Sweet potatoes are one of those vegetables that is a must-grow in Florida. We will show you how to grow sweet potatoes in Florida in the easiest way we know how.
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You don’t only have to eat sweet potatoes on holidays like Christmas or Thanksgiving because you can eat sweet potatoes all year long.
Sweet potatoes are very nutritious even more nutritious than what you might consider “regular potatoes,” which are store-bought called russet potatoes.
The nutritional value of sweet potatoes is amazing, according to Verywellfit.com:
- Sweet potatoes have 11.3 milligrams of beta carotene, (vision care)
- A large sweet potato has 3.6 grams of protein.
- They are rich in antioxidants
- Sweet potatoes can have up to 3.9 grams of fiber
- It is known to be fat-free and low in sodium
- This root crop has plenty of vitamins and minerals like vitamin A, potassium, and vitamin C.
How to grow sweet potatoes in Florida Table of Contents
I believe sweet potatoes are underrated because you can use them in many different ways when cooking.
Sweet potatoes are so easy to grow in all parts of Florida. In my opinion, every single gardener should be growing sweet potatoes in Florida.
How do Sweet Potatoes Grow?
Number one the first way to grow sweet potatoes is by buying sweet potato slips from a local garden center or farm that specializes in growing slips.
Another way is buying special varieties of sweet potatoes from a farm so you can grow your slips.
You can also grow sweet potatoes from home by buying (preferred organic) sweet potatoes from the grocery store.
I recommend getting organic sweet potatoes because they are grown organically without harsh chemicals not like commercially grown which can be unpredictable with their growing practices.
Sweet potatoes grow from slips, which are roots that grow out of sweet potatoes.
Through time the slips grow into leaves that come out on top of the soil and grow sweet potatoes below.
They are easier to grow than russet potatoes and are considered root crops like carrots, beets, and turnips.
Depending on where you grow sweet potatoes, there are some things to consider!
Vardman sweet potatoes from George’s Plant Farm are popular to grow for Florida home gardeners.
This variety of sweet potatoes can produce a high yield, works well in native soil, and when given plenty of room can grow large in size.
What month do you plant sweet potatoes?
You have to plant your sweet potato slips after your last frost date and ideally transplant your sweet potato slips on or before May and no later than July.
Growing Sweet Potatoe Slips Step-By-Step
Gather the best soil you have and add it to a container that has no holes a the bottom.
Wiggle in your whole sweet potatoes in the soil leaving a good portion of it uncovered.
Water the soil till moist and every couple of days water the soil when you see it get dry.
Leave your sweet potatoes in the soil in a sunny spot or under grow light with a heating pad underneath it.
The photo above is 3 weeks of growth in plastic growing trays.
By days 22-25, you will have full-size sweet potato slips!
Cut slips from your sweet potato that is at least 6-9 inches in height.
Place your slips in water so they can grow roots.
How to Grow Sweet Potatoes in Florida Video
You can grow sweet potatoes in many different locations, and one of the easiest locations is growing in the ground.
Pros of growing inground are that you will have a large area to grow them in which in turn will give you the highest potential for a great harvest.
Consider checking if the land has large rocks, is not compacted, and is full of organic matter by mixing your native soil/sand with plenty of compost or soil you buy.
Grow bags and Containers
Growing sweet potatoes in containers or grow bags is also possible!
I used store-bought potatoes to grow slips and ended up with my own sweet potatoes after a couple of months.
If you are growing in a container or a grow bag, I recommend a bag or container no smaller than a 25-gallon.
Growing sweet potatoes in grow bags or containers will be possible if you fill up your container or grow bag from the bottom to top with good soil.
A good potting soil to add to your container or grow bag is a soft mix with organic matter like compost that is nice a fluffy not stiff or compacted.
Grow bags are made to leach out water because of the fabric it’s made of but if reusing a container make sure you have a couple of holes at the bottom for good drainage.
Growing in raised beds
Raised beds are a way to grow sweet potatoes because they are deep enough to provide enough space.
Just like containers, growing in a contained space will help harvesting sweet potatoes easier to do.
However, if you choose to grow sweet potatoes in a raised bed:
- It is in full sun
- make sure it is at least 18 inches deep
- Is about 4 feet wide
- Sweet potatoes are like well-drained soil, sandy soil, loose soil, soil rich in nutrients, and are a good source of organic material like compost.
- Try to avoid growing your sweet potatoes in clay-like soil or very rocky soil, as it will be hard for the potatoes to grow in that environment.
- When it comes to pH levels, sweet potatoes prefer acidic soil. The ideal soil pH for sweet potatoes is between six and 6.45 if you are considering that.
- Regardless of the pH, your potatoes are very forgiving and will grow even if you don’t monitor the soil pH.
When I grew sweet potatoes for the first time, I didn’t even know the pH of my soil, and I still got a good harvest of potatoes.
In addition, to prepare your soil, make sure you space out your sweet potato slips.
- If you are growing in 25-50 gallons grow bags, plant at least 3 sweet potato slips in each one.
- In raised bed & in-ground place slips at least 10-12 inches apart.
- You know you gave your sweet potatoes enough space when you see them create a ground cover of sweet potato leaves and get to harvest with pounds of potatoes.
Light & Temperature Tips
- Sweet potatoes can only grow in warm weather and will not grow in cold weather since they cannot take a frost.
- As long as your soil temp is 60°F or higher you can grow sweet potatoes.
- Sweet potato growth will be stunted if the soil temperature is lower than 60°.
- I recommend planting out your slips until after the last frost date or if you can cover them with frost cloth for temperatures in the 40s or below.
- Keep in mind, temperatures below 50 degrees or below will damage them and decrease production.
- In Florida, sweet potatoes are one of the few crops that thrive in the summer while everything else might fail to grow because of the intense heat.
- Florida heat is a different type of heat, so when someone says your plants need full sun it doesn’t always mean full Florida sun.
- When it comes to sweet potatoes… it needs the full Florida sun and Florida’s warm climate.
- Give your sweet potatoes at least six hours of sun a day at the minimum, but the ideal sun exposure is 8 to 10 hours of full sun to grow successfully.
Sweet potato plants are made for tropical, humid conditions, and place that rains a lot which is perfect for Florida’s climate.
- Initially, you should water your sweet potato slips daily to keep them moist for the first week.
- After your sweet potato slips are established and growing well, you can water them every other day.
- You don’t want to flood your potatoes with water cause it can create rot.
- All you need to do is water them regularly, and they will grow and give you a decent harvest.
- In Florida, it can get very hot in the summers, and in the dry season, you need to ensure that you water regularly and don’t let your sweet potato plants dry out.
Overall sweet potatoes need about an inch of water a week to grow successfully.
- Sweet potatoes are root crops that need more phosphorus and potassium.
- Compared to other crops that need more nitrogen, sweet potatoes need fertilizers that will help root development.
- Considering the balancing of NPK (nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium) requirements for sweet potatoes your middle letter number (P) phosphorus, and last letter (K) potassium should be higher than your (N) nitrogen.
- That’s a very simple way to look at it if you’re looking at the numbers of NPK ratios in any fertilizer that you are buying.
- Some fertilizer numbers examples that you can consider are 5– 10– 10 or 8–24-24.
- You can also sprinkle some bone meal that has a high amount of phosphorus, and some calcium as a good option.
If you want to be more technical with your fertilizer, according to Okstate.edu, “A crop of sweet potatoes utilizes about 110 pounds of nitrogen, 15 pounds of phosphorus, and 150 pounds of potassium per acre from the soil. Based on OSU soil test results, the following amounts of P2O5 (phosphorus) and K2O (potassium) are recommended.”
Transplanting Sweet Potatoes Slips step-by-step
You can plant your sweet potato slips right in your soil if they have some roots on the bottom.
Or until the slips grow more roots by placing them in water first until more roots show and then transplanting them.
Either way, in both cases you will grow sweet potatoes. It just depends on your preference and what works for you.
Create a hole where you want to place your slips in the ground.
Insert slips in the hole and cover the bottom with at least 2 inches of soil or until the bottom is covered and you have of slip sticking out.
This is optional, but I like to sprinkle some fertilizer blood meal in the planting hole before I transplant my sweet potato slips to help root development.
When to fertilize sweet potato plants?
The rule of thumb is to fertilize at least once a month as they take a long time to grow and fertilizing every two weeks is not necessary.
If you can remember, fertilize your sweet potatoes at least two to three times before harvesting them.
Sweet Potato Pest
You can harvest your sweet potatoes in about 120 days which is roughly 4 months.
- You will see the leaves start dying back and you’ll avoid watering the last two or three weeks so you won’t alter the texture and taste of your sweet potatoes. If you forget this step it’s okay!
- Cut back all the sweet potato vines and leave at least 3 to 6 inches left to help you harvest.
- Having dry soil makes the harvesting process easier because you have to dig into your dirt to grab all the sweet potatoes that have been growing in the soil.
- If you’re growing in a container, all you have to do is dump it out and find all the sweet potatoes.
- If you didn’t have a container or a pot, just keep digging into the dirt until you find all the sweet potatoes you can find.
- Harvesting by hand is the best way to harvest potatoes as any gardening tool with a sharp point can puncture and ruin your root crops.
- If you are digging in a raised bed and need a tool just be careful when harvesting.
If you do not want to cure, you can most definitely eat your sweet potatoes as soon as you harvest them.
The curing process is to help make your sweet potato sweeter, so it is recommended.
After you harvest your sweet potatoes from the dirt, go ahead and brush all the dirt away and placed them in an area where it gets 80° F in humidity for about two weeks.
This process increases the sugar content in sweet potatoes as it slowly develops.
Avoid placing your potatoes straight into the fridge after harvesting.
Caring for them in the warm humidity first is necessary before storing them if you’re going to wait to eat them for a long time. This is part of the curing process as we explained earlier.
After they are cured, you can store them in a cool, dark place that reaches 50 to 60°F.
You can store potatoes for about six months and throughout their storing process remove ones that develop any mold, or other ones that don’t look edible.
How to Grow Sweet Potatoes in Florida FAQ
Are sweet potatoes easy to grow?
Yes, sweet potatoes are easy to grow in hot and humid conditions since they thrive in that environment.
Compared to other vegetables you can grow in Florida, sweet potatoes are low-maintenance and an easy vegetable to grow for beginners.
How long does it take to grow sweet potatoes in Florida?
It takes about 120 days to grow sweet potatoes in all parts of Florida. In total sweet potatoes need about 4 months of growing in full sun to grow successfully.
Can you grow sweet potatoes year-round in Florida?
You can grow sweet potatoes year around Florida if you can shield them from frost, especially if you live in a hardiness zone that gets down to 35 degrees or below.
Can I plant a garden of sweet potatoes with varieties from the grocery store?
Yes, you can use sweet potato varieties from the grocery store to grow your own slips.
You can get sweet potato packets in the garden centers at your local big box store or buy organic sweet potatoes.
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