Growing Sweet Potatoes


by Elmer Krehbiel, Master Gardener
April 23, 2004

Sweet potatoes are a super source of vitamin A. A half-cup of sweet potato contains more than twice the daily amount of vitamin A needed for normal vision.

Sweet potatoes are rich in vitamins C, B-6, and manganese. They also assist in the functions of metabolism.

When to Plant Sweet Potato

Timing is one of the most important factors in developing a successful crop of sweet potatoes. The small plants (slips) should be set during the last of April or early May. If they are not available locally, slips may be ordered from some seed catalogs.

The preferred vine varieties of sweet potato are Jewel, Beauregard, Centennial, and Georgia Jets. The varieties for small spaces are Bush Puerto Rico and Vardaman.

Growing Conditions

Sweet potatoes grow and produce best when planted in well-drained fertile sandy-loam soils that are about one foot deep, or in raised beds about one foot high. The soil pH should be between 5.5 and 6.5.

In sandy soils with low fertility, sweet potatoes produce a smaller amount of smooth, high quality roots. In clay soils with high fertility, they grow a large amount of rough low-quality roots. In soils with poor drainage, sweet potatoes produce cracked, misshaped, and rough-skinned roots.

Sweet potato plants must be located in sunlight all day. Slips ought to be set one to two feet apart in a single or a double row. Slips should also be set down so three nodes are below the soil surface. Apply water to soak the soil.

Fertilizer & Mulch

Mulch can be applied under the lateral vines, or vines can be moved each week to prevent the nodes from developing secondary roots.

After one month, additional fertilizer should be applied monthly at the rate of one-half pound with a ratio of 1-2-2 for each 35 feet of row.

Gardeners should allow plenty of space for the vines, or tie them to grow up on a trellis.

More on Sweet Potatoes

Dr. Elmer Krehbiel is the former President of Keep Brazos Beautiful. See his column in The Eagle.