Love Sweet Potatoes? Three Things You Need to Know

Don't put them in the fridge!

Here’s what you need to know:

1. Whether you grow sweet potatoes or just buy them at the grocery store, the first thing you need to know is this: these are warm-weather vegetables, and that applies in the house as well as the garden. NEVER put them in the refrigerator. They will keep just fine on the kitchen counter in a bowl or basket for several weeks, but won’t last long in the fridge. Or keep them in your pantry in a brown paper bag.

My best home-grown sweet potatoes

2. In the garden, they do best in soil that is light and is rich in organic matter. Clay soil needs to be helped with generous portions of compost.

Sweet potato vines grow best in hot conditions. Black plastic helps. Here we are getting ready to harvest.

3. They need lots of moisture. I spread black plastic to keep down weeds, hold in heat and keep in moisture. I let them grow through holes I poke in the plastic, and provide a soaker hose to keep the soil moist.

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What else? In order to make them think they are in Georgia, where they’d prefer growing, I use a light agricultural fabric called Reemay or row cover over the row of plants. This holds in heat but allows sun and rain to get through to the plants. I use wire hoops to hold the row cover up over the leaves.

Row cover helps keep sweet potatoes hot!

Given the right conditions they are great producers: with 25 plants in a 35 foot row I got over 60 pounds of sweet potatoes!

Part of the harvest

If you want to try them next year, you can buy “slips” from Johnnys Selected Seeds.Beauregard is the variety I have grown. Slips are little plants that don’t look like much, but produce lots of leaves – and usually a big harvest. If you have a heavy soil add lots of compost as they tend to break when harvesting in a clay-dominated soil.

And order your slips early. Suppliers often run out. Plant in June when the soil is plenty warm. 

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