Growing Sweet Potatoes

Discussion in 'Edible Gardening' started by HsuH, Mar 21, 2015.

  1. HsuH

    HsuH Super Gardener

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    This year I've decided to grow sweet potato slips myself, as a challenge I suppose. To my delight, they are growing quite nicely
    image.jpg

    In less than a couple of months time I'll need to plant them into the ground, but right now I'm trying to decide where and how to grow them for a better result.

    Last year I grew 3 plants under each cloche, I also covered the ground with black ground-cover fabric, 1.5 metres in all direction. The trouble is the plants spread quite widely, so nearly 2/3 of the foliage was outside the cloche. When it was time to harvest, I found that only the ones in the middle of the cloche did reasonablely well, the ones at each end were quite pathetic.

    Since they are low growing plants, I wonder whether I can grow them in the greenhouse and then plant other things like peppers and aubergines between the sweet pot? Would they co-exist in the greenhouse? If not, the sweet potatoes will have to stay outdoors, in which case how to raise the growing temperature for them? I've got some cold frames which are able to cover a bigger area than the cloche but I still don't think they are big enough.

    I'd grateful for any ideas and suggestions
     
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    • Morgan Shore

      Morgan Shore Apprentice Gardener

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      These are impressive, well done so far, I hope they'll be successful for you. As you've realised the spreading out is the biggest problem with sweet potatoes and the fact they need a lot of sun. I'm not sure they would work well with peppers but herbs such as Thyme or Oregano would probably be fine.
       
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      • miraflores

        miraflores Total Gardener

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      • Freddy

        Freddy Miserable git, well known for it

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        Make some bigger cold frames? It doesn't need to be anything fancy. Just cobble together a timber frame, and cover with polythene. That's what I did for some outdoor Tomatoes, and proved quite effective.
         
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        • Cinnamon

          Cinnamon Super Gardener

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          Those look lovely plants.

          • They do spread.
          • They need loose ground to tuber up. Often they are grown on mounds (smallholders) or ridges (commercial farmers). Edit: I think they'll want to a lot of ground to tuber up, as well as a lot to spread over. When I was a kid I grew some in a pot on a sunny windowsill. When I harvested it, the entire pot was full of tubers and they were seriously limited by pot space.
          • They need a lot of sun, warm temperatures and our day lengths are a problem. You need to be able to leave them til late in the year before harvesting.
          • Beurregard I think is the variety recommended for the UK. I know a serious plant breeder who's had a spectacular failure with other material. Diversity is great in principal, but they won't all be adapted to the UK.
          Hope that helps.
           
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          • HsuH

            HsuH Super Gardener

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            I've just 'harvested' my sweet potatoes and thought to update this thread a bit.

            Since I successfully grew lots of slips in spring, I was able to do some experiments with them. One batch of 6 plants were planted outside in the ground at our allotment, and following @Freddy 's suggestion, covered with clear polythene. Another batch of 4 plants were planted in the greenhouse between tomato plants.

            Result: neither did terribly well, those outside under polythene didn't produce any decent sized tubers at all; those in the greenhouse did relatively better, producing a few more tubers including some reasonably sized, and this single big one.
            image.jpg

            I'm wondering whether the reason for the differences could be due to:
            1. the soil in my allotment is clay whereas in my greenhouse it is sandy - maybe sweet potato prefers light soil?
            2. the ones growing in the greenhouse only had limited ground surface for the vines the root, (lots of vines ended crawling up the glass) with less energy spent in developing roots all over the place, the plant were able to concentrate on fattening up the main roots to form the tubers?
            3. the greenhouse ones got more feed because of my need to feed the tomato plants
            4. because inside they were growing between tomato plants, they were not able to get as much sun as they would like to have, hence still an unsatisfying yield?
            I'm happy that the sweet potato plants caused no ill effect on the tomato plants, so I probably will do a similar experiment again next year purely for the challenge since I feel the yield is so low that it really is not worth the effort and the space to grow them.

            Anyone have any better results with sweet potatoes?
             
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            • Radiation91

              Radiation91 Gardener

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              Based on my 1 and only attempt at potatoes, i would assume that the clay soil would make it difficult for them to grow. The only rules i followed to grow mine was light soil with good drainage and plenty of water.

              I let cats snap the stems, wind blow them over, subjected them to a full week of heavy rain and then put them in full shade for half their life. They did fine. The only thing i can think of is that the soil has more effect than the other things?

              I'll be growing sweet potatoes next year so I'll defintely be watching this thread! Good luck!

              Sent from my LG-H815 using Tapatalk
               
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              • Snorky85

                Snorky85 Total Gardener

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                Hi @Radiation91 just wondering whether you did any more sweet tatties this year and how you got on with them?
                 
              • HsuH

                HsuH Super Gardener

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                Here is the update of my effort this year.

                I have harvested mine about 10 days ago. From 6 plants, I've got just over 7 kg of sweet pots, not high in term of yield but I'm happy that most of them are reasonable in size.
                IMG_20161125_171845.jpg

                IMG_20161125_171922.jpg

                This year I grew them under a frame covered with double-layer fleece. All went well for the first 2 months until our local fox decided to use the structure as a trampoline (John Lewis' Christmas ads was spot on in terms of fox and trampoline:snorky:), so more and more big holes appeared, plus tufts of furs left behind when the fox fell through the fleece. Well, with every hole which appeared, the temperature underneath dropped. Though still warmer than outside it was not hot enough evidently.

                I recently came back from a visit to Beijing. The following photos show a giant sweet potato my brother grew. It was 5.1 kg in weight and my foot is there to offer some comparison. According to him there was no special treatment and fertiliser used. Just planted the slip sideway, and during the growing season turned the top growth 180° twice to stop the vines developing taproots.
                IMG_20161125_172102.jpg

                IMG_20161125_172250.jpg

                The temperature in Beijing is 30° plus from May to September, therefore it seems to me that a long hot growing period is what we need to be successful. Over the winter months I'm going to work out a fox proof top for the existing frame. And will start to grow the slips by Feb. In addition to Carolina Ruby and Beauregard Improved, I'm going to try these unusual purple ones as well. Fingers crossed let's hope for a good growing season next year.
                mmexport1480104175014.jpg
                 
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                • CanadianLori

                  CanadianLori Total Gardener

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                  All I can say is WOW!!!!

                  I'm thinking I might use my potato planter for sweet ones next year.

                  thank you for sharing
                   
                • Snorky85

                  Snorky85 Total Gardener

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                  WOW indeed @HsuH you had a great yield! Def sounds like hot weather is the key. I'll give it a go too and try fox proof it. Do you think plastic sheetingwould work well? Also what time of year will you be putting the slips in?
                   
                • Snorky85

                  Snorky85 Total Gardener

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                  That is just insane!!! Lol
                   
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                  • HsuH

                    HsuH Super Gardener

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                    I was thinking about using plastic sheeting as it would be able to withstand the fox jumping on it. But my frame is not high (about 0.5 metre only) and with a plastic top I feel it might be too hot and lack ventilation. At the moment, I'm thinking about the possibility of using some chicken wire to line the top then covering it with double layered fleece. The benefit of this would be that it is breathable and the rain water can get in so save me watering.
                    If anyone has other suggestions, I'm all ears.

                    I plant them out in late May.
                     
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                    • Snorky85

                      Snorky85 Total Gardener

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                      Sounds like a good idea @HsuH I will do the same. Where do you get yours from? Marshalls?
                       
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