Sweet potato is becoming more and more popular every year. Some gardeners who have just begun to master the peculiarities of growing this crop claim that sweet potato is somewhat similar to potatoes, only sweet. Sweet potato tubers are called sweet potatoes, although the plant has nothing to do with ordinary potatoes.
If you do not know how do you root a sprouting sweet potato and if can you plant a whole sweet potato in the ground, you need to read this article with useful information.
Sweet potato what is it: description
You can grow sweet potatoes at home. And there is a reason for it. Firstly, sweet potato is a beautiful bindweed plant with decorative flowers.
Secondly, it is productive, the fruits, depending on the variety, can reach 3 kg. Thirdly, sweet potato is very tasty and healthy.
You don’t have to be a professional to plant sweet potatoes, it’s important to know the basics of planting and then you’ll succeed.
Sweet potato is a valuable food and fodder crop, which belongs to the species of tuber plants of the Ipomoea genus of the Bindweed family. The first place that started to produce sweet potatoes on a large scale is Peru and Colombia.
Sweet potato is a perennial liana, the stems of which, are 3.2–16.4 feet long, spread along the ground, and take root at the nodes.
The height of the plant is 0.5-0.6 feet, the leaves are petiolate, heart-shaped, or palmate-lobed. Flowers are located in the axils of the leaves, large, funnel-shaped, white, pink, or lilac.
The fruit is a box with 4 seeds, black or brown, 0.09-0.13 feet in size. In the wild, the plant is a perennial, as its homeland is the American tropics.
But in the conditions of the middle zone, the winter cold is fatal for it, so it can only vegetate for one season. Its flowers resemble morning glory, sometimes they are even confused.
High decorativeness allows you to grow this crop in flower beds. Tubers growing in the soil serve as an organ for storing substances. The flesh inside can be white, yellowish, red, pink, or orange. It is believed that varieties with dark fiber are tastier.
Sweet potato slips are used in food in boiled, fried, baked, and dried forms. A sweetish-tasting flour is made from it, suitable for the manufacture of confectionery products without the addition of sugar.
The ground parts are fed to livestock, nutritionally not inferior to clover and alfalfa.
Useful properties of sweet potato. Nutrient content in sweet potatoes
Sweet potato is a popular food product in many countries. Its calorie content is 1.5 times higher than that of potatoes. Sweet potato slips contain starch (27%), protein (3%), carbohydrates, and mineral salts.
The amount and composition of vitamins, and hence the beneficial properties of sweet potato, vary depending on the variety and growing conditions.
Varieties with orange and yellow flesh are rich in beta-carotene, which can compete with carrots in this indicator.
Sweet potato slips with purple flesh contain a lot of anthocyanins with antioxidant properties; sweet potatoes with such tubers are used in health nutrition.
The content of carbohydrates, iron, and calcium in this vegetable is higher than in potatoes.
How to grow sweet potato seedlings
In nature, classic varieties of sweet potato ripen for almost half a year from the moment the sprouts appear. In our climate, they do not have time to go through the entire vegetation cycle, since at a temperature of +50 °F and below, this heat-loving plant stops growing and developing.
Therefore, varieties of early and medium ripening periods were bred, which range from 90 to 150 days. And then, under the condition of growing sweet potato slips, which are rooted cuttings.
Sprout sweet potatoes
You can obtain cuttings if you sprout sweet potatoes. Unlike ordinary potato tubers, they have almost no “eyes”, and sprouts can appear anywhere.
Germination requires a moist nutrient medium, heat, and sunlight. The process begins in early to mid-March.
The most common way is that the prepared sweet potato slips are laid lying down in low boxes with earth, they are covered with no more than half, put in a bright place, and regularly moistened. At temperatures above 68 °F, sprouts appear very soon.
On a note. When trying to grow sweet potatoes from root vegetables bought at the grocery store, it takes longer for sprouts to appear, as they are treated with inhibitors that inhibit germination for better storage.
You can also germinate sweet potato slips without soil by laying them on any moist substrate, such as sand or a layer of napkins.
The main thing is to keep them moist. But after the appearance of buds and sprouts, they still need nutrient soil.
Another popular method is germination in water, for which the tubers are immersed at one end by several inches in containers with water, setting them vertically. You should change the water every 2-3 days.
After a few days, multiple roots appear on the lower part of the sweet potato slips, and sprouts appear on the upper.
After that, it must be transplanted into the ground; otherwise, the own sweet potato slips begin to rot.
Germination of sweet potatoes in water
With this method of germination sweet potato slips, it is necessary to take into account the polarity of the tuber, that is, to determine its root and sprout part. But this can only be done if there are visible buds or signs of growth.
If they are not there, and the tuber was planted incorrectly (“upside down”), it’s okay – the plant orients itself and takes root down, as expected, but this takes much more time.
You can avoid such a delay if you cut the sweet potato slips in half and plant each part in water or a moist substrate with the cut-down.
This method allows you to get more sprouts, which is important with a small amount of planting material, but they are not too strong at first. In addition, there is a risk of rooting sweet potato slips.
For further cultivation of the cuttings, it is necessary to transfer the sweet potato slips to the ground when the leaves of a heart-shaped or carved shape inherent in this variety are formed on the sprouts.
If natural light is not enough for the normal development of the cuttings, they must be artificially illuminated using special photo lamps or fluorescent lamps.
Growing sweet potato slips
When the sprouted sweet potato reaches 0.5-0.65 feet and has a few true leaves, you can separate it from the root and place it in water to root.
Root rudiments are enough for transplanting into open ground to a permanent place, and this is an ideal option, allowing you to get a crop of large and even tubers.
But it is far from always possible to guess with the weather and the landing time.
Therefore, if frost is still possible, the sprouts on the tuber can be allowed to continue growing. And shortly before planting sweet potatoes, separate them, cut them into segments 0.5-0.65 feet long, and root each.
At the same time, the sweet potato slips are left in the ground – new sprouts form on them. If the cuttings are kept in water too long, they grow too many roots, some of which inevitably damage when planted in the ground, which slows down the growth of plants.
To speed up the harvest of sweet potatoes in regions with a short summer, cuttings with rudimentary roots can be planted in containers with earth and grown at home before the onset of heat, and later transplanted with a lump to a permanent place.
But the reviews of those who used this method indicate that the sweet potatoes end up uneven, and strongly curved.
Transplantation of sweet potato slips in open ground
So if you have a sprouted sweet, you can have a question, how do you plant sweet potatoes that have already been sprouted?
Sweet potato is quite demanding on the composition and structure of the soil; it grows best on fertile and light soils with a slightly acidic or neutral reaction.
The site is better to choose the sunniest, protected from drafts and strong winds.
Under such conditions for growing sweet potato slips, you can get a very good harvest and organic sweet potatoes weighing 1-3 kg each.
The daytime air temperature at the time of transplanting sweet potato slips into the open ground should be at least +68 °F.
The best temperature for active growth is 77-86 °F. If you want to get large, juicy, nutritious, organic sweet potatoes, you should begin with soil preparation in the fall.
To do this, it is dug up with the parallel introduction of 5 l of humus or compost and mineral fertilizers for 10.76 ft²: 1.5 tablespoons of superphosphate and 1 tablespoon of potassium sulfate.
In the spring, the prepared area is dug up again, if necessary, adding sand for looseness or wood ash for deoxidation.
The sweet potato vines take up a lot of space. There are different schemes for its landing.
Some gardeners prefer to grow sweet potatoes in a square-nest way, with a distance between plants in a row and between rows of about 2.29 feet.
Others consider it more optimal to make row spacing at least 0.33 ft in wide and grow sweet potato slips in a row at a distance of 0.8-0.98 feet from each other.
Growing sweet potatoes: planting technique
If you do not know, can I put a sprouted sweet potato in the ground, of course, you can.
Cuttings or seedlings of sweet potatoes are sent to a permanent place in the morning or evening hours when the sun shines non-aggressively.
It is necessary to deepen the shoots of sweet potatoes by no less than 0.16-0.22 feet, but at the same time, the leaves should not fall underground.
If the roots have grown longer than 0.22-0.32 feet, then they are shortened with treated sharp scissors or pruners; otherwise, the sweet potato slips grow too deep, and it is impossible to remove them from the ground without damage.
Shortening the root system allows the sweet potatoes to grow in the upper layer below the surface of the earth. When planting, the cutting should be at an angle of 45 degrees concerning the soil.
After planting, each bush is watered with 0.5 l of warm water without hardness salts and chlorides. It is good if fungicides are diluted in it.
Of the folk methods, it is recommended to use mustard powder.
Top dressing for sweet potatoes
The first 2 weeks after transplanting to a permanent place, sweet potato does not need fertilizer. At this time, top dressing can cause a burn of the tender young roots of sweet potatoes. Then comes the turn of complexes, with an emphasis on nitrogen because it contributes to the growth of green mass: foliage and shoots.
Approximately in the middle of July, the increase and thickening of root crops begin; therefore, nitrogen fertilizers give way to potash and phosphorus fertilizers, which increase the yield.
Such top dressing continues until the end of September. From organic matter, slurry or potassium humate is sometimes used.
But at the same time, you need to be very careful, since the organic elements can provoke the growth of fungi on your own sweet potato slips.
Fertilizer is carried out both by watering and by leaf. In the latter case, spraying should take place in the morning or after sunset so that the foliage is not damaged by sunlight.
Hilling of sweet potatoes
At the time of active growth, the sweet potatoes begin to lengthen and crawl out above the soil surface. It is impossible to leave sweet potatoes in this position, as they do not gain volume and can get burned by the active sun at noon.
To prevent this, it is necessary to periodically carry out hilling. This encourages the growth of new sweet potatoes. This procedure is carried out approximately once every 2 weeks.
Sweet potatoes often suffer from excess moisture than from their lack. Watering is organized only in the driest and hottest periods. It is best when a drip irrigation system is installed on the site. Then moisturizing for sweet potatoes can be carried out even during the day.
If there is no such system, then you can water with a watering can under the root of sweet potatoes, but so that the drops do not massively fall on the foliage.
Moisturizing is stopped a couple of weeks before digging, even if there is a real drought.
This is necessary to increase the keeping quality of sweet potato slips and protect them from rot during transportation and storage.
Harvesting and storing sweet potatoes
Harvesting most often starts in late September-early October. But these dates can be shifted if warm weather lasts for a long time or the first serious cold snaps begin early.
The main indicator is the yellowing and drying on the tops of sweet potatoes. It is best to dig the sweet potatoes very carefully, with a shovel, not a pitchfork.
You must be careful because mature sweet potato is more fragile than potatoes. It is impossible to throw sweet potatoes into buckets or pour them into boxes, as any damage to the surface leads to rotting potato plants in a few weeks.
Sweet potato slips on which injuries appear must be eaten during the first week.
Immediately after digging, the sweet potatoes are advised to dry in a ventilated, dry place or under a canopy. The main thing is that the rays of the sun do not get there.
When harvesting, it is recommended to select the queen cells immediately: they should be free of stains, dents, and scratches.
Often, before storage, sweet potatoes are washed from the ground and dried for a month, and only after that, they are laid in a pantry, refrigerator, or cellar.
Diseases and pests of sweet potatoes
To properly organize prevention from diseases and parasites, you need to understand what sweet potato is.
This is not a relative of the potato, so the Colorado potato beetle does not attack it. But for sweet potatoes, such diseases and pests are dangerous.
Are nematodes dangerous for sweet potato
This is the most dangerous enemy of sweet potatoes. It can destroy almost all sweet potatoes in a short time.
The production of nematocytes was banned a couple of years ago, so the only way to deal with these parasites is with the help of preventive measures. To do this, before planting sweet potatoes, the site is treated with nematocidal-insecticidal preparations.
All tools that are used for agrotechnical activities with sweet potatoes must be disinfected.
With the defeat of this pest, the drying of the young foliage of sweet potatoes begins. Under a magnifying glass on the bottom of the leaf plate of sweet potatoes, you can see a thin cobweb and moving tiny mites.
For treatment, acaricides are used, which are sprayed three times at an interval a week.
Such treatments are unacceptable a month before harvesting sweet potatoes, since toxic substances do not have time to be removed from the plant organs during this time.
This pest sucks sweet potato sap and promotes the spread of dangerous viruses. Treatment is carried out with the help of insecticides. With proper prevention and timely treatment, the crop is not in danger.
Growing sweet potatoes is no more difficult than growing potatoes that are familiar to everyone. The main difficulty lies in obtaining the required number of cuttings from sweet potato slips, which are the planting material.
But this does not cause problems either, since the tubers germinate easily and quickly, and cuttings from them can be cut several times as they grow. But after landing in the ground, no hassle, except for watering at first this plant is not delivered.
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