How to Care for a Sweet Potato Vine

Overview

Grow sweet potato vines (Ipomoea batatas) in your backyard garden for both a lush ground cover and a bountiful harvest of the vine's sweet tubers. Though the potatoes themselves come in various colors, with orange being predominant, all of them are known for their sweet flavor and high vitamin A content, according to the University of Illinois. The vines are very low maintenance and drought tolerant, but require basic care to ensure optimal potato growth.

Step 1

Prepare the gardening area. Because sweet potatoes are grown for their underground tubers, use a spade to breakup the soil to a depth of 8 inches or more to allow the tubers adequate room to develop.

Step 2

Fertilize the soil. Mix in 3 to 4 inches of aged compost to improve the soil condition and add micronutrients. Follow with an all-purpose granular fertilizer--the University of Missouri recommends a 10-10-10 product for sweet potatoes--applied at the rate listed on its label, as potency varies by product.

Step 3

Plant the seed potatoes. Bury each seed potato 4 inches deep and space them apart by approximately a foot, according to the University of Missouri. If you're growing more than one row of sweet potatoes, the University of Illinois suggests you separate the rows by approximately 4 feet.

Step 4

Water the planting area once a day with enough water to moisten the soil to a depth of 5 to 6 inches. The sweet potato shoots will usually appear within 14 days.

Step 5

Reduce watering as soon as the vine shoots appear. The University of Missouri recommends watering once a week.

Step 6

Spread mulch around the sweet potato vines as soon as they're 4 inches tall. Use 2 to 3 inches of mulch. This keeps weeds out from among the vines and also helps to condition the soil and conserve soil moisture.

Step 7

Harvest the sweet potatoes. The tubers are typically ready for collection within three to four months of planting. Use a spade to gently uproot the plants to locate the underground tubers.

Things You'll Need

  • Spade
  • Compost
  • Fertilizer
  • Seed potatoes
  • Water
  • Mulch

References

  • "How to Grow Potatoes: A Practical Gardening Guide for Great Results"; Richard Bird; 2009
  • University of Missouri: Growing Sweet Potatoes
  • University of Illinois: Sweet Potato

Who Can Help

  • United States Sweet Potato Council
Keywords: growing sweet potatoes, planting sweet potatoes, sweet potato care

About this Author

Josh Duvauchelle is an editor and journalist with more than 10 years' experience. His work has appeared in various magazines, including "Honolulu Magazine," which has more paid subscribers than any other magazine in Hawaii. He graduated with honors from Trinity Western University, holding a Bachelor of Arts in professional communications, and earned a certificate in applied leadership and public affairs from the Laurentian Leadership Centre.