Sweet potatoes (Ipomoea batatas) is a tropical plant in which the root has a deep-orange skin jacket, which is commonly served by many people today in mashed form.
A single potato can produce a large harvest of sweet-tasting root vegetables sweet potato is very popular but mainly grown in South Africa, simply because sweet potato requires warm weather conditions.
However, in this article, we’ll be covering a lot, ranging from how to grow this vegetable and also how to manage/care and harvest, if sweet potato is your thing, then this article is for you, so let’s get into it.
Sweet potato, as mentioned earlier is commonly popular and it is a nutritious tasting root vegetable, packed with a lot’s health benefits, which you might not know, also you should know that sweet potato has diverse kinds of varieties.
Sweet potato, is not just a regular potato compared to Irish potato, the edible portion of this vegetable is a tuber, and according to updated surveys, it has shown that sweet potato is mostly consumed than Irish potato due to its sweet nature compared to Irish potato which has a mild taste.
Sweet potato, belongs to the morning glory family of vegetables, and it is used as pie filling, however as a tropical plant it is undemanding, and it is both heat-and-drought tolerant, and also a good choice for planting because it has fewer pest’s and disease’s, this crop is tagged undemanding because it has just four months of warm weather and warm soil, it is more of a Southern crop, although there are other varieties of this crop that is also grown in the Northern regions.
It is very nutritious it is extremely low in calories, a very good source of beta-carotene, some of the minerals contained in this tropical plant include;
- Vitamin And C, and others.
Sweet potato, lasts longer in terms of storage, than winter squash, you can research the winter squash as it is not part of this context.
Criteria’s for Growing Sweet Potato Farm
Below are the recommended phases to plant, grow and take good care of your sweet potato farm;
(1) Planting Phase
Take note that sweet potatoes are not growing by planting seeds into the soil, rather they are grown from “Slips”.
What are Slips?, these are just sprouts from existing sweet potatoes, Slips are available at local garden centers and nurseries and from local farmers or a mail-order company. Or, you can start your own (see methods below).
Before getting the slips for planting, make sure you have a long enough growing season, you have to consider this because most varieties will take about 90-120 days to mature, also employ good planting dates to ensure that the growing stage is within the warm season, when you receive the slips, unpack them right away. Stick the roots in water for a day or so, and they’ll perk up.
How Can I Start My Plants?
You might be wondering at this stage, how you can go about starting your plant without using the slips because slips are sometimes scarce and above it is stressful planting with slips, to plant look for existing organic sweet potatoes at any store or sweet potato farm.
After getting the potatoes, next is to store them in a cool dark place (at 55 degrees Fereinheight) until mid-April or about 90 days, after this place the potatoes in containers on top of each organic and well-draining soil, make sure to leave space between each potato.
Cover each of the potatoes with a little amount of soil, and water to keep it damp, ensure you maintain the soil and the room temperature at 75°F to 80°F (use a heating map if necessary) in sunlight.
Cut of the slips from the sweet potatoes, roots attached. (If no roots form, remove the slip and place it in water; roots will appear in 1 to 2 weeks.)
If it is too soon to plant, stand the slips in potting mix or sand and keep moist until planting time.
(2) Hardening Off Phase
Harden off the slips over 1 to 2 weeks, exposing them to filtered sunlight. If you purchase slips, plant them as soon as conditions are right.
Sweet Potato Planting Guide
(1) Preparing Site and Planting
Using existing sweet potatoes;
Choose a sunny spot with well-drained soil. Sweet potatoes aren’t too picky, but they do prefer soil on the sandier side and need plenty of air space in the soil for roots to reach down.
When getting land for your farm, make sure you get a site that is exposed to sun, and also well-drained, sweet potatoes prefer sandier soils for air to circulate well in the root, If your soil is clay, rocky, or compacted, consider raised beds, also there should be enough space for vines to run.
During the land preparation, make sure to mix your soil with organic matter for the best result, avoid adding animal manure, including pelleted chicken manure, which can result in stained roots.
Planting the slips in the ground;
(i) After getting your slips on the ground, plant them on a warm day, when the temperature has reached 60*F.
(ii) Break off the lower sweet potato leaves, leaving only the top ones.
(iii) Plant in the slips in the soil and it should be deep enough to cover the roots and the stem up to the leaves, 12 to 18 inches apart.
(iv) Water with a high-phosphorus liquid fertilizer, then water generously for 7 to 10 days to make sure that the plants root well.
(2) Care Guide
The sweet potato plants should be Side-dressed 3 to 4 weeks after transplanting with 5-10-10 fertilizer. If you have sandy soil, use more.
Ensure that you weed the sweet potato beds regularly starting 2 weeks after planting.
Try as much as you can to avoid deep digging with a hoe that disturbs the feeder roots.
Water the plants regularly, in fact, it is very crucial, especially during mid-summer. Deep watering in hot, dry periods will help to increase yields.
Make sure you don’t prune the sweet potato vines, when you plant late in the season, make sure to reduce watering to avoid cracking of the tuber’s skin in storage.
(3) Pest and Disease Management
- You can employ the use of pesticides and insecticides, in handling pests and diseases like;
- Flea beetles
- Stem rot (Fusarium wilt)
- Sweet potato scurf
- White rust
(4) Harvest and Storage
(i) When you discover that the planted potatoes are big enough, then you can dig them up.
(ii) Harvest when the leaves and ends of the vines have started turning yellow or about 100 days from planting.
(ii) Loosen the soil around each plant to avoid injuring the tubers. Cut off some of the sweet potato vines.
(iv) Pull up the plant’s primary crown and dig up the tubers by hand. Handle the sweet potatoes carefully, as they bruise easily.
(v) Shake off any excess dirt; do not wash the roots.
Some Varieties of Sweet Potato
There are so many varieties of sweet potato, but only a few out many will be mentioned here, fastest-growing sweet potato varieties have orange flesh, but you might also consider varieties with white, yellow, or even purple flesh.
(1) Beauregard Sweet Potato: A local of Louisiana, which takes approximately 90 days to mature, it also grows well in the north, too. It has dark red roots, dark orange flesh, and stores well.
(2) Centennial Sweet Potato: It is considered the leading variety in the United States. It is carrot-colored and has a good storage life. It is also a good producer for the North, grows and matures within 100 days.
(3) Georgia Jet Sweet Potato: Red skin covers moist, deep orange flesh. Extremely fast-growing type; good for the North, grows and matures within 110 days.
(4) Jewel Sweet Potato: It has copper-colored skin and orange flesh; disease-resistant; stores well, grows, and matures within 100 days.
(5) Stokes Sweet Potato: Offers a vibrant purple color and is full of extra health benefits; cooks well in savory dishes and mashes.
(6) Vardaman Sweet Potato: It is a bush type and good for small gardens; it has unique blue/purple foliage, golden skin, and reddish-orange flesh; stores well.
(7) White Yam Sweet Potato: It is also called ‘White Triumph’. White skin covers dry white flesh. One of the oldest sweet potato varieties; tubers grow on compact vines.
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