In the garden: Sweet potato/kumera/Ipomoea batatas


THIS is a meandering self-sufficient tropical plant who also grows itself really happily in subtropical-like locations like ours.

However, reliably being able to feast on it means knowing how to tip the balance towards large tubers in known locations.

Both the tubers and leaves come in a wide array of colours and shapes and are edible, delicious and nutritious.

The leaves are a great warm season spinach.

They wilt quickly with storage so eat them as freshly picked as possible, raw or cooked.

Sweet potato needs a long frost free growing season of 4 – 6 months with warm days and warm nights.

Grow them on a wide mound.

They have no tolerance for waterlogging and will simply rot away if left to sit in soggy soil.
A mound will drain well.

A wide one will retain enough moisture to keep the plant happy as it does not like drying out.

Prevent excess roots.

This plant will root wherever a leaf node touches the ground.

Once planted, don’t let it ramble and root all over the place.

Snip off the wandering tendrils at about a metre long (eat the trimmings!).

Encourage the plant to put its energy into making a few storage roots only, not tendrils and leaves and a whole bunch of roots.

Some people grow the tendrils up a trellis to prevent them laying on the ground and making more roots but you can just keep pruning.

Sweet potato can be grown in this area from storage roots, slips, cuttings or sprouts.

Cuttings and sprouts are most recommended as they have the lowest chance of passing on plant diseases.

Cuttings are pieces of the vines with a growing tip.

Sprouts are new growth direct from the tuber, minus the tuber and with lots of nodes close together.
Use this habit of rooting from nodes to your advantage.

When you plant your sweet potato, bury more than one node per planting.

A group of storage roots will grow from each node.

You will end up with one plant, multiple nodes underground and multiple groups of sweet potatoes in a contained area.

Don’t feed sweet potato lots of nitrogen unless you really want a lot of leaves and bugger all roots.

Keep them evenly watered while they are growing and next time, plant them in a different spot in the garden.

This is an excerpt. Find more at and look under Bello Food Gardening.



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