Growing Sweet Potatoes:
Sweet Potatoes are native to Central and South America and it's from the Morning Glory family.
This is a warm climate vegetable and is loaded with Vitamin A, C, Protein, Calcium, Magnesium, Iron and Carotene.
It can be eaten raw and cooked in many different ways. I usually have my sweet potatoes baked. However, they are also good for desserts, breads, casseroles and soups.
How to Grow - Sweet Potatoes in Zone6:
I was surprised to see that I could grow Sweet Potatoes in my Zone6.
Grow Sweet Potatoes from Slips ( growths- sprouts - eyes on the sweet potato) Sweet potatoes will grow in poor soil, but the tubers might be deformed.
To create a perfect soil environment for sweet potatoes, you will need fork in lots of compost. Avoid Fertilizers or Compost high in Nitrogen. I used 'worm compost and tea'.
I covered my soil with landscaping cloth and planted my slips 12" apart. The landscaping cloth helped keeping my soil warm, slowed down water evaporation and controlled my weeds for stronger growth. It was exciting to see my first sweet potato vine flower. The flower looks like a Morning Glory. No fragrance.
Sweet Potatoes when to plant:
Plant in full sun and when the soil is warm, about 3 weeks after your last frost.
Make a hole about 6" deep and 12" apart. Press the soil gently and water well.
Sweet potatoes needs at least 1" water every week until two weeks before harvest time.
Sweet Potatoes takes between 90-170 days to maturity and are very sensitive to cold.
Harvesting Curing Potatoes
You can harvest as soon as the vines starts to turn yellow, but in Zone6 I haven't seen that happen yet. I usually wait for the first frost.
Wait for the soil to dry and search for potatoes. I use a trowel and my hands. I usually pierce my tubers when I use a digging fork. The potatoes seem to grow quite deep and be a foot or more from the mother plant. Make sure you get all of them .:)
Dry tubers in the sun for a few hours. Bring tubers indoors to a well ventilated spot and keep them in 80°-90°F for about 15 days and now they are properly cured and you have homegrown sweet potatoes for the holidays.
Grow Sweet Potatoes Slips( growths- sprouts - eyes on the sweet potato )
This is not as easy as it should be. I know my Mom has no problems with hers.
First - do I say - not as I did. :)
I can't buy potato slips where I live, so I went about growing my own.
Went to Costco and bought some sweet potatoes - nothing grew.
They are sprayed or waxed so they won't grow in peoples potato bins. That was another year lost.
Then I went to Walmart and tried it again.
I grew slips in water and moist soil - this time they both worked.
Growing in soil:
The best way for me to grow sweet potato slips is - in the worm bin. Perfect conditions. Good soil, moisture and company. :)
I used a shallow pan just for growing "slips". (kitty litter box)
Filled the container 3/4 full with soil.
Add the sweet potatoes and do not cover the sweet potatoes completely with soil. Leave half of the potato exposed. Moisten the soil and cover the container with plastic to keep moisture in.
Check often for the moisture in the soil.
When the sprouts start to touch the plastic, remove plastic and keep the moisture level in the soil.
Now I have a couple of sweet potatoes saved from my last sweet potato harvest that I can grow my own potato slips.
Starting Sweet Potato slips
Grow Potato Slips in 75-80°F. picture.
When shoots are about 4-6" long cut them off from the tuberous root and plant them in pots or outside. Molly-coddle them until it's warm enough to plant them outside. Watch for aphids while indoors.
Are Yams and Sweet Potatoes the same?
Yams originated in Africa and Asia while Sweet Potatoes originated in Central and South America.
However, I have seen many times when Sweet Potatoes are labelled as Yams.
Yams comes from the lily family and they are starchy tubers. Actually they taste and feel slimy after being boiled. If you sprinkle them with a bit of oil and vinegar, they are not so bad.
Sweet Potatoes are from the morning glory family.
However, Yams are not sweet like sweet potatoes.
Once you taste a real Yam, you'll know that you are not eating a Sweet Potato.