Sweet potato growing tips make growing this starchy, sweet-tasting, tuber easy. It is already one of the easiest vegetables to grow in the tropics. Sweet potato (Ipomoea batatas) belong to the bindweed or morning glory family of plant.
Cultivars of the sweet potato have been bred to bear tubers with flesh and skin of various colours. Darker coloured sweet potatoes are referred to as ‘yams’ in much of North America.
Sweet Potato Growing Tips – Propagation
Location and Soil
Sweet potato grows unbelievably well in the tropics. If the paw paw is our pick for the ‘easy to grow fruit’ in the tropics, then the sweet potato is the ‘easy to grow vegetable’. Once planted it is almost unstoppable!
One of our key sweet potato growing tips is to use crumbly loose soil that has organic material in it. This is by far the best home for this tropical vegetable. In contrast, boggy water-logged soil should be avoided, as any tubers that grow there could rot.
Time needed: 4 minutes.
How to grow sweet potatoes from vine.
Select a location for your sweet potato. Make sure you have enough space for a sprawling vine. Make sure the area is in full sun and drains well.
Place all your cuttings and existing vine where you want to grow your new crop.
Cover the vine with a thin layer of compost and/or well rotted manure. If you only have dirt to cover it, you can add some blood and bone to give it a kick start.
- Water and Wait
Water if it is dry or let a tropical downpour do it for you. New shoots will emerge from the soil after a few days.
After 4 – 5 months, you should be able to dig up your sweet potato tubers.
Yes. You can buy one from the shop and plant it in your garden.
Sweet Potato Growing Tips – Care
Fertilising Sweet Potato
When located with a good growing medium, I find that you don’t need much fertiliser. After harvesting, I simply gather the old vine and place it in the chosen location and cover it with sheep manure. Likewise, you could loosely cover the old vine with soil and sprinkle some blood and bone on the top and water in.
That should be all the fertilising that is needed until the next harvest time in 4 to 6 months.
After they are established, sweet potatoes do not need a lot of water to survive. However, it is best to keep the planted area moist with one inch of water once a week. One should not water in the last three weeks before harvesting. Stopping water helps to prevent the tubers from splitting.
Pests and Disease
Many pests can reduce the quality and yield of your crop. However, soil insect pests that damage the roots directly are the most troublesome pests.
Foliage feeding insects can harm the plants indirectly, but usually only at very high numbers. Personally, I am happy to share my leaves with a few grasshoppers, as there is always more than enough foliage for both of us.
Sweet Potato Weevil
The biggest enemy of growers is the sweet potato weevil. The adult weevil attacks both the vines and the tubers. This weevil is a great cause of crop loss in developing countries.
Sweet Potato Root Knot Nematode
The sweet potato root knot nematode is the major nematode pest in the tropics. This pest attacks fibres and roots, allowing other pathogens to penetrate the plant through the wounds.
Whiteflies are common pests of many plants. However, the species, Bemisia tabaci, is a particularly serious pest of sweet potato.
White oil sprays can bring the whiteflies under control. You must spray the underside of leaves and buds, because this is where the whiteflies congregate. It is best to spray after 5pm to reduce the chance of leaves getting sunburnt.
- White oil:
- 3 tablespoons (1/3 cup) cooking oil in 4 litres water.
- ½ teaspoon detergent soap.
- Shake well and use.
Eating Sweet Potato
The young leaves can be plucked from the vine and eaten as greens.
Once, you have scrubbed clean your tubers they can be eaten with or without the skin.
You can eat the tubers steamed, mashed or roasted or indeed in stews or salads. In addition you can find many recipes online.
It’s rich in the antioxidant beta carotene, which is effective in raising blood levels of vitamin A, particularly in children.
You should avoid foods that contain high amounts of added salt. Instead, consume more potassium-rich foods to maintain a healthy cardiovascular system. Indeed, sweet potato is a good source of potassium and can assist in reducing blood pressure.
Antioxidants such as beta-carotene can help prevent cellular damage caused by free radicals. If levels of free radicals in the body get too high, cellular damage can occur, which increases the risk of some conditions.
Sweet potatoes contain fibre that is essential to gut health and in helping to prevent constipation. This can also reduce chances of colorectal cancers.
This healthy and easy to grow vegetable is a great addition to any tropical garden.