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Row by Row Episode 57: Growing Loads of Sweet Potatoes in Your Garden

Row by Row Episode 57: Growing Loads of Sweet Potatoes in Your Garden

Sweet Potato Planting

There are over 6,500 varieties of sweet potatoes in the world. Sweet potatoes are a member of the Morning Glory family and will typically mature in 90 to 120 days. Unlike Irish potatoes which prefer cooler soils, sweet potatoes are a heat-loving crop that grows well throughout the summer. Sweet potatoes are usually grown from slips, which are sprouts that are plucked from the sweet potato.

Growing Sweet Potatoes

The guys have tried several varieties over the years including Beauregard, Centennial and Covington. Thus far the Covington variety has been the most productive one for them. This year they will be growing the Georgia Jet which was recommended to them by their friends at Steele Plant Company. Sweet potatoes prefer sandy or loamy soils that are well-drained and not too rich in nitrogen. The optimal pH for growing sweet potatoes is between 5.8 to 6.2. When planting this crop, you should avoid growing them in newly-established gardens, especially areas that were covered in grass. They will grow better in well-established garden plots that have been farmed for several years. It is also important to avoid growing sweet potatoes in garden areas where you experience parasitic nematode problems. The three major nutrient requirements for sweet potatoes are nitrogen, phosphate, and lots of potassium. The recommended rate for nitrogen and phosphorous is 60 lbs per acre or 1.4 lbs per 1,000 square feet. The recommended potassium rate is much higher at 200 lbs per acre or 4.5 lbs per square feet. Nutrient applications are recommended per cultivation. At the first cultivation, you should apply all of the recommended phosphorous (1.4 lbs per 1,000 sq. ft.) and half of the recommended potassium (2.25 lbs per 1,000 sq. ft.). The other half of the recommended potassium (2.25 lbs per 1,000 sq. ft.) should be applied before the second cultivation. Nitrogen (1.4 lbs per 1,000 sq. ft.) should be applied in the third and final cultivation. This is the ideal fertilization cycle for sweet potatoes. Sweet potatoes need adequate water when slips are young and roots are establishing. Drip tape can work great for this, as long as you don't overwater when plants are older. Hilling sweet potatoes will help to reduce weed pressure along the row, but doesn't necessarily increase harvests. You can also prune the vines as they grow to keep the area more neatly managed.

Show and Tell Segment

On the show and tell segment, Travis shows new variety of lettuce called Calshot. This is a red romaine variety which is available in pelleted seed form. Even with the dry and humid weather the guys have experienced lately, they were able to salvage a couple of heads. However, the flowers in the garden have been loving the warm weather. Travis has  been harvesting many of his Benary Giant Zinnias, including the lime, white, and the mixed varieties. Greg provides an update on his honey select sweet corn that Travis wanted him to grow this year. Greg explains that it is much sweeter than the varieties he grew previously.

Viewer Questions Segment

On the question and answer segment, the guys answer questions about nematodes and buckwheat. Travis explains that nematodes are microscopic roundworms and they are present in every type of soil. They can damage crops by destroying the root systems. You can control nematodes by growing cover crops like Sorghum Sudangrass and Sunn Hemp. Greg says buckwheat attracts pollinators, especially bees, to your garden. Each cover crop can have a slightly different benefit and each one has a different maturity date. When selecting a warm-season cover crop, one should consider the window in which they expect this crop to grow and mature.

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