How to plant sweet potatoes


Planting sweet potatoes. Should not be grown in smaller gardens; their long vines trail and may interfere with other crops. Beginners are advised to grow them only in small quantities, because curing and storage require special conditions. Sweet potatoes are a warm weather crop requiring a well-drained light to medium soil. Avoid clays or other heavy soils and heavy applications of nitrogenous fertilizer, which produce poor yields and create stringy roots.

Moderate application of fertilizer medium in potash content and high in phosphorous is helpful. Start your sweet potatoes from plants or slips bought from a seeds man or dealer. Get a strong plant about 6 to 9 inches long, free of wilt, disease, or damage. To improve drainage set the plants on wide ridges 8 to 10 inches high and at least 3 feet apart, with 14 inches between plants. Do not bring newly set plants into contact with fertilizer. If it is used, work half of it into the row before building the ridge and cultivate the remainder into the sides of the ridge 3 weeks after setting out the plants.

Little-Stem Jersey and Maryland Golden are widely used dry-fleshed varieties; Porto Rico and Nancy Hall are among the best of the moist-fleshed. Dig them up as soon as the first frost nips the leaves, and dig with care so that the roots will not be bruised or skinned. If the crop is of such size that it must be stored for more than a few weeks, the sweet potatoes must first be cured. This is done by placing them in a well-ventilated room, with a temperature of 80 to 90 degrees and plenty of moisture in the air, for about 10 days. Storage requires moderately moist air and a temperature slowly changed to 50 to 500 degrees. Curing sweet potatoes means healing cuts and bruises to prevent attack by rot-producing organisms.

If the vines of sweet potatoes grow too thick it is a good idea to cut part of them away. If they tend to run across the rows cut them back or turn them back. If, in the South, a later crop is desired, new vines may be cut in pieces 6 to 8 inches long and stuck into the ground in the rows just before a good rain. They will take root readily and produce a good crop.

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