Summer Planting: Sweet Potatoes
On this week’s episode, Travis is talking about how to plant and take care of sweet potatoes throughout the growing process. As a warm-weather crop, sweet potatoes are ideal for growing during the summer months because they love the hotter weather and don’t mind when it is dry. In the South, summer planting sweet potatoes can be anytime in May till late August. They typically take around 100 to 120 days to mature, therefore, you will need a 3 to 4 month window of time for summer planting. Once you harvest some of the spring crops from the garden we recommend to follow up the area by starting summer planting with sweet potatoes. Unlike Irish potatoes, we plant sweet potatoes from slips which are basically a sprout from the potato that you plunk off. It contains roots on the side that once planted in the ground it will start growing leaves and start bushing out from there. You can grow your own slips from sweet potatoes that were harvested previously in the garden. However, Travis recommends buying sweet potato slips from Steele Plant Company based in Gleason, Tennessee. When choosing a spot for planting sweet potatoes they will need plenty of room because they are a vining crop and tend to sprawl all around the soil surface. If you happen to plant the potatoes to close to another crop they will start to climb on the other crops and end up smothering them out. Once the rows are laid off using the wheel hoe, Travis will add good compost along the planting furrows before summer planting. When planting the slips they should be spaced about a foot apart in the vegetable garden. Instead of planting the slips up and down, Travis is going to plant them in the furrow horizontally and cover up almost the entire slip, leaving only a little bit sticking out. Another factor when planting sweet potatoes is they do not have to be planted on drip tape since they do not need a ton of irrigation throughout the growing season. Instead of using drip tape, Travis is going to use overhead watering to ensure he provides the plants with the needed amount of irrigation. For the first couple of days, the plants will look rather pitiful and will begin to perk up once the roots are established in the soil. Once the vines start to become more prevalent in the area you can begin to hill the sweet potatoes or throw soil to the middle of the plant rows. Travis has not found where hilling the plants makes a significant difference, but it is a great technique for weed suppression or smothering out the weeds in the garden. Another technique that he has tried is trimming back the vines as they continue to grow during the summer planting months. Travis found that when trimming the vines back it makes it easier to harvest the sweet potatoes from the vegetable garden.
Sweet Potato Varieties
There are several different sweet potato varieties that do well in the vegetable garden. Travis has grown a couple of different potato varieties such as Beauregard and Centennial. He mentions that the sweet potato variety that does the best in production in his garden is the Covington. However, upon recommendation from Steele, Travis is going to plant the Georgia Jets which is supposed to grow really well in the south. All of these sweet potato varieties have excellent storage life and are ideal for summer planting.