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Growing sweet potatoes is easy and it’s exciting for the kids to grow things under the ground. It’s amazing when you see that so much has been going on underground. Learn to grow how to grow sweet potatoes at home! And check out this month by month garden planning guide to help you know when to plant!
✔Here’s a link to a great vegetable garden planner you can print right out and use at home! So cute!
At Little Sprouts we’ve had many struggles with growing white potatoes, but SWEET POTATOES are another story. We have had bumper crops every time so far. It’s so much fun to get a huge return for your work. Or for how to build a potato tower, check this out.
We LOVE sweet potatoes and eat them year round. They are a superfood that is delicious and very healthy for us. The kids like them roasted, baked, fried, or even mashed. They are full of antioxidants and lots of nutrients.
Do sweet potatoes grow underground?
So how do we get these tasty little gems of loveliness to grow? Sweet potatoes start with a slip. You can grow your own slips by taking a sweet potato and placing it in a glass of water. You can put three toothpicks around the potato to suspend it in the glass if you wish. Make sure to get an organic potato or one you’ve harvested the year before.
Conventional store-bought potatoes are treated with anti-sprouting chemicals that prevent them from growing sprouts. Once your sweet potato begins to sprout, the shoots will grow straight upward. When they are 4-6 inches tall, you can break them off and plant them in the ground.
You can also purchase slips for sweet potato vine from garden supply stores or catalogs. This year we ordered ours from Seed Saver’s exchange. When they come, they are fairly dry and don’t look like much, but stick them in the ground and give them some water, you’ll be amazed at how fast they get to work!
You’ll need to plant them in full sun about 2 feet apart and they grow A LOT! In Oklahoma, planting time for slips is between May and June. Just take the dry little slip you get, dig a small hole in your soil about 1-2 inches deep, enough to bury all the roots, place the roots in the hole and replace the dirt back around it. Pat it down about as hard as you would rub your eye. Then water them in. Your sweet potato vine will start growing in just a few weeks.
When growing sweet potatoes, you don’t need to water your sweet potato vine a lot, they are pretty drought tolerant and the less water, as long as the vine looks healthy, the better your sweet potatoes will taste. One year we had a ton of rain and we got giant tubers that were less concentrated in flavor. They were still good.
Beauregard sweet potatoes slips
There are many varieties of sweet potato vine to choose from. We even tried purple ones. They were so pretty, but we really didn’t like the flavor (or texture) that much. I’m sure there are many good kinds, but we like to stick with Beauregard when we plant.
As the sweet potatoes grow, they produce the most beautiful vines. The leaves of the sweet potato vine are actually edible as well. You can use them as you would any other greens. The vines are voracious so make sure you have a sturdy trellis or large area for them to sprawl.
As fall approaches, your sweet potato vines should begin to produce flowers. You can start digging your potatoes any time after you see flowers appear. This is the signal the growth is slowing down.
We are in the middle of harvesting sweet potatoes. We harvested one of our beds and got around 60 pounds of sweet potatoes from one 3 x 10 raised bed. Next, we will harvest sweet potatoes from the other one right before it gets cold. I don’t remember ever seeing flowers on it yet, so we are giving it some more time.
More information on how to build raised beds, build a trellis for your plants, and basic gardening information you need is available here in these beginning gardening videos. Click here for more information. You can even download a tour of what types of beds we have in our preschool gardens for free.
When to harvest sweet potatoes
Make sure to harvest sweet potatoes before your first frost. If you miss it and the leaves do get frost, harvest them immediately because the frosted leaves can cause the sweet potatoes to begin to rot in as little as a day.
Growing sweet potatoes is one of the most rewarding things we do. The kids love to plant the slips and the LOVE finding the treasures as we dig in the dirt. They love comparing the shapes and sizes and trying to find the biggest one.
Be careful when harvesting sweet potatoes or white potatoes as your tools can damage them. If the kids scratch the potato a little, it usually will heal itself, but watch and make sure you don’t see signs of spoilage in those areas. With little kids, you are most likely going to get some damage during harvest.
There are very few pests that bother sweet potatoes. Voles may eat a few of the tubers on occasion. We haven’t had any problems with animals at all in our first 4 years of growing them, thank goodness. Rabbits may eat sweet potato leaves, but it won’t hurt the growth of your tubers. Grasshoppers will chew on the leaves, but they still seem to keep on growing, so that’s not really a concern that we have seen. Other than that, I have not heard of anything bothering them. They are a fairly worry and fuss-free growing project.
If you have never tried growing sweet potatoes, I would totally recommend you give it a whirl. Our raised beds have about 10 inches of soil in them and that’s plenty to give us bumper crops of yummy goodness. The sweet potato vine adds a ton of beauty to your garden as well. Grow some yummy sweet potatoes with your little ones (or on your own), you won’t be sorry!
In the correct storage environment, your sweet potatoes can last months at room temperature. You never want to refrigerate them or let them get too hot. A cool dark room or cabinet is all you need to have sweet potatoes well into the winter without any special work.
Make sure you store them where they can get air, don’t cover them with plastic. A nice basket or box is great. You just need to cure them first.
Curing sweet potatoes
Spread your sweet potatoes out in a warm place for about a week to let the sugars set and the skins toughen and most of them will store great. We put them in single layers in plastic totes and put them in our attic for a week or two.
Be careful to watch for blemishes or bad spots. Cut those off and use those potatoes right away. Save the whole clean ones for storing. You can dust the dirt off of them, but make sure NOT to wash them or get them wet. This will encourage them to rot.
Before you put them in your box in the dark, make sure there aren’t any cuts or scratches on the sweet potato. This could cause it to rot, if you damaged any during harvest, just eat those first.
You can even make your own sweet potato casserole for the holidays!
Sweet potatoes are loaded with healthy stuff, click here to find out more.
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There are some crops that are easier to grow and are more nutrient and calorie dense that will save you the most money on your food budget as money gets tighter and tighter. Check out the essential crops to grow for a survival garden here.