Sweet Potato

Sweet PotatoesHow to plant, raise this warm season plant from slips (root sprouts) the organic way.

Sunlight: Full sun
Maturity: 70-140 days
Height: 1 to 3 feet
Spacing: 12 to 18 inches apart, 3 to 4 feet between rows

Native to Central and South America sweet potato is an important food crop in tropical and subtropical countries. Here in the United States, home gardeners growing sweet potatoes require a long frost-free season to mature large, useful roots.

More than 40% of the national supply of sweet potatoes comes from North Carolina.

Site Preparation:

Sweet potatoes are not truly potatoes, but a thick root of a tropical vine. They need full sun, well-drained soil (preferably sandy loam) and plenty of room to thrive. Sweet potatoes are not heavy feeders, but they do require a good balance of nitrogen, potassium and phosphorous. Work in a low nitrogen organic fertilizer before planting; too much nitrogen produces leafy growth at the expense of the roots.

How to Plant:

Plant in late spring when soil temperatures have warmed to 70 degrees. Set root bearing stems, called slips, 1-foot apart in rows spaced 3-feet apart. In raised beds, space plants 1-1/2 feet apart. Soak slips in compost tea for five minutes prior to planting to help reduce disease problems. Use floating row covers to add extra heat and keep out pests.


Harvest before frost, after foliage starts to yellow. Use any damaged potatoes as soon as possible. Cure healthy potatoes for two weeks in a warm place. Allow 70-140 days to reach maturity.

Insects and Diseases:

To prevent diseases, plant varieties with multiple resistance, use certified  plants and rotate sweet potatoes’ location in the garden. Rodents and mice may become a problem, as they burrow into the mounds and eat the nutritious roots.

Seed Saving Instructions:

Sweet potatoes are perennial vines that are propagated vegetatively, either by shoots or from tubers. They are not grown from seed.

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