Although the sweet potato is called sweet potato, it is actually a member of the Bindweed family of the Ipomoea genus. You will see this for yourself when you see the sweet potato plants during flowering and learn the agricultural technology of cultivation.
Sweet potatoes are a thermophilic summer crop. It is not suitable for cool or cold climates, nor for short growing seasons. In a number of Russian regions, we are dealing with both factors. But that doesn’t mean growing sweet potatoes in your garden is bound to fail!
Cold-resistant and early ripening varieties of sweet potatoes are little represented on the market (despite the fact that on the Internet they write that there are allegedly “many” such varieties), in fact, of those sold abroad, only Covington is widely known, an improved early variety that will ripen in short seasonal areas with proper care. The tubers of this variety have bright orange pulp with a beautiful, dark pink skin.
Unable to get your hands on seed early-maturing sweet potatoes, you can experiment with growing store-bought sweet potatoes.
Sweet potatoes do not reproduce like regular potatoes. You will need to get a shoot so that a vine has already grown from it.
It is necessary to start the experiment at least 3 months in advance. Late January – early February is a good time if you want to get seedlings in late May.
Our growing season is very short, the only way to extend it is by seedlings.
Growing sweet potatoes in a container
If you really want to be successful in a short growing season, plant the rooted cuttings in a large container. A small pot will not work. The depth should be at least 30 cm and the width should be 40 cm.
Pre-quench by opening the window on warm days. The transplant will take place about 4 weeks after the last frost.
The container can be placed in the greenhouse next to tomatoes, peppers or in a sunny spot on the site. The advantage of the container is that the soil warms up better.
Sweet potatoes love loose, well-drained soil with a pH of 5.0 to 6.5.
You can use a store-bought potting mix with compost, or make your own by mixing 1/3 compost, 1/3 vermiculite, 1/3 peat.
The distance between the seedlings should be 30 cm from each other. Sprinkle about 1.5 cm of soil on the stem.
After planting, water your plants well and protect them from cold nights if the container is in an open area. Set up a mini greenhouse with foil-wrapped hoops, or create a wind barrier from old windows. Anything that gives the plants more warmth will work.
Mulching with clean straw in the root zone is important for container growing as moisture evaporates faster than in the garden bed.
Sweet potatoes produce long stems. In the greenhouse, it makes sense to stretch the ropes to support the stems, in the open air – to make a lattice support.
Cut off growing points of vines that extend beyond 60 cm to stimulate lateral stem development. Remember, you can eat these leaves, which taste like spinach and are just as healthy.
The early ripening variety, if you are lucky enough to get one, will ripen in about 90-100 days, but count on 150 days if you bought tubers in the store.
For harvest, be guided by the color of the leaves. Sweet potatoes are ready to harvest when the foliage begins to turn yellow. You can leave the potted plants in light frosts, but the tubers must be dug out before the frost hits.
Remember that sweet potatoes break more easily than traditional sweet potatoes, and the skin is very thin during harvest. Dig them up carefully, then store them in a warm room for 6-8 weeks to improve the taste.
The simplest solution is to take plastic grocery bags, punch a few holes in them, and fill with enough sweet potatoes so that there is only one layer in each bag. Tie up the bags and place on the warmest and sunniest windowsill for 10 days. If there is no sun, cover the bags with a towel or blanket.
Then store the crop at about 12-15 ° C without access to light by wrapping the tubers individually with newspaper or simply spreading them out on a paper backing.
After a curing period, the potatoes will be sweeter and the skins will harden for storage over time.
Are sweet potatoes worth the effort? If you consider its reputation as a superfood, then it is. The tubers contain only 90 kcal per 100 g and are loaded with vitamin C, vitamin A, potassium and fiber. Baked with sour cream, sweet potato is a delicious dish!