India is a land of diverse cultures and languages. Every culture has its own norms and rituals but fasting is common in most of the cultures. People fast on various occasions. Fasting is easier said than done. You have hunger pangs and cravings and what not. However little did you know that there are specific food items meant only for eating during the period of fast. One such wonder food is sweet potato.
There has been a lot of research about how to grow sweet potatoes but in simple words it is a little different from the growth method of normal potatoes. For growing regular potatoes the soil needs to be cool whereas for growing sweet potatoes the soil needs to be hot because being tropical in nature they are very sensitive to cold weather. Sweet potatoes are generally planted by the gardeners almost after one month of the last spring because the soil and the air is warm comparatively.
Certain things to remember about sweet potatoes are as follows:
- In the United States the term Yams and sweet potatoes are used interchangeably but the two are completely different.
- Sweet potatoes can be grown anywhere which contributes to its immense popularity.
- The flowers of the sweet potatoes resemble morning glory, a close cousin. The similarity can be seen in the leaves the roots and the flowers which grow as ornaments.
The Process Of Growing Potatoes
How do sweet potatoes grow is best understood by a gardener as he understands the soil, the air, the weather conditions like nobody else. The process works best in the loamy and well-drained soil which is not very rich. The ideal pH level must be between5.7 to 6.3. Before the planting takes place the gardener generally mixes a layer of compost and makes the soil bed damp. If the soil is heavy and has a clay structure try and grow sweet potatoes on a raised bed of soil with sand.
This is because sweet potatoes that grow in clay do not have a healthy growth. They look thin and the shape is very odd. For good roots to develop there has to be plenty of space and aeration. The region with sandy soil is ideal for the growth. At times gardeners cover the soil bed with black plastic or any other dark fabric almost three weeks before planting.
How To Grow Sweet Potatoes?
The initial stage is as follows-
- It is not difficult to grow sweet potatoes at all. In fact, if the plants are dropped on the soil that is warm, the plant grows on its own.
- Plants the sweet potatoes about fifteen inches apart and allow three feet rows so that the vines have plenty of space.
- If the planting process takes place in hot and sunny weather it is good to shield the plant for three days to protect them from the baking sun rays. Flower pots turned upside down can be used for the process of protecting the plants or any other clay pot can also be used.
- Sweet potatoes usually grow from slips which are nothing but small components of the tuber. You can generate a slice by cutting the potato into the half. It can be then put on a damp soil (plotted). It is suggested that you cover it with a small fraction of soil and it needs to keep warm
- The roots (small) will start developing in a few days followed by the leaves. After which they have to be raised and planted again when they are about six inches tall which shall take around six weeks. This could be tried at home but make sure that you buy it from a reliable supplier.
- Sweet potatoes can have slow growth if the soil on which they grow is infested with weeds. Keep the area clear as far as possible until the growth becomes visible.
- Sweet potatoes can tolerate periods of drought and heat but water regularly to avoid splitting.
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Some Common Varieties Of Sweet Potatoes
Before getting into how to grow sweet potatoes it is important to understand the different varieties of sweet potatoes and how long do sweet potatoes take to grow. Listed below are the varieties and the time taken for growth. Sweet potatoes can be white, yellow and purple as well but are very different from potatoes in all aspects.
Pale red skin with orange flesh. This variety is popular for commercial purpose. It takes around one hundred days to grow.
2. Bush Porto Rico-
This variety has copper skin and the flesh is orange in colour. The vines are compact and the yield is big. This is generally found in home gardens and smaller places. This variety takes around hundred and ten days to grow.
This variety takes around hundred days to grow. It has disease resisting properties.
4. Georgia Jet-
The skin is red and the flesh is orange in colour. This is ideal for short season as it takes ninety days to grow.
This variety has orange skin and copper flesh. It has great pest resisting capacity and is an ideal choice for organic gardens. It takes around hundred days to grow.
Better pest, insect and disease resisting capacity as compared to other varieties. It takes around hundred days to grow.
If your mind is wondering how to grow sweet potatoes it is important for you to know that generally sweet potatoes are considered a poor crop soil that blooms when the soil is imperfect. However adding a little fertiliser helps a long way. After about fifteen days feed the crop with a balanced organic fertilizer that contains potassium. One can use about two cups per thirty square feet. Make sure that the fertilizer seeps into the soil. Weed the soil and add some more after a month. After which the sweet potatoes can fend for themselves. In case of serious drought condition deep watering shall help. The other option is to simple give a liquid food like bonnie herb or any other plant food. This can be applied at planting and then every couple of weeks as the roots grow.
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Where To Grow Sweet Potatoes?
Sweet potatoes can be grown anywhere if proper care is taken at various stages. The plant is so versatile that it can also be grown in a container. How to grow sweet potatoes in a container might be your interest if space is a big constraint. Sweet potato, when grown in a container, has the tendency to become root bound. The roots which turn in to the sweet potato begin to grow in a pot and circle around the pot itself.
Due to lack of space just cut the plant from the surface without the root and plant it in the garden. Within two to three days the roots will grow on its own. Take care during the first week. After which the roots will cover large area. Weed them well after two weeks and pull them gently. Avoid using tools in order to protect the feeder roots. Water them weekly. How to grow sweet potatoes has many different answers hence you must consider the following before choosing the right way:
- The soil condition in the area
- The moisture content in the soil
- The weather conditions
- The space available
- The consumption needs
After considering all these factors how do you grow your sweet potatoes depends on you completely.
Tips To Keep Potatoes Safe And Healthy
After you have known how to grow sweet potatoes it is also important to know the kind of trouble you will face which growing this wonder plant. Some of the tips to keep the plants safe and healthy are as follows:
- In very warm climates it is important to mulch before the vines get too long so that the harvest stays free of any weeds and does not dry.
- Use a fertiliser to protect the harvest from the worms. Deer also love to nibble on the plant hence keep them covered.
- If leaves are used for the purpose of shading the plant make sure the used variety is insect free.
- Use certified seeds for planting to prevent any kind of fungal infection.
- In home gardens root nematodes and worms in the soil are biggest problems but try and rotate the crops to reduce the damage.
- Keep the mice away as far as possible
Knowing how to grow sweet potatoes is not enough. You must know the process of harvesting them and the process of storing them as well.
Sweet potatoes are generally ready for harvest just as the ends of the vines begin to change their colours and begin to turn slight yellow. To avoid any kind of injury to the plant find the primary crown of the plant that has to be dug, and then with the help of a digging fork begin to dig gently to loosen an approximately eighteen-inch circle around the plant. Pull the crown of the plant gently and with the use of your hands gather the sweet potatoes. Make sure to finish the process before the cold sets in because cold as said earlier tends to affect the quality of the sweet potatoes.
Sweet potatoes do not taste very sweet when dug at first, but they can be used for sweetened pies and casseroles. There needs to be a period for them to settle so that the sweetness can be brought out. Brush the soil and leant the unwashed sweet potatoes in a warm, well-ventilated place for ten to fifteen days. As the sweet potatoes get cured the skin heals, the cracks disappear and the flesh becomes sweeter and very healthy loaded with nutrients. After which move the cured potatoes to a place which is cool and very dry but do not put it in the refrigerator. A basement is ideal for this purpose.
How To Store Sweet Potatoes?
The process of storing the sweet potatoes is as follows:
- After digging the sweet potatoes out brush the soil but do not use water to wash them away.
- As a thumb rule sweet potatoes that cure for several weeks in cool storage taste very sweet.
- Avoid wrapping it in an aluminium foil while cooking as it tends to steam them.
- If baked without being wrapped they tend to caramelize.
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How To Consume Sweet Potatoes?
After you have become familiar with how to grow sweet potatoes you must also learn various ways to consume it. Listed below are a few ways but there can be many more.
- You can stream them and eat it. It is one of the most nutritious way to consume sweet potato.
- You can dry them, grind them and use it as a floor which is done in most Indian houses during festive times.
- You can boil them and have it with milk or sprinkle and pepper with a dash of lime and have it as a tea time snack.
- You can use them in cakes, pies and other dishes as a natural sweetener.
- It can be mashed and given to kids as well. Kids tend to like the sweet taste and the soft texture of the plant.
You can consume the sweet potato as you want but remember that it has plenty of nutrients and consuming them on a regular basis increase the immune system and keeps you full for long period of time. This wonder ingredient is available is all stores and markets.
Now that you know how to grow sweet potatoes is not a rocket science so make sure to give a shot at it, add one more plant to your kitchen garden. Make sure to get certified variety of seed to avoid any kind to disappointment. In case of any confusion and difficulty you can ask consult your local gardener. Keep the process in mind, take care at various stages and enjoy home grown sweet potatoes in any form that you like.