Sweet Potatoes are a warm-season crop that grows best in long, hot growing seasons, preferring fertile, well-drained soils. For more information on sweet potatoes, click here.
VARIETIES: Sweet potatoes are classified as either soft-fleshed or firm-fleshed. The soft-fleshed varieties are sweet, have orange flesh and are often called yams. The firm-fleshed varieties have light orange, yellow or even white flesh and can be stored for longer periods of time. Beauregard, Bush Porto Rico, Jewel and Sumnor are a few of both varieties that grow well in Utah.
Before planting, incorporate 4 to 6 inches of well-composted organic matter and apply 1 to 2 lbs of all purpose fertilizer per 100 square feet. Work fertilizer into the soil to a depth of 6 inches. For more information on soil preparation, click here.
- Sweet potatoes are grown from slips, which are plant sprouts from the root.
- Plant slips in rows 3 to 4 inches apart, spaced 12 inches apart in the row.
- Good slips should have four to five leaves and a healthy root system.
Irrigation: Sweet potatoes are quite drought tolerant. Provide ample watering after planting and as the roots are establishing. However, they should be watered in moderation as the plants mature. Late watering can cause root cracking. For more information on watering, click here.
Fertilization: In addition to the fertilizer applied at planting, sweet potatoes should be side-dressed with additional nitrogen fertilizer at ½ lb per 100 square feet in July for optimum vine growth. For more information on fertilizing, click here.
Harvest: Sweet potatoes can be harvested once the roots are 1 ½ to 2 inches thick. Some roots may be harvested starting in late summer by digging into the side of the bed and removing some developing roots while leaving the plant in place. Most gardeners wait until the foliage starts to turn yellow or after the first frost damages the leaves, but before the soil freezes to harvest sweet potatoes. When properly cured, sweet potatoes can be stored for three to four months.
COMMON PESTS AND DISEASES: Aphids, loopers and root rot are common pests of sweet potatoes. Appropriate insecticides at seeding or strong water streams are both effective ways to control sweet potato pests. For more information on controlling pests and diseases, click here.