Sweet Potato Growing Tips?

I'm planning on growing sweet potatoes this season (1st time) and I am looking for any tips from any experienced gardeners out there.  I have started some slips at home from an organic sweet potato from Stop & Shop and have put in an order for some slips from Stark Bros for the rest.

The plan is to grow a bush variety (Vardaman) in the front yard where I get the most sun and the home started slips in the backyard which also gets a lot of sun, but I am unsure if it is a vining or bush variety.  So if it takes over the yard, better the back than the front.  They all will be grown in 15 gallon black fabric pots with a black mulch to warm up the soil before planting.  My soil mix is store-bought potting mix, coco coir, composted manure and a little extra perlite, but I haven't settled on all my soil amendments yet.

So any advice about how to feed the plants throughout the season is greatly appreciated.  I am thinking bone meal added to my mix, then organic fertilizer at planting along with weekly fish emulsion.  Maybe there is a better way?


I just planted mine in well composted, well drained soil that got good sun and not too much rain. Note that the vine do take over any space available - more so than pumpkins or cucumbers, and they’ll also climb up trees and patio posts etc. Pretty blue flowers (a little like morning glory) You know it’s harvest time when you see the tubers poking out of the soil a little, they really do lift up. If you’re not quick enough, they’ll just set more roots for the next season. 

Oh - it takes months and months for them to mature, it’ll seem like nothing is happening. It’s not like carrots or radishes. Just be patient.

(Make sure you’ve planted them in the centre of little hills. You’ll see it makes a difference later)


pity you can only grow pineapples in glasshouses. I’ve grown them from cut crowns - sooooo much fun! But takes months after the fruit forms. 


Thanks a lot for the info!  I will add more compost to my mix and brace myself for the vine takeover.  Thanks for the tip about patience, because that is usually the hardest part.

Wow!  Your pineapple looks amazing!  I have only been gardening a couple of years, so maybe a tropical plant will be my next experiment.  Just realized that sweet potatoes are tropical plants... Pineapples are next!


You’re welcome! 

We’re in Queensland, so it’s opposite seasons to you, and our winters aren’t as bitterly cold. 

Next winter, you might want to cover your bed over with some pea straw and then some sheets of thick cardboard to help protect from freezing. Check with your local nursery if it’s worth setting some roots by the end of Fall, so they’ll be ready to go as soon as the soil starts to warm. 

Now, this season: you’ll want to keep water up, but don’t flood the plants (hence the hills). Once you’ve got tubers thickening, juice them up with good watering. (I found a good drink in the evenings helped - but watch for mosquitos generally near water)


@SamFudge, where is your garden?


Oh and I used mushroom compost instead of fish emulsion, and sugar cane straw to keep weeds down.


@Tom_Reingold My garden is in Maplewood.  I didn't realize that @joanne was on the other side of the world grin  Still good sweet potato info though, I will make sure my soil mix has more organic material in it.


My wife and I moved out of Maplewood in 2013. We live in NYC most of the time, and we have a place in Ulster County, NY, and we're thinking of growing food there soon. We've been busy renovating the house itself.


When you do grow, what's the plan?  Ulster County is a colder zone than here.

Tom_Reingold said:

My wife and I moved out of Maplewood in 2013. We live in NYC most of the time, and we have a place in Ulster County, NY, and we're thinking of growing food there soon. We've been busy renovating the house itself.




SamFudge said:

When you do grow, what's the plan?  Ulster County is a colder zone than here.


No plan yet. I first need to construct fences and things like that, perhaps boxes. The yard is steeply sloped, and some of the soil is very shallow. There is rock underneath. So maybe I'll need to build tiers.

My wife planted peach and pawpaw trees. The peaches bore fruit in their first year and since then.

Yes, it's colder, especially at night.


I'll be interested to hear how the pawpaw trees go,given the very cold snowy winters. 

Do you have male and female trees? You generally need both, for pawpaws, as the flowers don't both grow on the one tree. (I have no idea how you can tell until flowers or fruit set. Only the females actually bear the edible fruit, but you need the male flowers to pollinate the females)p. In this instance, artificial pollination isn't the same)


Joanne, Pawpaw trees are indigenous to Eastern US and Canada, so the winters aren't a problem.


Ulster County isn't in the snow belt. We do get snow, but it's not like other areas at all.

I ate a pawpaw (fruit) last year. I was amazed. I hope our trees bear fruit eventually. I believe it is supposed to take a long time. I'll see if I can find out if we have opposite sex trees. We have two trees. They're growing very slowly and looking very meager. The peach trees are doing great, especially considering they're babies. The two of them gave us over 70 peaches last year. And our property is fairly private, so I got to pick them naked.


The tiered garden style is beautiful.

When I moved to Maplewood, I brought my young cherry tree with me.  Got cherries the following year.  Thinking of planting another fruit tree.  I've never tasted a pawpaw, so I'm not sure if I would like it, but would consider it since it is native to our area.

Tom_Reingold said:



SamFudge said:

When you do grow, what's the plan?  Ulster County is a colder zone than here.




No plan yet. I first need to construct fences and things like that, perhaps boxes. The yard is steeply sloped, and some of the soil is very shallow. There is rock underneath. So maybe I'll need to build tiers.

My wife planted peach and pawpaw trees. The peaches bore fruit in their first year and since then.

Yes, it's colder, especially at night.



They call the pawpaw the custard apple. It's not very apple like. It has big seeds in the middle of a pile of custard. It's as if Rita injected the custard into the fruit's skin.


It sounds delicious.  I've never seen pawpaws at the market, maybe I can forage for one to taste.

Tom_Reingold said:

They call the pawpaw the custard apple. It's not very apple like. It has big seeds in the middle of a pile of custard. It's as if Rita injected the custard into the fruit's skin.



A friend in New Paltz served them. She's a farmer, and I think she grew them, but I'm not sure. I was also able to buy them at the High Falls Food Coop in High Falls. They are delicious and quite unusual.


Custard apples are cherimoyas; are you sure you have the same fruit? They're  very different! They're knobbly green, with creamy white flesh, sectional, and have large glossy brown seeds in each section. They taste like stewed apples mixed with whipped cream.

Pawpaw have smaller seeds usually grouped in the middle. (Yes, I know ours are your papaya,  but my books explain the difference) They're generally reddish, orange or an unripe yellow-green.

ETA: hah! Another gardening book explains another genus is related to the ylang ylang! That's the one you mean. I hadn't seen your pawpaws of that type. 


Pawpaws taste like sweeter and softer cantaloupe. So delicious when they are fully ripen 


I dug up my whole backyard last season redid the tiny lawn.  I'm going to try container gardening on my patio this year.


I planted a single Pawpaw tree last fall. Sounds like I need to get another Pawpaw tree.


Tom, what you’ve described (and what I’ve read up on) is closer to the cherimoya style of fruit in flavour than I was picturing at first, hence my confusion. They are exactly that: Totally delicious, and addictive if you have the slightest bit of sweet tooth! A little fibrous but not enough to be a worry; you don’t use use the skin, pith or seeds. 

If you have a latex allergy, or a banana allergy, avoid this fruit or carry an epipen. (Check it out with your allergist)



joanne said:

I'll be interested to hear how the pawpaw trees go,given the very cold snowy winters. 

Do you have male and female trees? You generally need both, for pawpaws, as the flowers don't both grow on the one tree. (I have no idea how you can tell until flowers or fruit set. Only the females actually bear the edible fruit, but you need the male flowers to pollinate the females)p. In this instance, artificial pollination isn't the same)

What Australians call pawpaw we call papaya, which are a tropical fruit.

What Americans call paw paw are a north American fruit and the tree actually needs a certain amount of cold during the winter to properly produce fruit.  I don't know if our paw paws need cross pollination or not.  I do know that the fruit has an extremely short shelf life, it apparently goes from ripe to over ripe in just a few days, and does not ship well, which is why you can sometimes find them at farmer's markets for a premium, but almost never at commercial grocery stores


joanne said:

Oh and I used mushroom compost instead of fish emulsion, and sugar cane straw to keep weeds down.

I used mushroom compost mixed with other stuff when making my raised garden bed and we ended up with so many tomatoes that even with eating them almost daily, giving them away, and cooking them down for sauce, we still ended up overwhelmed with tomatoes and some ended up rotting on the vine.  The stuff works. 


I have used ornamental sweet potato vines in my planters several times.  They usually set several smallish tubers all on their own.  

If you use crop type plants or sets, and place them in sunny location, I don't think you have to do much more than enhance the soil a little, and water as needed,



joanne said:

Custard apples are cherimoyas; are you sure you have the same fruit? They're  very different! They're knobbly green, with creamy white flesh, sectional, and have large glossy brown seeds in each section. They taste like stewed apples mixed with whipped cream.


This has been my experience with these fruits, whatever they are called. I find the skin to be edible though not as amazing as the gooshy stuff.

What is mushroom compost?



Thanks for the info, very encouraging.

I plan on putting a compact variety in my front yard.  I am hoping that if I can amend my soil properly I won't need to tend them too much.

tomcat said:

I have used ornamental sweet potato vines in my planters several times.  They usually set several smallish tubers all on their own.  

If you use crop type plants or sets, and place them in sunny location, I don't think you have to do much more than enhance the soil a little, and water as needed,



Thanks for the advice.

I will look into mushroom compost and leave the fish emulsion as a backup.  I am not sure if we can get sugar cane straw here, but I was planning on a wood chip mulch to suppress weeds.

joanne said:

Oh and I used mushroom compost instead of fish emulsion, and sugar cane straw to keep weeds down.



You can get composted manure in sacks at Home Depot.  Spread about 1" deep, and work it into the soil.


In order to add a comment – you must Join this community – Click here to do so.

Advertise here!

Sponsored Business

Find Business

Latest Jobs

Employment Wanted

Help Wanted