Several of you asked about planting sweet potatoes. I'm in no way an expert. It has actually been several years since I've even grown sweet potatoes. Sweet potato vines take a lot of space that I didn't feel I had the last several years.
Sweet potatoes like warm soil. We usually wait until June to plant them. Often we plant them when we take the peas out as a way to maximize our garden space.
Sweet potatoes are grown from plants. You can purchase plants at a garden center or online. You an also grow your own plants. You will need a firm healthy sweet potato. If the sweet potato is starting to sprout, you have a head start. I assume that most grocery store sweet potatoes are treated with an anti-sprouting chemical. Look for organic sweet potatoes or get from a gardening friend. My sweet potatoes came from my mom and a friend. I don't know what variety they are but both of them had excellent sweet potato crops last year and they kept very well all winter. Sounds like traits I want to encourage!
Place the sweet potato in a jar of water. You want to submerse most of the sweet potato while allowing a couple inches above water. One of my sweet potatoes was so large it couldn't fit well in the jar. Change the water occasionally to keep from molding. Place in sunlight. Soon the sweet potato will send out sprouts, or slips.
When the sprouts are four to five inches long, pull them off the sweet potato. The sweet potato will grow more sprouts.
Place the sprouts in water. You can place a bunch of sprouts in the same jar. They will quickly grow roots.
When the sprout is well rooted, plant on a hill of soil about ten inches high. Keep the plants well watered while the roots are being established. We like to mulch the hill to keep back the weeds as the sweet potato grows.
While sweet potatoes can't be planted too early because they hate cold weather, they also can't be planted too late. My aunt, who has grown sweet potatoes to sell for years, says to plant on July 4 at the very latest in our area of PA. Sweet potatoes need several months of growing time before the first frost to form tubers.
I think I started my sweet potato plants too late. I didn't start them until May. I only have half my row planted now and my other sprouts are still rooting. Some of the ones I've planted seem to be dying and I probably didn't give them enough time to root. Next year I want to start the plants in March or April so they are well rooted by the beginning of June. One more task to add that to my early spring gardening list. Maybe having this written here will help me remember.
My husband just read an article on growing sweet potatoes at Mother Earth News that he found helpful.
Do you have any other hints on growing sweet potatoes?