The sweet potato or kumara is a dicotyledonous plant that belongs to the plant family Convolvulaceae. Its large, starchy, sweet-tasting, tuberous roots are a root vegetable. Its young leaves and shoots are sometimes eaten as greens.
The sweet potato is becoming a popular food, so it is about high I talked about how you can grow this plant yourself in a simple bucket. This description below will give you every detail you need to get started growing your own sweet potatoes in warm buckets. You can read about it here, from buying your first seed potato all the way to harvesting boatloads of potatoes at the other end.
Is the sweet potato a better potato?
Well, all my friends from Canterbury district agree to this, including some agricultural experts on the matter.
Although many may argue that the sweet potato is not superior to the regular savory potato, the popular paleo diet praises sweet potatoes for their high nutritional profile while decrying regular potatoes as being little more than “starchy carbs.”
Sweet potatoes have surpassed their regular counterparts in so many ways
Before writing this article, I did a little bit of research on the main differences between sweet potatoes and regular potatoes.
These are the 5 main points I have read people talk about most:
- Sweet potatoes have similar carbohydrate content, but more fiber than regular potatoes.
- Sweet potatoes count fewer calories than regular potatoes.
- Sweet potatoes have more nutrients than regular potatoes – most notably vitamin A and vitamin C.
- Potatoes contain saponins, and sweet potatoes do not contain it. Sometimes referred to as “anti-nutrient,” the saponins may be bad for your health if too much of it is consumed.
- Sweet potatoes taste better when eaten by themselves while regular potatoes are usually eaten with a condiment such as cheese, gravy, or ketchup.
And in case you haven’t noticed – sweet potatoes can grow really big. That means that you will actually get much more crop by growing sweet potatoes in buckets than you do when growing plain Jane potatoes.
This sweet potato idea is one of many plants you can grow using regular grocery store produce as your seed stock. It is called grocery multiplication. One of the best known grocery multiplication techniques is for green onions: you just stick the bottom inch of a root tip in water or soil – and it will grow a fresh abundance of green onions for you in a couple of weeks!
1. Choosing the right sweet potato
In order to multiply a sweet potato, your tubers need to be capable of producing shoots. If your sweet potato won’t grow shoots, it may because it’s been treated with a chemical during the growing or shipping process. With regular potatoes, this chemical is called BudNip and it prevents potatoes from growing shoots. They’re still edible though, but since they don’t sprout you can’t grow new potatoes from them.
You can ensure your sweet potato has had minimal contact with hormones or other chemical agents by selecting an organic brand of a sweet potato to use as your growing stock.
Here’s a sweet potato – it happens to be the one I’m eating right tonight. You see that it is already starting to produce sprouts. In sweet potato’s jargon, these growths are called slips – and it’s these sprouts that we use to grow more sweet potatoes.
2. The sweet potato is a heat loving tuber
Unlike conventional tubers like carrots and regular potatoes, sweet potatoes love the heat. To ensure that your sweet potatoes lasts long enough to sprout, never store them below a temperature of 10°C (50°F) or they will quickly rot and turn into mush. Make sure your sweet potatoes are stored at room temperature. I’ve also noticed that sweet potatoes kept in a plastic bag rot quicker. So – keep them warm and let them “breathe!”
In fact, sweet potatoes kept in cold storage at any point may never sprout, so make sure your grocery store hasn’t been storing them cold either. The heat is even more important to a sweet potato at harvest time.
3. Growing from “slips”
The first thing with growing sweet potatoes is getting a nice crop of sweet potato slips. Place your single seed potato in a 19-liter bucket (5 gallon bucket) of moist soil, tops exposed. This is your “slip nursery” – an intermediate step between your grocery store shelves and your garden plot. As with anything planted in buckets, make sure to drill adequate drainage holes at the bottom.
Before long, your “slips” will start rocketing out of your sweet potato. Once the slips are ready to plant, this is what they should look like:
You need to pull these shoots out and transplant them in larger 76-liter containers (20 gallons). In each of these buckets, plant 6 sweet potato slips.
4. When to plant sweet potatoes
If you’re growing outside, you’ll need at least a 100 day long growing season to grow sweet potatoes. If you’re growing in buckets, of course, you can “extend” your growing season by starting them indoors.
You never need the soil your sweet potatoes grow in to go below 10 degrees Celsius (50 degrees F). They will morph into inedible brown mush quickly below this level. So, plant them after last frost, once the soil has warmed up. Check with your local agricultural extension to find the best planting dates for sweet potatoes in your particular area. Sweet potatoes start off growing slowly, but shoot up like “teenagers” once the doggy days of summer roll around.
5. When to harvest you sweet potatoes
Just like with any plant, make sure they stay well-watered throughout their growing period. Once your sweet potatoes have seen 4 months of growth they should be ready for harvest.
In temperate climates, harvest immediately after your first frost – which is when your vines start to turn black.
But be careful: Sweet potatoes may start to split if you leave them in the ground for a full 8 months!
Keep sweet potatoes in a warm, humid environment for 14 days after harvest. Warm in this case means a toasty 27°C (80°F ). This cures sweet potatoes, encouraging them to create a protective layer of something called suberin, which protects sweet potatoes so they can be stored at room temperature for up to a year.
6. Bucket-grown sweet potatoes yield
If grown correctly, you can hope for a yield of about 11 kilos (25 pounds) for each 20-gallon bucket. And this is only a very rough estimate! You may get more or less depending on the variety of the sweet potato and growing conditions.
I hope you enjoy your very own sweet potatoes!
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