October 23, 2017

Yes – you can grow your own sweet potatoes in the UK!

sweet potatoes gyo

You can grow your very own sweet potatoes at home

Most of my vegetable growing space is taken up with crops we eat a lot of  and which produce well, but I do enjoy growing a few ‘exotics’ like sweet potatoes too.

This is a tropical crop but in all but the worst UK summer you can get a very acceptable yield (and certainly something your neighbours probably won’t have!!)  Plants are available in garden centres (but at quite a price!) so I prefer to buy them as ‘slips’.  Unlike the more widely grown potato, sweet potatoes are grown from what amounts to a cutting, also known as a ‘slip’ .  Many mail order seed companies sell them, ready to be sent out around the end of May, and they are really good value.  Look out for some of the tastiest orange-fleshed varieties such as ‘Georgia Jet’ or ‘Beauregard’ but don’t be put off by the often rather miserable looking slips when they arrive.  Just pot each one into its own 3-4in (8-10cm) pot of moist compost and keep them on a sunny windowsill or in a greenhouse.  Within a week or two they will green up, be forming roots and plenty of new foliage.

How to grow sweet potatoes in the UK

When growing strongly either plant each one singly into a 45cm pot or into a sunny spot in the garden.  I like to cover the soil surface with black polythene for a week before planting then just cut an ‘X’ in the polythene,  one for each  sweet potato , then plant through the ‘X’ into the soil below. I use well-pegged down, opened-out compost bags, inner (black) side uppermost as the plastic is really tough, its free and this saves putting it into landfill!  Cover the plants with fleece until the weather has warmed up reliably and there is absolutely no risk of frost.  Sweet potatoes produce a dense ground cover of heart-shaped leaves, dotted with tiny morning glory-like flowers so they look rather lovely too.

When to harvest your sweet potatoes

Harvesting can usually start in late September, but if the foliage is still bright green and the weather warm, you’re likely to get bigger tubers if you delay a little.

About The Author

Profile photo of Pippa

With a BSc in Botany and a further degree specializing in protecting plants from pests and diseases Pippa spent 11 years working for The Royal Horticultural Society at their garden in Wisley, advising gardeners about their gardening problems. More recently Pippa has become a well-loved and respected TV and Radio broadcaster and a prolific writer, with a host of best-selling gardening books to her name. Pippa regularly gives gardening talks and lectures, worked as the horticultural consultant for the ITV murder mystery series 'Rosemary and Thyme' and in 2007 was awarded an honorary Doctorate.

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2 Comments

  1. Profile photo of HaroldMe
    HaroldMe

    I’ve tried growing sweet potatoes from plants and slips and they’ve always failed. Maybe the North of England doesn’t have warm enough weather – What do you think Pippa – should I give up or move to London?

  2. Profile photo of Pippa
    Pippa

    South is definitely easier for this one but a sheltered spot and grown as I suggest, I’d still consider giving it a go and you could always keep the fleece covering I suggest over the crop for long or maybe use a poly crop cover like one of the EasyTunnels? Let us know how you get on!

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