The Q&A Archives: Sweet Potatoes

Question: How do you plant and take care of sweet potatoes and garbanzo beans?

Answer: Sweet potatoes grow best in the southern states where the days
are long, warm and humid. You can try to grow them, but
choose a quick-maturing sweet potato that will have a chance to mature in
your area (most sweet potatoes
need 90-120 warm days to mature).

Sweet potatoes for the garden are usually started by
planting slips or prestarted plants that are sold bareroot
(Burpee offers several types). They require a warm soil so they are planted in late spring or early summer. To help the soil warm faster you can use a raised bed and cover it with black plastic.

Sweet potatoes form best when they're given a light
textured soil with lots of organic matter. If your soil is too sandy, they'll be stringy, and if the soil is too clayey, the roots will be deformed. To create the perfect environment, build long, wide, 10" inch high ridges spaced 3 1/3 feet apart. Work in plenty of compost and plant the sweet potato pips 6" inches deep and 12" inches apart.

Avoid the use of fertilizers high in nitrogen, or you'll have luxurious tops and very little tuber production. Use a 5-10-10 or 8-8-8 formulation as a side-dress about 6 weeks after planting. Apply about one-inch of water to the plants every week.

Garbanzo Beans (Cicer arietinum), are a cool-weather crop that has cultural requirements similar to peas. Plant in the spring and each bush will grow to about two feet tall, producing an abundance of two-seeded pods. In your region, you can start your seeds outdoors in February or March, in a sunny site, with rich, well draining soil. Incorporate some organic matter into your soil prior to planting, and plant seeds about an inch deep. Water well after planting and supply water when the soil begins to dry out. The pods will be ready to harvest within 100 days.

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