Gardening

How to plant sweet potatoes

Ipomoea potatoes

Sweet potato is a perennial plant that has been grown in Central and South America for thousands of years. Climbers whose branches can reach from 1 m to 5 or 6 m, each plant normally produces 5 to 10 storage roots, these tuber roots are sweet and rich in starch. These tuberous roots can be eaten boiled or roasted in different types of sweet or savory recipes. The leaves and tips of the branches can also be eaten cooked or sautéed, and are quite nutritious compared to other vegetables. Sweet potatoes are one of the main foods in humid tropical regions of the world, and are also widely used in animal feed. Some cultivars are appreciated as ornamental plants.

There is a great variation between sweet potato cultivars, with more rounded or longer tuberous roots, of smaller or larger size, with the internal color being white, cream, orange or purple and the external color being of various shades of cream. , yellow, pink or purple. There is also great variation in flavor, with more or less sweet varieties.

A curiosity about sweet potatoes is that their genome contains genes from bacteria of the genus Agrobacterium , which makes it a natural transgenic plant.

Climate

Sweet potatoes grow best in a tropical or subtropical climate, with temperatures above 20 ° C, with the ideal temperature for growing between 24 ° C and 26 ° C. In places with low temperatures, sweet potatoes can be grown in greenhouses, but the tuberous roots obtained are generally smaller.

Brightness

Sweet potatoes need good light to grow well, with at least a few hours of direct sunlight daily.

Most cultivars are adapted to the short-day photoperiod, as is the case in the tropics, and rarely blooms in regions where the day has more than 12 hours of sunlight.

Ground

Plant sweet potatoes in well-drained soil, free of stones and other debris, fertile and rich in organic matter. The ideal pH of the soil is between 5.5 and 6.5, but sweet potatoes are very tolerant in terms of the soil, avoiding only stony soils, soils subject to waterlogging and compacted soils.

Irrigation

Irrigate in order to keep the soil always moist, without being soaked.

Planting

Sweet potatoes can be grown from detached branches of adult plants, from sprouted sweet potatoes themselves or from their seeds.

The method most used by those who already have sweet potato plants in the garden and live in tropical or subtropical regions, is to plant branches taken from their most vigorous adult plants, with eight to ten internodes (each internode has a leaf, therefore each branch must have 8 to 10 well-developed leaves). About half of the branch must be covered with soil, the other half being exposed. The branches take root easily on moist soil.

Planting using sweet potatoes is usually done in cold winter regions, where the plants do not survive the winter, and by people who are starting their plantations and have no way to obtain branches for planting. Small sweet potatoes are usually used for planting, which are buried about 5 cm deep. Optionally, sweet potatoes can be left in a container partially covered with water to sprout before planting. One way to increase the amount of seedlings is to plant the potatoes and wait for the branches to reach 30 to 50 cm, when they are cut at the base and planted in the final location as described in the paragraph above.

Seeding is less common, but it also gives good results. Plant the seeds in small pots, plastic bags suitable for seedlings or cups made of newsprint 10 cm high and 5 cm in diameter, and transplant when the seedlings reach 10 to 15 cm in height.

Sweet potatoes can be grown in pots, bags and other containers, as long as they are at least 35 cm in diameter and deep.

Cultivation

The removal of invasive plants is necessary only at the beginning of the cultivation.

Although it can be a vine, the cultivation is usually low, without staking.

Harvest

Harvesting can occur from 100 days to more than 180 days after planting, depending on the cultivar used, the form of planting and the conditions of cultivation. In regions of tropical or subtropical climate, tuberous roots can remain in the soil until such time as they become necessary, since the plant is perennial. In colder weather, harvesting must take place before the arrival of low winter temperatures.

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