Containers forum: Container Sweet Potatoes

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Name: cheshirekat
New Mexico, USA Zone 8 (Zone 8a)
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ckatNM
Apr 15, 2014 9:41 AM CST
I am considering growing sweet potatoes in a large container.

I am considering using a straw and sand mixture in this plastic container. I am unsure of ratio to use. My thinking is to fill to half with the straw. Then, wet. Then fill with a half-sand to half-compost mix. Then a sprinkling of straw on top of this final layer at the time the seeds are planted.

The hope is for some fluffy substrate for the sweet potatoes to grow as much as possible and not be hindered by compacted soil. The fluffiness will make the container not as heavy as well, since it is such a big container. I'm planning on a 18" wide pot that is at least 16" deep. If I can't find one deep enough, I'll probably cut the bottom off. But I'm hoping I won't have to do that if I can find two or three really big pots.

The sweet potatoes, since I am really really looking forward to them, will be watered with compost tea twice a week. That's the plan, and subject to change of course.

Anyone else growing sweet potatoes in plastic containers?
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Name: Dave Whitinger
Jacksonville, Texas (Zone 8b)
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dave
Apr 15, 2014 7:12 PM CST

Garden.org Admin

I was hoping you'd get a response from others who have done this because I'd like to get some ideas, too.

We have grown sweet potatoes in containers with good success. I've grown them in 3 gallon nursery cans of pure potting soil (peat moss, perlite, vermiculite) and they did very well and produced a nice crop.

Last year we grew them in a huge terra cotta pot on our back porch and they grew all over the place and made some really nice potatoes. We filled that one with 50/50 potting soil and compost.
Name: cheshirekat
New Mexico, USA Zone 8 (Zone 8a)
Herbs Dog Lover Bee Lover Vegetable Grower Garden Procrastinator
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ckatNM
Apr 15, 2014 11:54 PM CST
I've been looking at different options, and because I like to experiment a bit in my garden, I may try potato grow bags or regular grow bags. I'm looking at the cost involved in trying two or more methods. I don't want to stick to just one method because I really want to eat my own sweet potatoes this year. I grew them many years ago, but the only thing I really remember is the container I grew them in, nothing about the soil.
"A garden is a friend you can visit any time." - Anonymous
Name: Dave Whitinger
Jacksonville, Texas (Zone 8b)
Charter ATP Member Region: Texas Master Gardener: Texas Permaculture Raises cows I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database!
Garden Ideas: Master Level Beekeeper Garden Sages Avid Green Pages Reviewer Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Plant Identifier
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dave
Apr 16, 2014 6:33 AM CST

Garden.org Admin

In my experience they'll grow in any soil. Their is a certain level of fertility that you want but they don't seem to be trouble by soil that isn't particularly fluffy. The potato grow bags would do great, I bet.

When growing them in containers, we always regularly watered with compost tea made from our vermicompost and that was all the fertilizer they got. It was always enough.
Name: David Reaves
Austin, TX (Zone 8b)
Vegetable Grower Region: Texas Canning and food preservation Garden Ideas: Level 1
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david_reaves
Apr 16, 2014 9:51 AM CST
I'm interested in seeing how this goes. I have not been able to successfully grow sweet potatoes in the ground. Either rabbits eat all the slips to the ground, or if I can control the rabbits, I get sweet potato weevils that ruin the tubers. I planted four 30-foot rows of Vardaman last year. I didn't eat a single sweet potato after rabbits and the grubs.

David R
Name: cheshirekat
New Mexico, USA Zone 8 (Zone 8a)
Herbs Dog Lover Bee Lover Vegetable Grower Garden Procrastinator
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ckatNM
Apr 17, 2014 6:07 AM CST
I'm looking at the fluffy substrate mainly to make it a bit easier for me to harvest. I considered growing the sweet potatoes in a bale of straw. But growing in a container kind of has me won over because some say it helps with pest problems. The grow bags will help to extend my garden even more. Every time I'm out planting or waiting for stuff to grow, I'm always wishing I had just a little more space to plant more. I can put the grow bags right on the patio and I'm even considering having quite a few winter crops in grow bags as they are cheaper than many containers and easier to store when not in use. The roommate and I will have most of the summer to decide how to build a mini greenhouse and what we will want to grow. I'd be pretty darn happy to have sweet potatoes all winter, but since I'm diabetic, I know I'd be better off having more green veggies. Last winter was so mild here, compared to when I was in Denver, that it seems a shame not to take advantage of putting out a little extra energy for the reward of being able to eat healthier longer.

Last fall, I wasn't in the best of health and mostly ran out of energy, and most of the winter I regretted not having more healthy food choices. Then I was on bed rest for quite a while. It really frustrated me trying to keep my energy up with all store-bought stuff. Especially after surgery when I was weak and had to expend what little energy I had cooking stuff I really had no desire to eat.

Since I'm still here, even after being told I wouldn't make it to the New Year, I want to eat as much of my favorite garden stuff as I can all year. And that includes sweet potatoes and more sweet potatoes. It will be more interesting for me to see which substrate offers the best results since I've always enjoyed experimenting in my garden. Most of which I can't do on my own any longer, but my roommate has caught my gardening addiction and helps quite a bit with the stuff I can't do.
"A garden is a friend you can visit any time." - Anonymous
Name: Lynn
Dallas, OR (Zone 8b)
Charter ATP Member Garden Sages I helped plan and beta test the plant database. I helped beta test the Garden Planting Calendar I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Plant Database Moderator
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valleylynn
Apr 19, 2014 1:51 PM CST

Moderator

I am really late to this conversation.

We had great success growing them in delivered compost from out local farm store. We made 2 foot tall raised beds and put them in one end. They tried to take over everything. Grew like crazy and produced many wonderful sweet potatoes, even in our cooler Pacific Northwest. The raised bed was in full sun and it seems like the compost stayed very warm. Nights get very cool here (50 to 60 degrees), so I was pleasantly surprised to find that they were that easy to grown.
Thumb of 2014-04-19/valleylynn/fa3cb4

Name: cheshirekat
New Mexico, USA Zone 8 (Zone 8a)
Herbs Dog Lover Bee Lover Vegetable Grower Garden Procrastinator
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ckatNM
Apr 19, 2014 8:08 PM CST
Gorgeous picture there!

The sweet potato vines really are on a mission to cover the garden if allowed. I think the vines are gorgeous.

Did you spray your vines with anything? I know some people will mist their vines and plants with large foliage with something organic to keep the leaves happy and prophylactically manage bugs and disease. I'm not sure what I'd mist on my leaves and hope I'll figure out something when a problem presents itself.

Based on what others have said, I haven't decided whether or not to use sand. I will definitely use straw, potting mix and compost from my compost pin. I bought a couple bags of the Miracle Gro potting mix, which I'm not at all happy with. Back in Denver, I had a source for relatively inexpensive organic potting mix in 2 cubic feet bags. This MG stuff has a lot of big wood chunks. Even manure I buy locally, from box stores has a lot of wood compared to what I used to get. I'm worried about the wood scraping or gouging the sweet potatoes. We added a lot of manure to the garden in January, as soon as there was a warm day to do so. I wanted to avoid using regular garden soil from the garden because of all the rocks we have that take forever to sift. I heard regular garden soil is not good for containers to drain properly. The bags of regular inexpensive garden soil also seemed to have a lot of big wood chunks.

Next year, I'll have to find a different source for manure and organic potting mix. I can find small bags of organic potting mix, but it is too expensive for using in large containers. I used to recycle all my spent potting mix in my compost pile in the spring to give all my containers fresh potting mix. I know a lot of home gardeners use MG, but I avoided it all these years because organic options were plentiful and the quality I trust.
"A garden is a friend you can visit any time." - Anonymous
Name: Lynn
Dallas, OR (Zone 8b)
Charter ATP Member Garden Sages I helped plan and beta test the plant database. I helped beta test the Garden Planting Calendar I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Plant Database Moderator
Forum moderator I helped beta test the first seed swap Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Plant and/or Seed Trader Garden Ideas: Master Level Sempervivums
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valleylynn
Apr 19, 2014 8:24 PM CST

Moderator

The compost from the feed store had some sand mixed in it, the rest was mostly forest type compost. The sweet potatoes seemed to like it.
We did not mist the leaves. I don't think we have much trouble with pests like some regions do.
You can see that there are a few holes in the leaves, they are from that little spotted beetle that looks a little like a yellow ladybug with black spots. I just hand picked them when I saw the.
Name: cheshirekat
New Mexico, USA Zone 8 (Zone 8a)
Herbs Dog Lover Bee Lover Vegetable Grower Garden Procrastinator
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ckatNM
Apr 20, 2014 12:26 AM CST
If your leaves have holes, they hide them well. They look very healthy to me.

A bit of sand would have been good. Does the sand help with digging the potatoes out? The sand is supposed to help them form loosely in the soil, but I suppose there has to enough for an appreciable difference. There's still time to mix some in, if I decide to go buy some. If I do, then I'll probably add sand to only two of the grow bags to compare results. Although that may not be fair since I will be growing different varieties.

Still looking forward to growing the sweet potatoes even if it seems far away and still a few last minute decisions.
"A garden is a friend you can visit any time." - Anonymous
Name: Lynn
Dallas, OR (Zone 8b)
Charter ATP Member Garden Sages I helped plan and beta test the plant database. I helped beta test the Garden Planting Calendar I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Plant Database Moderator
Forum moderator I helped beta test the first seed swap Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Plant and/or Seed Trader Garden Ideas: Master Level Sempervivums
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valleylynn
Apr 20, 2014 11:40 AM CST

Moderator

It will be interesting and fun to see how your experiments comes along. Hope you keep us updated with how they do.
Name: David Paul
(Zone 9b)
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DavidofDeLand
Apr 20, 2014 2:16 PM CST
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Name: Ken Ramsey
Starkville, MS (Zone 8a)
[url=www.tropicalplantsandmore.com]
Orchids Greenhouse Vegetable Grower Ferns Region: United States of America Hummingbirder
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drdawg
Apr 21, 2014 6:34 AM CST
Just remember that sweet potatoes don't need much in the way of fertilizer, particularly nitrogen. If you over-fertilize, the sweet potatoes will have gorgeous leaves, and lots of them, but won't make much in the way of tubers. I fertilize mine when they are planted with a vegetable fertilizer, something like 4-8-6 but grow them in a mix of 1/2 Black Kow, 1/2 milled sphagnum moss, and add 1 cup of coarse perlite per 2-3 gallons of mix. This gives a very lite, well-draining mix and the Black Kow, being 1-1-1 minimally fertilizes all summer long. I don't supplement with any additional fertilizer.
drdawg (Ken Ramsey) - Tropical Plants & More
[url=www.tropicalplantsandmore.com]www.tropicalplantsandmore.com[/url]
If God wanted me to touch my toes, he would have put them on my knees.
Name: cheshirekat
New Mexico, USA Zone 8 (Zone 8a)
Herbs Dog Lover Bee Lover Vegetable Grower Garden Procrastinator
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ckatNM
Apr 21, 2014 7:33 AM CST
@drdawg, Thanks for reminding me not to go crazy with the plant food. I'm going to have to make myself a sign. I can see myself wanting to help the sweet potatoes along as much as possible to ensure I get a good crop. I sure would hate for my good intentions to have negative consequences on what is growing underground - the most important parts that I'm interested in eating.

I hope my sweet potatoes arrive by Friday so I can get a jump start on the growing season as the weather has been mild here. If I plant by May 1, I should be able to harvest and cure in September. Mmmm. Can't wait to taste them cooked, baked, grilled, and store some for the winter. If I can't get the canning supplies, I'll just chop some up, boil them and freeze some. I probably have the world's oldest refrigerator, with almost no freezer room. I'm planning to ask the owner for a different fridge - he has several rental properties, so hopefully one is empty with a newer fridge available. I'd buy one of those small freezers, like my husband and I had, but not with that fridge in the house because it is not energy efficient and does it ever use a lot of electricity.
"A garden is a friend you can visit any time." - Anonymous
Name: Ken Ramsey
Starkville, MS (Zone 8a)
[url=www.tropicalplantsandmore.com]
Orchids Greenhouse Vegetable Grower Ferns Region: United States of America Hummingbirder
Composter Bromeliad Master Gardener: Mississippi Cat Lover Tropicals Plumerias
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drdawg
Apr 21, 2014 8:44 AM CST
I tip my hat to you.
drdawg (Ken Ramsey) - Tropical Plants & More
[url=www.tropicalplantsandmore.com]www.tropicalplantsandmore.com[/url]
If God wanted me to touch my toes, he would have put them on my knees.
Pennsylvania (Zone 6b)
Garden Ideas: Level 1
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Cinta
Aug 14, 2014 6:54 PM CST
cheshirekat,how did they grow? Are you satisfied with the results?

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