Growing sweet potatoes at home is definitely doable. That said, a lot of people don’t do it because they tend to take up too much horizontal space. However, it is technically possible to grow sweet potatoes vertically.
This is what we are here to do today, to provide you a guide on growing sweet potatoes vertically. You just need a few extra pieces of equipment and it’s quite easily done. Let’s get to it and grow some sweet potatoes.
Growing Sweet Potatoes Vertically: A to Z
We’re going to give you an in depth guide on growing sweet potatoes vertically, starting with gathering all of your necessary materials.
1. Gather Your Materials
There are a few things that you are going to need for this task. You may grow sweet potatoes from seeds, although doing so from slips is recommended. Go to your local garden store and get some high quality sweet potato slips.
You are then also going to need some high quality potting soil, along with some good compost or fertilizer.
You are then also going to need some sort of structure to support those sweet potato vines. You’re going to need some kind of tomato cage, reinforced wire mesh, a lattice, or a trellis. Exactly which one you use is up to you. You’re also going to need some other miscellaneous items such as a small garden shovel.
2. Prepare the Growing Area
The next thing that you need to do here is to prepare the growing area. You want to get that high quality potting soil into your garden.
You then also want to mix in some high quality compost. If you are going for store bought fertilizer, make sure that it has an ideal nitrogen-phosphorus-potassium (NPK) ratio for sweet potatoes.
Sweet potatoes prefer to have a good deal of potassium and phosphorus, but not very much nitrogen. So, whatever fertilizer you use, make sure that the N value is fairly low.
Just like in a farm, you’re going to want to make fairly high ridges. Create ridges that are about 10 inches high. If you are making multiple rows, space each ridge about 3.5 feet apart. You can expect a 10-foot long row to produce up to 10 pounds of sweet potatoes.
Now is also the time when you can set up your support structure for this vertical sweet potato growth. You want to insert the support structure, whatever you are using, about 10 inches from the planting site of the sweet potatoes.
On a side note, do make sure to choose a sunny area. Sweet potatoes prefer to get full sunlight on a daily basis.
3. When to Plant Sweet Potatoes
What you need to know about sweet potatoes is that they are extremely sensitive to frost. If frost hits them, they will most likely die. Therefore, your sweet potatoes should not be planted until at least three weeks after the last frost date. The soil does need to be fairly warm.
However, also keep in mind that sweet potatoes can take up to 170 days to fully mature. Therefore, you may want to start them inside before planting outdoors.
About four to six weeks before planting outdoors, you can place the roots of the sweet potatoes in a box that contains chopped leaves. This could also be sand or sawdust.
Make sure that this medium is moist. Make sure to place this in a warm spot that is at least 75 degrees Fahrenheit. You will see shoots sprouting.
Once the shoots reach around 7 inches long, separate them from the root. You want to get rid of the bottom inch of the slip. That bottom inch can often contain variety of disease ridden organisms. You can now move on to the actual planting process.
4. Plant the Sweet Potatoes
You are now going to take the sweet potato slips and plant them. Make sure that the last frost date is well past. To plant sweet potatoes, make holes that are roughly 6 inches deep. You are going to bury the sweet potato slips up to the top leaves.
Make sure to press down the soil, but not too tightly. Sweet potatoes prefer the soil to be fairly loose. In terms of how far apart to plant sweet potatoes, about 12 inches is ideal. Once the sweet potatoes have been planted, make sure to provide them with plenty of water.
5. Caring for Sweet Potatoes
The good thing about sweet potatoes is that they are relatively easy to care for. They really don’t require all that many nutrients to grow. You don’t need to fertilize them once they have been planted, at least not for the first month.
You can then choose to provide them with some supplemental fertilizer after the first month. Just remember that sweet potatoes don’t like a lot of nitrogen. Therefore, make sure that your fertilizer has a lot of potassium and phosphorus, but not too much nitrogen.
Sweet potatoes are going to require about an inch of water per week. Of course, this depends on your local rainfall, humidity levels, and temperature. That said, sweet potatoes do prefer the soil to be fairly moist, although not soaked. You definitely don’t want to over saturate the soil with water, as this can cause issues.
Do also keep in mind that you never want to water the actual sweet potato plant itself. In other words, you need to water the soil around the plant.
You don’t want to get water onto the leaves. This can cause fungus and disease to occur. If the sunlight hits the water, it can also be magnified and result in the leaves being burned.
We are talking about growing sweet potatoes vertically. Therefore, as the vines grow, you want to weave them in and out of your support structure. Weave them back and forth very gently, as these plants are a bit sensitive. You don’t want to tie the vines to the support structure. You want to let them grow freely to allow for healthy and strong vines.
On that note, if you see long vines on the ground, you also want to lift them up and support them. This is due to the fact that if you leave long vines on the ground for too long, they will form roots at the joints. This will take away energy from sweet potato growth and redirect it into new root and vine growth. Other than that, you don’t want to handle sweet potato plants very much.
6. Harvesting Sweet Potatoes
When the leaves of the sweet potato plants start turning yellow, you know that it’s time to harvest them. You are going to want to let the soil dry out for about two weeks before harvesting.
Simply use a sharp knife or razor and cut them off of the vines. As you can see, growing sweet potatoes vertically is fairly easy.
Growing Sweet Potatoes Vertically at Home – Final Thoughts
When it comes down to it, sweet potatoes are extremely easy to grow. Even the process of attaching them to a vertical support is not very difficult or painstaking.