A few weeks ago I posted my latest discoveries in growing sweet potatoes this summer, along with a few changes that were made in my organic cultivation practices.
Afterward I received an email from Barb, our small gardening specialist outlining her own special techniques for raising sweet potatoes in small gardens or containers:
Kenny, let me tell you about my sweet potato experiment, to give folks another set of trials to evaluate.
I also purchased slips from Mericlone Labs. Due to a shipping glitch and bad weather, I had to hold them in containers before setting them out in the garden. Because of the size of the slips, I opted to fill plastic newspaper bags with potting soil to accommodate them.
Because of my Small Space Garden, when I say I need four slips, I don’t mean three slips each of four different varieties! So I had many extras to give away. Some of the sweets I ordered were the same as yours: Speckled Purple, Purple, 8633, and Korean Purple. Mericlone also threw in some Covingtons for free.
Growing Sweet Potatoes in Containers to Save on Space
Since last year I harvested five pounds of sweet potatoes from one pot, I decided to try that method again with the Mericlone slips. I have one plant of each variety in five large pots containing a good mix of compost, kelp, cottonseed meal and potting soil. These went in early, and the pots were placed under a heavy clear plastic cover that I got from a mattress sales office.
Recycled wire supports from political campaign signs were used to lift the plastic. The container grown sweet potatoes stayed under this plastic until the weather had warmed consistently. Because they are in pots, the sweet potato vines need special attention to monitor soil moisture and also must be watered every day.
The Best Attempts to Confine Sweet Potato Vines to Small Spaces
The vigorous vines are crawling out of bounds and rooting wherever they make contact with the ground. What the results of their spreading and rooting will be I do not know. Later I will top-dress with compost and mulch them with bedding.
I also have four varieties in the ground, in a square about 4′ on a side: one each of 8633, Covington, Korean Purple and Purple. These plants have a sprinkler hose underneath a thick mulch of used rabbit bedding. They have spread throughout their area and are sneaking under the tomatoes and onto the driveway.
Evaluating the Results from Backyard Sweet Potato Trials
So between the two of us, we have several different growing techniques in action; your black plastic mulched and fabric covered group, my group of sweet potatoes growing in pots, and another group planted under a straw/hay mulch.
None of my sweet potato vines have produced blossoms at this point, which seems to indicate to me that at this point, your method is superior to either of mine. When harvest season comes around, we can compare our yields and let readers know the results.
Peace in the Garden, Barb.
Anxiously Awaiting a Productive Harvest of Tasty Tubers
Thanks for the report Barb! I’m not sure how much significance to place in the fact that my sweet potato vines actually produced flowers earlier this summer. The plants continue to look very healthy and grow well. I also have one sweet potato vine growing in a container; it’s sharing space in an EarthBox alongside a cucumber and a Green Zebra tomato.
The real test will come after the roots are dug up at harvest time. That won’t be for a while yet, I usually allow the sweet potato vines to remain in the garden and continue growing right up till a light frost strikes. But I’ll be sure to share the results with everyone as soon as the harvest is in!
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