Gardening Articles: Care :: Soil, Water, & Fertilizer

Planting Sweet Potatoes (page 2 of 2)

by National Gardening Association Editors

Ready to Plant

Follow this rule of thumb on planting slips: For the best results, wait two or three weeks after the average last frost date, until the air and soil temperatures are over 60&deg F. The planting season in central Florida, for example, ranges from March to July.

In the North you will have to gamble. If the weather is warm enough, set plants out close to the average last frost date; if you wait much longer you won't have a long enough frost-free growing season. Place a floating row cover over the plot to protect the slips from frost and to raise the air temperatures inside the row cover.

If you're using your own slips, pull them out of the ground or flats with a twisting motion. This will easily free them from the seed potato under the soil and all other slips, yet retain many of their tiny roots. Some people recommend cutting the stem of the slips one inch above the soil to reduce the chance of spreading soilborne diseases from the bedding area to the sweet potato rows. These rootless slips must be kept well-watered after transplanting so they'll reroot quickly.

Set the slips 12 to 15 inches apart in the row, and five to six inches deep. Make a small hole for them, set them in it, firm the soil around them and give them a gentle watering. If you have some short slips, that's okay. Put them into the soil with just one leaf showing above ground. They'll do fine.

If you have a long growing season, you can take slips or "cuttings" from young sweet potato plants after they've been growing a few weeks. It's a good way to avoid the work of raising and caring for slips, and this "second crop" is a simple way to extend the season. Take the cuttings from anywhere on the vine -- they can be up to 15 inches long. Plant them right away, 12 to 15 inches apart and five to six inches deep on ridges. Keep them shaded from bright sun, and be sure to water them several days in a row, they'll root quickly.

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