and working your way in toward vines. If vines are wandering out of bounds, try turning them back into the vegetable garden. A long-season variety might produce eight or more tubers in the right conditions. They need a period to sit and “cure” to bring out their sweetness. One sweet potato should yield about 12 plants. Harvest sweet potatoes when the ends of the vines start to yellow. Good root development depends on there being plenty of air space in the soil (good aeration). In addition to considering tuber yield, you might want to know how many slips you can grow from a single tuber. This step is very important, as fresh, uncured potatoes do not bake as well. Again, be sure to read the label. After that, sweet potatoes can usually fend for themselves, though they do benefit from weekly deep watering during serious droughts. A shaded table outdoors and out of the rain works well. Plan to dig all sweet potatoes before frost. I put 5 sweet potatoes from last years crop into a glass of water each back in March. Sweet potatoes need a loamy soil with a pH between 5.0-6.5. Place each section in a jar or glass of water with half of the potato below the water and half above. Pull up the crown and use your hands to gather your sweet potatoes. Sweet potatoes are so willing to grow that plants accidentally dropped on the ground will take off and grow if the soil they land on is warm and moist. To avoid injuring tubers, find the primary crown of the plant you want to dig, and then use a digging fork to loosen an 18-inch wide circle around the plant. In colder climates, gardeners must use season-extending techniques. Nearly all sweet potato varieties will produce at least one pound per plant. Be sure to keep the slips watered well, especially during the first week. Growing sweet potatoes works best in loamy, well-drained soil. Use toothpicks to hold the potato in place (Image 1). The average yield per potato plant is roughly a half-dozen potatoes, and they grow best in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 6 through 12. Sweet potatoes are a tropical vine so they need several months of warm weather.
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