Growing sweet potatoes is easy.
Preparing a bed for sweet potatoes is a little more difficult. It takes some digging and loosening of the soil.
Fortunately, my trusty “Meadow-Create Broadfork” is always up to the task of growing sweet potatoes.
(Length: 5:17 minutes)
Digging in sandy soil with a broadfork is easy. In rocky clay, it’s not nearly as easy to prepare a bed for growing sweet potatoes. Basically, in clay, it’s an extreme sport.
It’s not impossible, though. That bed took me perhaps 45 minutes to prepare. Mostly, it takes more stomping on the broadfork than I’m used to, plus I had to bust up the big clods.
Sure, it’s work – but it’s work that needs to be done, especially for root crops.
Why Dig a Garden Bed?
The major reason: loose soil. If the soil structure is open and crumbly, plant roots do a lot better. They can dig deep and get the minerals and water they need without having to force their way through hard earth. You’re doing the hard work first to make their lives easier.
Digging garden beds even works well in sand, as I discovered back in Florida.
When your plants have easier lives, they’ll spend more time making delicious things for you to eat.
Growing Sweet Potatoes: The Initial Feeding
When I prepare a garden bed, I rake in compost right at the beginning. In the past, I’ve also used amendments such as lime, blood meal, bone meal, cottonseed meal, and kelp meal—all of which are excellent additions to the soil.
Here in the middle of nowhere, I can’t get most of those things, so I stick to compost, biochar, and sometimes seaweed.
You can see a recent bit of bed prep in this video: (Length: 8:47 minutes)
You don’t need a ton of organic matter in the soil. A few percent is fine. Before I plant, I sprinkle about a half-inch cover of compost on a newly dug garden bed and rake or turn it in. The plants really appreciate compost, and it lasts longer and releases its nutrition over time, unlike chemical fertilizer.
When preparing this garden bed, I used my Back to Eden chicken run compost, which is probably hotter than compost from a typical backyard pile. The plants don’t seem to mind, though.
Here’s how I made that compost: (Length: 8:05 minutes)
Planting a Bed of Sweet Potatoes
This is easy as shoo-fly pie.
Just cut some vines and stick them in.
If you don’t have any vines currently growing on your homestead, start your own sweet potato slips with store-bought sweet potatoes.
Use the “toothpicks-and-a-jar” method—or even easier—start potatoes growing by burying them shallowly in a pot of soil. Then cut the vines off of those to plant.
I use a stick to dig holes. Then plant the sweet potato cuttings a few inches deep into the holes.
They’ll look like they’re going to die for a few days. Don’t worry! They’ll recover as the vines take root. Sweet potatoes are really hardy and tough.
You’ll be amazed by how good these little pieces of vine look after a week or two.
Planting a bed of sweet potatoes takes some prep work. If you do that preparation well, you’ll be rewarded with an abundant harvest.
Is this way of growing Sweet Potatoes too hard on your back? Check out this video for some tips on Gardening With A Bad Back.
Tell us in the comments below about your Sweet Potato Adventures!
David The Good is a Grow Network Change Maker, a gardening expert, and the author of five books you can find on Amazon: Compost Everything: The Good Guide to Extreme Composting, Grow or Die: The Good Guide to Survival Gardening, Totally Crazy Easy Florida Gardening, Create Your Own Florida Food Forest, and Push the Zone: The Good Guide to Growing Tropical Plants Beyond the Tropics. Find fresh gardening inspiration at his website TheSurvivalGardener.com and be sure to follow his popular YouTube channel.