Sweet Potatoes

April is the time to plant Sweet Potatoes in Central Texas! Although they do prefer sandy soils, they are able to adapt to many different types of soil in your garden-just as long as it drains well. If you have clay soil or drainage problems, work in lots of compost and make raised beds or planting ridges 8”-12” high.

You will want to plant your sweet potato slips as soon after purchasing as you can, preferably when the weather is warm and settled. Don’t worry if your slips don’t have a lot of roots-with good care roots will develop quickly!

Transplant your slips into the ground 2”-3” inches deep, with the leaves above the ground. They should be 12”-18” apart in rows at least 3’ apart. It is best to transplant in the evening to avoid shocking the transplants. Be sure to water-in well after planting.

Keep the transplants moist for the next few days as the plants become established. Regular irrigation will assure a larger harvest and even moisture prevents splitting and cracks. Side dress each plant with MicroLife 6-2-4 organic fertilizer with mycorrhizal fungi  or Fox Farm Tomato and Vegetable fertilizer for better yields and sweeter and larger sweet potatoes.

Harvest when your potatoes reach the recommended growing time for your variety. Try to harvest on a sunny day when the soil is not too wet. Pull aside the vines so that you can see where you are digging! I use a flat-tined fork, digging 12”-18” away from the plant to avoid damaging the sweet potatoes. Go straight down about 6”, then angle toward the center of the plant and gently lift the potatoes out of the ground. Separate the sweet potatoes and allow them to dry in the sun for no more than one hour. Handle freshly dug sweet potatoes gently to avoid bruising.

Curing sweet potatoes allows for healing of any scratches or damage to the skin, develops their sweetness and improves storage quality. Immediately after harvesting, let the sweet potatoes dry fully, brush any dirt off, but do not wash! Keep at 90% relative humidity for 7-10 days to cure them. For long-term storage after curing, store in a cool (55 degrees), dry, well-ventilated area. Do not refrigerate sweet potatoes unless they are cooked. Properly stored, sweet potatoes can store for 5-8 months unrefrigerated.