How to Grow Sweet Potatoes (Central Florida – Zone 9)

How To Grow Sweet Potatoes

Growing sweet potatoes was the highlight of my fall garden!

They were the easiest plant to grow – yes, even easier than as radishes and mixed greens – and they produced TONS of root vegetables to eat.

I have another batch of sweet potatoes growing right now and I plan on continuing sweet potatoes until they won’t grow anymore.

How To Grow Sweet Potatoes

What seeds did I use?

None! Did you know that sweet potatoes don’t grow from seeds?! They’re started from “slips” which are shoots from grown sweet potatoes.

For my first season, I received starter plants from my gardening-partner-in-crime, Rhonda, who sprouted slips from organic sweet potatoes using this method. Here is a picture of a sweet potato slip ready to plant.

Sweet potato slips

How did I plant the slips?

I knew before planting the slips that sweet potato plants spread like weeds and need their own space. For that reason, I picked the back corner of our yard to experiment. I laid down a sheet of weed block, like in the raised beds, and filled the space with this mushroom dirt mixture before adding 6 sweet potato slips to the back row of the bed.

Sweet Potato Patch

After planting, I did absolutely nothing but watch the vines take over – no fertilizer, no pest control, nada.

How long did it take from slip to salad bowl?

You’re supposed to let sweet potatoes grow as long as you can until frost comes in (typically 4 months) or until the ends of the vines begin to turn yellow. We jumped the gun and harvested at 3.5 months to get them fresh for Thanksgiving. We did end up with a smaller batch, but nonetheless, they tasted great and we have a good idea of how to grow and harvest sweet potatoes in the future.

Sweet Potato Patch

How do you harvest sweet potatoes?

This is the fun part! You gently pull up the vine using a gardening fork or shovel and try to avoid damaging any of the root vegetables. After a few careful digs, we opted for the more primitive approach of using our hands.

Sweet Potatoes

As soon as we started to dig in the dirt, we uncovered dozens of sweet potatoes! The ground was FULL of them. It was a great experience for the kids to unearth these sweet potatoes in all different shapes and sizes.

Sweet Potato

Doesn’t that sweet potato look delish?

But DON’T WASH the sweet potatoes just yet. They still need to cure before eating.

How do you cure sweet potatoes?

Here’s another important trick to growing sweet potatoes – they need to “cure” to become sweet. There is a lot of information on the web about proper curing length and conditions to maximize sweetness. Since we have a humid climate, I stored my unwashed sweet potatoes in a brown paper bag on the garage shelf for two weeks.

How do you prepare the sweet potatoes to eat?

After they cured, I washed them with water and rubbed off the dirt with a small towel. My favorite way to eat sweet potatoes is roasted in the oven with olive oil, salt and pepper. Yum!

Sweet potatoes

Jane’s Sweet Potato Review

Gardening skill level: Easy

Seeds: Organic slips

Garden space & soil: Partial sun, mushroom dirt mixture

Pest control: None

Seed to salad bowl (growth): 4 – 5 months 

Have you ever grown sweet potatoes? Let me know in the comments below.

Also, “subscribe” to Jane’s Dish on the right side of this site to find out what Jane’s growing or cooking next!

 

Comments

  1. Nice article! I am planning my first sweet potato planting this year. I am glad to see your harvest even with low maintenance because I have been obsessing about how to plant and soil amendments for about a month now. Glad to know I can relax a bit.

    • Yes, no need to stress over sweet potatoes! They will grow (and grow and grow.) My friend’s yard is very sandy with no soil amendments and they still grew like weeds for her. 🙂

  2. June Skinner says:

    Hi Jane ! I was so very excited to see this post ! I never knew we, in central Florida could grow Sweet potatoes… I have a few questions.. at the bottom of the box do you need weed barrier ? Or just grow them right in the ground? Also do I need to amend the soil? Our soil I’d also sandy.. Thanks So Much !!! June

    • Hi June! Yes, sweet potatoes grow very well here. 🙂 My first batch I grew in a bed with a weed barrier, but they grow through it. I would suggest no weed barrier – just plant them in the ground. I did amend my soil with mushroom dirt, but my friend has had great success growing sweet potatoes in her very-sandy Central Florida ground. Sweet potatoes are a very resilient crop. Good luck!

  3. Jillian says:

    What time of year did you plant them in Central FLA?

    • I planted my first batch last July and my second batch in Dec. My friend planted in April and she just dug up a beautiful crop! From my experience, I think you can plant sweet potatoes anytime! Good luck:)

  4. Charles says:

    Can you eat the leaves, if so are they tasty?

  5. Resa Castillo says:

    Jane,
    I’m looking forward for following your directions in my own garden this spring, but I have a few questions. First, you mentioned the sweet potatoes only need partial sunlight. How many hours a day are required? Also, besides the mushroom dirt, did you add fertilizer?

    • Hi Resa! I don’t think it matters a set amount of hours for the sweet potatoes – as long as they get at least hit with direct sun for a bit, they should be good. I did not use any additional fertilizer on the sweet potatoes, although, I do buy organic fertilizer for the other vegetables.

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