Sweet Potatoes are one of the easiest and most popular crops to grow in Zone 9 during the warmer months of summer. These plants are rather low maintenance and are undemanding of soil type and require little additional nutrients through out its growth cycle.
Sweet Potatoes have very few soil requirements other than the soil is loose, loamy and drains well. The loose soil allows for the potatoes to grow freely without restrictions from hard packed soil and rocks. Sweet Potatoes have been known to grow very well in everything from sandy soil to clay soil that has been loosened.
When selecting an area to grow Sweet Potatoes it is important to note that they grow as a vine that can sprawl and take over anything in the area. Select an area that receives ample sunlight and is not close to any other crop that it may suffocate. The area should also be away from foot traffic to avoid soil compaction.
Sowing Sweet Potatoes
The best time to sow Sweet Potatoes is in the late spring, however, many gardeners have had success sowing them all the way through mid summer. Most Sweet Potatoes are sown using slips (small plants provided by nurseries that are started from a crop of Sweet Potatoes). Plant these slips deep enough to cover all of the roots and about 1/2 inch of the stem. Within a few weeks these slips will grow into sprawling vines.
Cutting from vines can also be used to start new plants. Cut about 4 inches off the end of a vine and use any of the popular rooting techniques, then transplant the new plant to the garden.
Sweet Potatoes are VERY low maintenance. Many gardeners use them as a “plant them and forget them” type crop and have quite a bit of success with this technique. To help inusre the best possible harvest, here are a few tips:
- Water lightly, but consistently to keep the soil slightly moist
- Lightly fertilize the plants with a 5-10-10 NPK fertilizer once or twice during the growing season.
- Periodically check for nematodes
Most gardeners will being harvesting sweet potatoes around October. Start by digging up one plant by hand and checking to see if the potatoes are large enough and have a firm texture. This crop can be harvested as late as the first frost. Just keep an eye on them to make sure they dont grow to large and firm.