If you’re wondering how to grow sweet potatoes, you’re probably interested in knowing how to grow them in the least labor-intensive way. What is the easiest way to grow sweet potatoes?
The usual way.
There are two typical ways that people grow sweet potatoes. The first is, after all danger of frost has passed in the spring, they cut up pieces of sweet potato that have been sprouting inside and bury them in several inches of dirt, one piece given about one square foot.
The other usual way is to get some sweet potatoes seriously sprouting indoors a couple of months before the frosty weather ends by placing potato halves in containers of water, about third of each half submerged in the water. Eventually, the part of the potato above water is covered with baby sweet potato plants. Supposedly, if you carefully remove these, taking care to dig down into the potato underneath each plant, and then stick these babies into the ground, they will eventually produce tubers.
I tried it one year. It didn’t work.
And then I learned about…
The easy way.
What if you could grow sweet potatoes in such a way that you didn’t have to dig up dirt to plant them, never had to water them, not even during a drought, never had to fertilize them, and hardly had to dig down into the soil to harvest them?
You can. I discovered it several years ago. All you need are some sweet potatoes and a bunch of wood mulch, which is relatively inexpensive and easily available at any place that sells garden supplies. I use sweet potatoes from the previous harvest if I have any. Otherwise, I just buy sweet potatoes from the store. They don’t always sprout, however, because the non-organic ones are sprayed with an anti-sprouting chemical after being cured. So if you want to be sure of a bumper crop and don’t have your own seed potatoes to plant, buy some seed sweet potatoes from a seed company.
You need a spot that gets full sun, at least six hours per day. You’ll plant the tubers a foot apart, so plan accordingly.
Here’s the awesome news: you don’t need a garden bed. You can do this right in your lawn if you want! Just understand that if you do, and there are night critters around that dig like we have, you might lose some of your crop that way.
All right. So, you have your space. About a month before the last frost, place a whole potato on the ground. Just on the ground. Not in a hole. On the ground.
A foot farther away, place another. And so on, until you’ve planted them all.
Finally, cover the entire area with eight to twelve inches of wood mulch. In a few weeks, you’ll start seeing little stems and leaves emerge from the mulch.
If you get absolutely zero rain within a three-week period, you might want to give each plant a half gallon of water. Otherwise, plan on not needing to water.
By mid-October to mid-November (depending on how warm your climate is), the sweet potato area will be a mess of vines. And the tubers will be ready to harvest. Cut back the vines to where you can find the base of each one, and start pulling back the mulch.
Some of the tubers will be sticking out of the mulch. Some will have grown down into the dirt, so you will need a shovel. But you won’t need to dig nearly as deeply or as much as you would planting sweet potatoes the traditional way.
How big will the harvest be?
I can’t say exactly, but I can tell you this: five pounds of sweet potatoes per tuber planted is on the slim side. In the past, I’ve had a mere three plants fill two large boxes with the harvest.
No cutting up tubers, little digging, little watering, no fertilizing. Yep, I’d say that’s the easiest way to grow sweet potatoes, ever!