You don’t have to wait for the holidays to get your sweet potato fix. Grow them yourself and harvest enough to keep yourself satisfied year-round.
Step 1: Start early Start your crop early, since sweet potatoes require 100 to 150 days to mature. Begin your slips indoors, about 12 weeks before transplantation.
TIP: For best results, start your slips from a tuber that is already disease resistant so that this resistance is passed on to your crop.
Step 2: Grow slips Grow slips by submerging the bottom third of a tuber in water until it sprouts. Then transfer individual sprouts of 6 inches or longer to their own growing medium to root.
Step 3: Plant slips Plant your slips outside when all danger of frost has passed. Transplant into mounds 8 inches high and 12 inches wide, with plants spaced 12 inches apart and rows spaced 3 to 4 feet apart.
TIP: If you don’t have the space that sweet potato vines require, consider a bush variety instead.
Step 4: Water them Water your sweet potatoes with an average of 1 inch per week, but make sure that the soil is well-drained. Excess moisture will rot the tubers. Stop watering 3 to 4 weeks before harvest.
Step 5: Care for them Apply low nitrogen fertilizer and pesticide to limit insect damage.
Step 6: Harvest Harvest your potatoes before frost can damage them. Use a gardening fork and start about 12 inches from the vine’s center, working your way inward.
Step 7: Cure them Leave your crop in the sun to dry for a few hours after harvest, and then move them to a dark, humid space for another 2 weeks to harden. After that, indulge your sweet tooth.
FACT: Although sweet potatoes are commonly called yams in the U.S., yams are actually a different family of plant that grows mainly in Africa.