Sweet Potato Harvest

Do you grow sweet potatoes? Until this year, my answer would have been “no”. As heat-loving plants with a long growing season, they didn’t seem well-suited to my zone 4 garden. This year, we tried growing sweet potatoes in the Potato Grow Bags. The result has been a sweet success. The largest tuber weighed in at 4 lbs., 7 oz. Total harvest from the two Potato Grow Bags was 19 lbs.
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Harvest of sweet potatoes fromt he Potato Bag

Wow! The largest tuber weighed in at 4 lbs., 7 oz. Total harvest from the two Potato Grow Bags was 19 lbs.

I planted one sweet potato slip in each grow bag. Sweet potatoes are not grown from seed; they are started from slips, which are actually just rooted sprouts. The plants produced a LOT of foliage.

The bags had been filled with container mix, fortified with a little compost and a handful of granular organic fertilizer. At the end of September, after a 126-day growing season, it was finally time to see what had been going on inside the bags.

Do you grow sweet potatoes? Until this year, my answer would have been “no”. As heat-loving plants with a long growing season, they didn’t seem well-suited to my zone 4 garden.

But sweet potatoes are one of my favorite foods, and having had such great success growing regular potatoes, I thought it was time to give them a go.

In our Burlington, Vermont display gardens, we planted sweet potatoes in grow beds. I also grew them at home in Potato Grow Bags. Turns out they’re an easy and delicious crop — even for cold-climate gardeners.

For more information, read How to Grow Sweet Potatoes and Sweet Grow Beds (test results from growing sweet potatoes in raised beds).

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29 Responses to Sweet Potato Harvest

  1. Anonymous says:

    We are in zone 5…when did you start them?

  2. Hi. I planted the slips into the grow bags the first week of June. In zone 5 you could probably start about 2 weeks earlier — especially if you protect the plants with garden fabric or put them in a spot that's super warm and out of the wind.

  3. Brenda says:

    Add this to my list of new things to try for next year. I have the perfect hot sunny spot that doesn't get too much wind. I can't wait, never thought I could grow sweet potatoes in Michigan's Upper Peninsula!

  4. Abby says:

    Cool! I bought potato grow bags last year and they were a success with “regular” potatoes. Now I will have to try them with sweet potatoes. Thanks for the great idea!

  5. Linna says:

    Remember you can also eat sweet potato leaves…in soups, stews, or stirfries! Very popular in asian and african cultures. So you can enjoy both tubers AND leaves! I hesitate to harvest my sweet potatoes since I love the vines so much!

  6. Deer think sweet potato leaves are pretty delicious, too. In our display gardens they munched the plants to the ground almost weekly! But the plants regrew quickly and we still harvested a decent crop. – Kathy

  7. Gardening Mom says:

    Thanks for the tip! How are you curing your sweet potatoes?

  8. Anonymous says:

    Did you or do you reuse the soil that the white (or sweet) potatoes grew in?

  9. As for curing, the potatoes are just sitting in a tub trug in my front hall because I don't have a place to keep them where it's 85 degrees. I can tell that after just 10 days, the skins are gradually getting a little tougher. I plan to wait another week and then put them into the basement near where I have the white potatoes. And I'll use them up as soon as possible. – Kathy

  10. I saved the soil mix after harvesting and will definitely reuse it, though probably in flower pots rather than for growing potatoes. In the garden, it's always a good idea to rotate crops so they don't grow in exactly the same spot year after year. I figure it's a good rule for containers as well. – Kathy

  11. Mimi says:

    I love the sweet potatoes, but mostly grow them for the leaves.
    The leaves are so good stir fried!

  12. Beth says:

    My sweet potatoes (my first year too!) are curing atop our furnace, spread out on a shelf taken from my gardeners supply “orchard rack.” They've been there for about a week and seem to be toughening up appropriately. It's been so much fun growing both white and sweet taters this year!

  13. Vickie says:

    Thanks for the great idea of growing sweet potatoes! I did reuse the soil from our potatoes in other places and we had potatoes growing everywhere…even in my snapdragons! Not a problem as we pulled up the plants we didn't want. It's difficult to get all the eyes out of the soil.

  14. Judy says:

    Might sweet potatoes be able to grow in a large container under tomato plants or under any other shallow rooted vegetable?

  15. Anonymous says:

    Can you provide more information or sources on curing? Why do they need to be cured? What does that achieve? And how do I go about curing?

    Amelia

  16. Anonymous says:

    some basic info on curing and storing sweet potatoes can be found at Purdue University's website http://www.hort.purdue.edu/ext/sweetpotatoes.html
    and also the LSU Ag Center's site http://www.lsuagcenter.com/en/crops_livestock/crops/sweet_potatoes/LSU+AgCenter+Horticulturist+Discusses+Curing+and+Storing+Sweet+Potatoes.htm also the LSU Ag Center's site

  17. Jen says:

    Have you ever grown potatoes or sweet potatoes over the winter in your basement with grow lights? I am trying to find a way to grow veggies year round in New York state. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated!

  18. Renee says:

    I grew sweet potatoes in Massachusetts this year in a 3 x 6 grow bed. The first couple of weeks I left a greenhouse cover over the bed so they'd be warm enough, and they really grew well. I harvested 35 pounds of sweet potatoes from that one bed!

  19. Hi Judy,
    Above ground, sweet potatoes produce a huge amount of foliage. Underground, they require lots of root space for forming tubers — just below the soil surface and as much as 18″ deep. In our test gardens we found that when sweet potatoes were crowded for space, yields were dramatically reduced. So…best to give them their own territory rather than introducing competition from other plants. – Kathy

  20. The main reason for “curing” potatoes of any kind is to toughen up the tubers' skin so storage life is longer. Surface wounds heal over and in some cases curing improves the flavor.
    After harvest, sweet potatoes should be cured for 7-10 days at temperatures of 80-85 degrees. After that, they should be stored at a cooler temperature of about 60 degrees with high humidity (80%). Because it's difficult for most home gardeners to provide ideal storage conditions, it is best to eat up your sweet potatoes in the first few months after harvest. -Kathy

  21. Anonymous says:

    I had great luck with sweet potatoes too.I live in NW Fla.my neighbor did his in the ground and didn't any luck.He wants to use the grow bags next year

  22. Jen,
    Sweet potatoes might not be the best crop for indoor growing. For one thing, they need 120 to 140 days to produce mature tubers. For indoor growing, you would probably get much higher yields (more food to eat!) by growing lettuces and other greens.

  23. rusty says:

    for Jen of new york..try Elliot Colman's book on year round gardening..vol 1&2. rusty

  24. Laurie says:

    Two years ago, I used grow bags and planted two sets of potatoes. None of them grew. I did get foliage. The last year, I planted blue potatoes in one and white potatoes in the other. I got NO blue potatoes, and a fair amount of white. Not really large though. I also planted sweet potato slips in another large container near the others. I got alot of foliage but not one potato. What am I doing wrong?!!

  25. Anonymous says:

    I've had the same problem as the previous commenter, Laurie, with potatoes in the grow bags. They produce foliage and look healthy, but have few or no tubers. It's difficult to keep them adequately watered, too. I planted sweet potatoes for the first time in a raised bed and they did amazingly well, but take up a lot of room, so I was considering the grow bags, but I haven't had much luck with them. Any tips?

  26. Anonymous says:

    Good foliage with no potatoes might be due to a lack of pollinators. How is the bee and wasp population in your gardens?
    -Jim in CT

  27. As it is with regular potatoes, tuber production for sweet potatoes doesn't require flowering or pollination.

    Potato plants do require plenty of water (an inch a week). Less than that will significantly reduce yields.

    It's also important not to crowd the root zone. Many gardeners (including me!) get overly enthusiastic and plant too many potato plants in a space that's too small.

    This summer we found that tuber production — for both sweet and white potatoes — was much higher when we gave the plants the recommended amount of growing space. (We have a blog post about this coming up in a couple weeks.)

    All the plants produced beautiful foliage, but whenever we tried to squeeze in more than the recommended number of plants per square foot we had poor yields. – Kathy

  28. Anonymous says:

    For next spring we'd like to know how to get healthy starts for sweet potatoes or yams. We live in central Washington state.

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