Growing Sweet Potatoes in Vermont

Every year, we at Red Wagon Plants partner up with the Vermont Community Garden Network to grow out and sell sweet potato plants that you can then plant in your own gardens.

This year, our Sweet Potato Slip Sale is June 7th and 8th,

8 am to 6pm at our Hinesburg greenhouses

Many people are surprised that Sweet Potatoes can grow in Vermont, but they do very well when started in a greenhouse to root and then transplanted in June once the soil is warm. They prefer sandy, warm soils in full sun and are not particularly heavy feeders (no need to fertilize them if you have relatively good soil). We have some customers who grow them every year in big containers made out of chicken wire and black landscape fabric. This allows the roots of the plants to get really warm and when harvest time comes around, you can just un-peel the fencing and dig into the mound to harvest the sweet potatoes. You can read all about this method here.  They store really well - just let them dry a few days in a dark spot that is well vented. They are best stored around 50F degrees, not in a cool root cellar or refrigerator.

Some of our favorite things to do with sweet potatoes: roast them, mash them, make a pie with them, or grate them up for a vegetable hash with a fried egg. They are so easy to grow and are a wonderful addition to any garden.

Growing Instructions for Sweet Potatoes

Sweet potato slips are cuttings that come from a parent vine. The slips grow best in a loose, sandy or silty soil that drains well. If sweet potatoes are grown in a rich dark soil they may discolor but are still good to eat. • Transplant the slips into garden beds during June, preferably in the late afternoon or on an overcast day. When transplanting, lay the slips on their sides with 2/3 of the slip buried a half inch under the soil. Water enough to keep the soil moist, but not saturated. • Plant the slips 10 to 18 inches apart in rows that are three to four feet apart. The rows or raised bed should be elevated 4 to 8 inches above the ground level to allow the sweet potatoes room to form. • Keep the cuttings watered while they are getting established. The leaves that were originally on the planted slips will dry up and fall off leaving just the vine stem. New leaves will emerge from the cuttings as the slips become established. • The sweet potato vines will cover the ground reaching 5 to 10 feet in length. Hoe around the vines to cultivate weeds and mulch with hay if desired. • Deer love sweet potato leaves, so be sure your planting area is fenced if deer are aproblem. A flying gold colored beetle may chew round holes in the leaves. The vines are tough and will keep growing despite insect damage. • Sweet potatoes are dug and harvested in late September through mid October, a day or two before the first predicted frost. Most of the sweet potatoes will be just below the parent plant. Each plant can produce up to six sweet potatoes. • After harvesting, dry the sweet potatoes on the ground for two or three hours. Allow them another 10 to 14 days to cure at room temperature or above, before storing the sweet potatoes at a temperature between 50 and 60 degrees F. • Unlike Irish potatoes, sweet potatoes should not be kept cold in a garage, refrigerator or outbuilding. If properly cured and stored, they will keep until April. Enjoy!