Saturday Spotlight – ‘Beauregard’ Sweet Potatoes

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’.

Sweet Potatoes

Shooting sweet potatoAnyway, 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.

Sweet potato vineI 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.

Sweet Potatoes

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.

Sweet Potatoes

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

And from this week:

Radishes – City Garden, Country Garden

Beetroot – Home Sweet Kitchen & Garden

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25 Responses to Saturday Spotlight – ‘Beauregard’ Sweet Potatoes

  1. Dave says:

    Beauregard does well for me here. I do think sweet potatoes prefer a lean soil, without additional fertilizer. I know that seems counter intuitive, but that’s what other gardeners have told me too. I plant mine in a ridge of soil, without amendments, mulch them, and let them grow for 4 months or so. Too much nitrogen will result in lots of vines, and small skinny tubers. I’ve never tried growing them in containers, though I know others have success that way.

    No spotlight for me this week. I’ve busy planting though!

    • Liz says:

      Happy planting and thanks for the advice. I’m not sure whether I will plant in tubs again or try the ground again this year but either way I’ll tweak the fertilising to ensure I don’t add nitrogen.

      • Dave says:

        Of course everyone’s soil is unique. Generally I have plenty of K and P in my soil already (according to a soil test), at least enough for the sweet potatoes. But apparently it’s too much N that causes the problems.

  2. Jo says:

    I’ve never tried growing sweet potatoes, in fact, I’ve never even tasted them before. It’s good to try growing new things though, it keeps the interest going.

    • Liz says:

      I really like them roasted with roast chicken and gravy or in soups or as pakora or fritters. They are sweet and delicious.

  3. Daphne says:

    Last year was my first year growing sweet potatoes. I don’t know how much I got per slip, but I got about a pound of sweet potatoes per square foot of space. Which translates to about 5 kg per square meter. I did get a huge mix of small, medium, and large tubers. I don’t know if that is considered a good yield or not. I consider it pretty good. I live in a really marginal area for sweet potatoes (too cold), but last year was fairly hot and dry compared to our normal. And I grew them in the brick area of the garden so lots of extra heat from that. I did fertilize, but a lower nitrogen fertilizer. So not much N but lots of P and K. Like Dave everything I’ve read says to not put too much nitrogen on the plot.

    My best producers were Garnet, Purple, and Beauregard. I’m hoping to grow them again, but having trouble getting slips off of the Garnet (same trouble last year). Those tubers really don’t like to sprout. I’ll have to start very early next year.

    • Liz says:

      5kg per square metre sounds great. I will trying your fertilising regime this year – thanks for letting me know. I have put aside some of the smallest tubers to sprout from as well as potting up some slips which I will keep in the cold frame over winter and try and get a head start on things.

  4. We’re having a go at growing sweet potatoes on pots in the greenhouse this year but things need to warm up a bit if they are to succeed.

  5. I must admit to never having really got into the taste of sweet potato that much, but might just give them a try this year. I’m wondering if they would actually do quite well in one of our wine barrels if that would give them enough room to grow, as the soil in those is definitely “lean” as per Dave’s advice.

    I’ve just posted a Saturday Spotlight about radishes. Thanks for hosting this great series!

    • Liz says:

      I reckon the wine barrels would be perfect. I have to admit I’m not really sure I can taste much difference between store bought and home grown sweet potatoes but then that is probably as much about how I cook them (usually with loads of other things in a soup) as anything else.

  6. Nina says:

    In what seems to be an emerging trend, I didn’t get my sweet potatoes in, in time this year, so they are a bust.

    I really, really need to free up more time to do what I love most – growing veggies!

    • Liz says:

      Yes, yes yes, do it, she says knowing full well she has a tray of lettuce, cabbage and kohl rabi seedlings that really need to be planted out….

  7. Louise says:

    Thanks for this Liz, very informative along with other’s comments too. You don’t see helpful hints on growing sweet potato in many gardening books do you. So your intro and Dave’s and Daphne’s comments are very helpful. I might give them a try. I sometimes find strange things growing in my roots box!

    • Liz says:

      I am a firm believer in planting all strange things I find in the back of the cupboard. Some work better than others…..

  8. Wonderful pix of sweet potato fingerlings! We just massively simplified our growing list so no sweet potatoes for our garden, though I have been curious about Norma’s posts on culinary uses for the leaves…

  9. Mark Willis says:

    I have never tried growing Sweet Potatoes. I don’t think they would do well here, due to lack of enough warm weather. Maybe in a heated greenhouse…?

    • Liz says:

      Yeah you would need at least 4-6 months warm temperatures for them to crop and I suspect that is beyond Englands climate without, as you suggest, intervention.

  10. I’m going to give sweet potato a go for the first time this year, so thanks for the tips! This is my post on beetroot 😀

    http://homesweetkitchengarden.blogspot.com.au/2013/05/all-about-beetroot.html

  11. I am going to try sweet potato this year thanks to reading your post. I wasn’t to sure how to go about it but I have a sweet potato with shoots at the moment so am going to try and get them to root. Thanks for the inspiration.

    • Liz says:

      They root really easily in a glass of water. I just break each shoot off put them in water and then pot them up when the roots appear. I then plant out when the weather is warm enough – for you that will be a lot earlier than me.

  12. Michelle says:

    I’ve never tried growing sweet potatoes, I think it’s too cool here to get a good crop. But if they do ok in containers I think I might experiment with growing them in pots in one of the warm spots next to the house. Or I might try growing them just for the leaves, they’re edible too.

    I didn’t get around to writing up a Saturday Spotlight post, but I have one in mind for the favas that I’m growing.

    • Liz says:

      I still haven’t tried the leaves. Having greens averse kids means I tend to experiment with greens less than other veg. I should though – next year…. I reckon you might be alright with the sweet potatoes although I haven’t really worked out if they need hot temps or just long warm temps.

  13. Atu says:

    I have observed from my patch that sprouts developed from the storage root. many more are formed after cutting out the first sprouts. It formed from the old cut, forming a lump like basement where all the sprouts are coming out from. what is the structure called, plant cells formed over the old cut may be?

    • Liz says:

      That is interesting. Now I’m going to have to experiment with all the tubers sitting in my cupboard waiting to sprout.

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