How to grow Sweet Potato

The sweet potato is a vegetable native to tropical America whose easy cultivation and exquisite flavor are making it one of the increasingly important foods that we have in the kitchen. To savor it, we can go to the supermarket and buy it, or grow it in the garden.

I recommend the second option, since that way you will know at all times the products you use to take care of it, thus ensuring you can taste a sweet potato of exquisite quality. If you don’t know how to do it, don’t worry . I will help you.

Index

  • 1 Sweet potato characteristics
    • 1.1 Most cultivated varieties in Spain
  • 2 How is it grown?
    • 2.1 Sowing
    • 2.2 Transplantation
    • 2.3 Planting in the garden
  • 3 Sweet potato maintenance
  • 4 Sweet potato pests and diseases
    • 4.1 Pests
    • 4.2 Diseases
  • 5 Properties
  • 6 How is the sweet potato cooked?

Sweet potato characteristics

sweet potato leaves

The sweet potato, also known as Malaga Potato, Sweet Potato, Sweet Potato, Sweet Potato or Sweet Potato, is a perennial plant that is grown as an annual and belongs to the botanical family Convolvulaceae. Its scientific name is Ipomoea batata , it is characterized by having large olive-green leaves, with nerves visible to the naked eye. The stems are long, and can reach up to 6m, and thin, green mottled with purple. 

The flowers are normally solitary, with 5 petals, pink to blue. Once they are pollinated, the fruit begins to ripen, which will end up being a globose, brown capsule, inside which the seeds will be found that are flat on one side and convex on the other.

Along with the roots, the false tubers grow , which are the sweet potatoes proper. They have a sweet flavor, and are tender.

Most cultivated varieties in Spain

There are many cultivars of sweet potatoes, both white and yellow sweet potatoes, but in Spain the most cultivated and, therefore, the easiest to obtain, are:

  • Malaga Yellow
  • Battles of Nerja
  • Californian
  • centennial
  • Eland
  • Lisa from Tucuman
  • red
  • Violet

How is it grown?

To have a good harvest it is necessary to take care of the plants regularly. This way they will have enough energy to develop strong and large tuberous roots (the false tubers). Thus, if you want to prepare delicious recipes with sweet potatoes, follow our advice:

Sowing

  1. The first thing to do is acquire the seeds in late spring.
  2. Once you have them, plant them in seedbed trays or in pots with a universal growing medium or a specific one for seedbeds. You’ll find both for sale at nurseries and garden stores.
  3. Next, water thoroughly, leaving the soil well soaked.
  4. Finally, place the seedbed in an area where it receives sunlight throughout the day.

They will germinate after two weeks.

Transplant

  1. When the seedlings are at least 10 cm tall, they should be removed from the pot.
  2. Then, the seedlings are separated, removing a little substrate from the roots, enough so that they can be disentangled.
  3. Next, plant each one in an individual pot of at least 20cm in diameter with the same substrates mentioned before (universal or for seedbeds).
  4. Water.

Plant in the garden

  1. If you want to grow in your garden, once you see roots coming out of the drainage holes you have to make a planting hole in it.
  2. Then remove the seedling from the pot.
  3. Then plant it in the ground.
  4. Water.

If you have two or more specimens, it is important that you leave a distance of about 25cm between them so that they can grow and develop well.

Sweet potato maintenance

sweet potato flower

You have your sweet potato plant, but how do you take care of it? If you have doubts about its maintenance, be sure to read:

  • Exposure : full sun.
  • Watering : Frequent, especially in the hottest months. It is recommended to water every 2 days in summer and every 3 the rest of the year.
  • Fertilizer : during the spring and summer it should be fertilized with liquid organic fertilizers, such as guano, following the instructions specified on the package.
  • Collection : when its leaves begin to dry, it will be time to collect its roots.
  • Propagation : by normal root cuttings in late winter/early spring. These are planted in pots with a sandy substrate (vermiculite, coconut fiber or akadama) or in peat and watered, preventing the substrate from drying out completely.

Sweet potato pests and diseases

Although it is a fairly resistant plant, unfortunately it can also have a series of problems, which are:

pests

  • Wireworm : the larva is golden in color and the rings are very marked. It feeds on roots, but can be easily combated with Chlorpyrifos.
  • Black Donut : This is a caterpillar that feeds on leaves and fruit. It can be combated with Bacillus thuriengensis, which is an ecological insecticide; or with Chlorpyrifos.

Diseases

  • Fusarium : is a fungus that attacks the neck of the root, necrotizing it. The first symptoms are yellowing and subsequent wilting of the leaves. The treatment consists of spacing out the irrigations and/or improving the drainage, and treating the plants with a systemic fungicide.
  • Mosaic : it is a virus that causes symptoms such as necrosis in some parts of the leaves, curling of the leaves, and of course mosaic. The only effective treatment is to remove the affected plants to prevent the others from becoming infected.
  • Virosis : there are many viruses that affect plants in general and sweet potatoes in particular, producing symptoms such as rickets, variegated petals, deformed leaves, or mosaics. It is difficult to know for sure if a plant has been infected, so when in doubt it is best to take a sample to a laboratory. If the diagnosis is finally confirmed, unfortunately only infected plants can be removed.

Properties

flowers_ipomoea_batatas

The sweet potato is an excellent vegetable that will help take care of your health almost without you realizing it. It is rich in vitamin C, and also contains minerals that are essential for the proper functioning of the body, such as magnesium, phosphorus and fiber.  And if that were not enough, 200 grams of sweet potatoes give you only 195 calories, so it helps you lose weight by not having fat.

But not only that, but you should also know that it has antioxidant properties  and will help prevent cataracts and cardiovascular problems .

How is the sweet potato cooked?

If you have never cooked it, do not be afraid of it: you can prepare the same recipes as with potatoes. It is roasted or cooked whole , then the skin is removed, and it is accompanied with, for example, a little salad and grilled cuttlefish. Delicious 😉 .

Of course, do not keep it in plastic bags or in the fridge , as it would spoil immediately. The ideal is to store it in a slightly humid, ventilated and cool place, where they can stay for up to a week.

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