The Key to Successful Sweet Potatoes

May 8, 2015

Sweet potatoes are often thought of as a southern plant, but with the right care, they can thrive in Iowa.

During this hour of Talk of Iowa, host Charity Nebbe talks with Ajay Nair, Assistant Professor of Horticulture at Iowa State University, about the ins and outs of growing sweet potatoes in your own backyard. Technique is key.

Unlike standard potatoes, sweet potatoes begin from stem cuttings (also known as slips). These cuttings should be 12-15 inches long, and should be placed 4-6 inches in the ground. These stem cuttings then begin rooting, and new sweet potatoes are formed.

According to Nair, a big part of a successful sweet potato crop comes down to soil.

“One of the most critical aspects for producing sweet potatoes is a well-drained soil. Sweet potatoes do not like heavy soils with clay and too much organic matter,” he said. “If you can till it, till it and fluff it up. Raised beds are ideal because they help with soil temperature and drainage.”

Iowa State Extension Horticulturist Richard Jauron also joins the program to answer listener questions.