Growing sweet potatoes in plastic containers at home is a practical and space-saving way to enjoy these delicious and nutritious tubers. Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you get started:
Materials You’ll Need:
- Sweet Potato Slips: You can purchase sweet potato slips (young plants) from a nursery or create your own by sprouting sweet potatoes.
- Large Plastic Containers: Choose containers that are at least 12-18 inches deep and have drainage holes at the bottom. The size will depend on how many sweet potatoes you want to grow.
- Quality Potting Mix: Use a well-draining, nutrient-rich potting mix suitable for container gardening.
- Compost or Fertilizer: Sweet potatoes appreciate fertile soil, so have some compost or a balanced, slow-release fertilizer on hand.
- Sunlight: Select a sunny location for your containers. Sweet potatoes thrive in full sun, so choose a spot that receives at least 6-8 hours of direct sunlight each day.
1. Preparing the Containers:
- Ensure your containers have drainage holes to prevent waterlogging.
- Fill the containers with the potting mix, leaving a few inches at the top for planting.
2. Planting Sweet Potato Slips:
- Plant sweet potato slips about 4-6 inches deep in the potting mix. Space them about 12-18 inches apart.
- If you’re using a large container, you can plant multiple slips in rows, spacing the rows about 3 feet apart.
- Water the slips immediately after planting to settle the soil.
3. Watering and Feeding:
- Keep the soil consistently moist but not waterlogged. Sweet potatoes prefer even moisture.
- Water deeply whenever the top inch of soil feels dry.
- Fertilize your sweet potatoes with a balanced, water-soluble fertilizer every 4-6 weeks or follow the product instructions. You can also incorporate compost into the soil before planting for natural nutrition.
4. Vine Training:
- Sweet potato vines are vigorous growers. As they grow, you can train them to cascade over the sides of the container or trellis them vertically to save space.
- Pruning the vines can also help manage their growth.
- Sweet potatoes are typically ready for harvest 90-170 days after planting, depending on the variety and growing conditions.
- Wait until the leaves start to turn yellow and wither, usually in the fall.
- Carefully dig up the sweet potatoes from the container. Be gentle to avoid damaging the tubers.
- Allow the harvested sweet potatoes to cure in a warm, dry place for about 1-2 weeks. Curing helps improve flavor and storage quality.
- Mulch the soil surface to help retain moisture, regulate soil temperature, and prevent weed growth.
- Sweet potatoes are sensitive to frost, so be prepared to harvest them before the first frost date in your area.
- If you’re reusing containers, clean and disinfect them before planting to prevent disease.
Growing sweet potatoes in plastic containers is a rewarding gardening project that can yield a tasty harvest. With proper care and attention to sunlight, water, and nutrients, you can enjoy homegrown sweet potatoes even if you have limited garden space.