The Center for Science within the Public Interest placed sweet potatoes at the highest of its list of healthy foods. High in carotenoids, vitamin C, potassium, and fiber, sweet potatoes also are rich in complex carbohydrates, an important component of a healthy diet.
Because the sweet potato may be a tropical plant it needs an extended (four-to-five month) season to supply good-sized roots, which limits U.S. commercial production to the southern states. With new short-season varieties and modern gardening techniques, however, home gardeners in northern states can grow this nutritious vegetable. In fact, sweet potatoes are now grown altogether 50 states.
Sweet Potato Varieties
Beauregard matures in 90 days, making it an honest choice for brief growing seasons. Bush Porto Rico has short vines, ideal for gardens with limited space. Centennial produces an important yield of tapered or cylindrical roots, while Jewell features a narrow, cylindrical shape.
You should make certain to settle on cultivars that grow well in your climate. Your local cooperative extension can tell you which of them are the simplest sweet potatoes to grow where you reside. you’ll find the extension offices in your state here.
Sweet Potato Planting and Care
Sweet potatoes are grown from slips, also called transplants. you’ll grow slips from your own plants, but you’re less likely to transmit diseases if you purchase disease-free transplants from reputable nurseries.
Sweet potatoes need fertile, well-drained, sandy soil that’s slightly acidic (pH 5.6 to 6.5). A soil test will tell you if the soil needs amending to urge the proper pH and soil fertility. Mounds rows about one foot high to permit space for the roots to develop. Set plants twelve-to-eighteen inches apart in rows three feet apart. To warm the soil, gardeners in northern climates sometimes use black plastic with slits for the plants.
Plant slips within the garden three-to-four weeks after the frost-free date. Plant within the late afternoon to guard the roots against the recent sun, and keep the roots moist in the least times during the planting process. Set the plants into the bottom, but don’t cover the bud. Gently firm the soil around each plant, and water immediately.
For optimal growth and to avoid cracking, sweet potatoes need a good supply of water, a minimum of one inch per week.
Requirements for growing sweet potatoes vary consistent with the location. Your extension is a superb source of specific planting and maintenance information.
Sweet Potato Pests and Diseases
Insect and disease problems also vary by location. you’ll control damage from flea beetles, which affect young plants, by using row covers. to stop diseases from damaging your sweet potatoes:
· Plant disease-resistant starter plants. Centennial and Jewel, for instance, have resistance to the sweet potato leaf beetle and southern potato wireworm;
· Rotate crops so sweet potatoes aren’t grown within the same place for a minimum of three years; and
· Inspect plants for rot and lesions and immediately discard diseased plant parts.
Sweet Potato Harvesting
Harvest roots around the time frost kill the vines, which is about 130-170 days from planting for typical long-season cultivars. Or, you’ll harvest when the roots are small—“baby baker” size.
Sweet potatoes are vulnerable to damage during harvest, sunburn if roots are left exposed to the sun, excessive moisture that forestalls digging wounds from healing, and skinning and bruising during handling. to stop injury to delicate freshly dug roots, allow them to dry and cure before washing. If you propose to store your sweet potatoes you want to cure them at 80-85 degrees F and 85-90% humidity for about ten days.