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Success with sweet potatoes – how to plant and harvest a superfood

Murasaki Sweet Potatoes

Murasaki Sweet Potatoes

Packed with calcium, potassium, and vitamins A and C, sweet potatoes are- nutritionally speaking- a powerhouse. It’s no wonder that, for many Native Americans prior to European colonization, sweet potatoes were a main source of nourishment, and were eaten by soldiers as a main food source during the Revolutionary War. Their sweetness, which increases once they are picked and stored, is beyond compare. But sweet potatoes are not just for eating- they have lovely foliage and flowers and lend themselves well even to container gardening.

Sweet potatoes are best grown from slips- small plants that can either be propagated by you from actual sweet potatoes, or purchased from a supplier. To give your crop the optimum growing environment, build long, wide, 10-inch high mounds or ridges spaced 3-4 feet apart, and work in plenty of compost. Nitrogen-rich fertilizers and food should be avoided as those will produce lush greenery, but not large tubers. Plant your slips 12 to 18 inches apart, and cover so that only about ½ inch of the stem is above the soil. 3-4 weeks after transplanting, side-dress the potatoes with fertilizer (one that is low in Nitrogen, such as a 5-10-10 blend). Beds should be tended and hoed to keep weeds down, and reshape beds with soil or mulch. A key thing to remember is water water water- especially deep watering during hot, dry periods. Let the foliage grow and grow without trimming, and once the leaves turn yellow, it’s time to harvest. Once you carefully dig up your tubers, allow them to dry in the sun for several hours, then cure them (this allows a second skin to form) in a spot with high humidity and keep them warm (85° to 90°) for 10 to 15 days; then move them to a cool spot and they should keep for several months. Spoilage usually occurs if any nicks occur in the skin during harvest.

O' Henry Sweet Potatoes

O’ Henry Sweet Potatoes

Charmed by the idea of growing your own sweet potatoes and showing off your hard work in a delicious homemade sweet potato pie? Gurney’s has several varieties you can try.

Gurney’s Choice O’Henry Sweet Potatoes  : Cream colored tubers with golden flesh that is stringless, and tastes of nuts and honey. Matures in 100 days and has high yields.

Sweet Potato Bush Porto Rico: Perfect for gardeners with compact space, this bush-type plant produces small runners. Potatoes are great for baking and have gorgeous orange flesh.

Murasaki Sweet Potatoes : For something a little different, try this purple-skinned beauty. White flesh is excellent for baking, boiling, or mashing.

 

 

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