This is my second year growing sweet potatoes. The first year I grew them in the ground. This year I tried them in large 50cm diameter pots. The only variety I have tried is ‘Beauregard’. At least I think they are ‘Beauregard’, I grew them from shoots which formed on sweet potatoes I bought for culinary use and every thing I’ve read suggests that something like 90% of sweet potatoes grown in Australia are ‘Beauregard’ so I think its a fair bet mine are too. Plus they look like the images I’ve found of ‘Beauregard’.
Anyway, as I mentioned, I grew the sweet potatoes from shoots that formed on a forgotten tuber that was sitting in the back of my cupboard. I pulled the shoots off the tuber and put them in a glass of water to root. That was in Winter. Once they shooted I potted them up (in early Spring) and eventually planted them out in mid/late Spring.
I have followed this propagation method two years running now and I have to say it has proved highly successful. The shoots root easily and the sweet potato vine grows well in Melbourne’s summer climate. What has been slightly less successful is tuber formation. Although I have had crops in both years they have been OK rather than huge. Enough for a couple of meals but that is about it. I’m not sure what to expect but this year my pot grown sweet potatoes averaged about a kg per vine. I reckon I probably got a little under that from my plants in the ground last year. My pots were in a sunnier position and this summer was warmer than the previous one, both of which I’m presuming helped.
I am also wondering if more fertilising would have improved the yield. The bed I grew them in last year wasn’t in great condition and although I did give the pots the occasional seaweed emulsion feed I wasn’t as regimented as I could have been.
The biggest difference between growing sweet potatoes in the ground and in pots is the likelihood of the plants layering and creating additional tuber formation points. When I grew the sweet potatoes in the ground they did layer a bit but the tubers that formed at those points were pretty small.
Having said that encouraging layering earlier could have the potential to improve yield considerably.
Regardless of the slightly disappointing yield growing sweet potatoes is a lot of fun. The vine goes everywhere and, like potatoes, you get the excitement of digging up the tubers – always my favourite harvesting task.
Have you tried growing sweet potatoes? What do you think they keys to success are? How much variation is there between varieties?
Saturday Spotlight is a series of posts highlighting particular varieties of edible plants. If you have a favourite, or even a less than successful variety of a plant and would like to include it in the series then please leave a comment with a link below. I have created a page (above, just below the header) with an Index of all the Spotlights to date. I will add links to any new posts below and in next weeks post as well as ensuring they appear in the Index.
New Spotlights last week were:
Spearmint ‘The Best’ - Our Happy Acres
Autumn Raspberries – Bek’s Backyard