Growing Sweet Potatoes in South Australia
Introducing Sweet potatoes
Sweet potatoes are the tuberous roots of a beautiful creeping vine. A close relative of morning glory, these nutritious veggies thrive in the tropics. The have a much shorter growing season in temperate climates, but can still be grown successfully during the hot, South Australian summers.
Don’t overfeed your plants with nitrogen. Just like with other root crops, too much nitrogen will result in beautiful vines and leaves, but under-developed tubers.
You’ll get a better harvest from the plants in full sun, but sweet potatoes can grow in more shaded areas too.
Dig plenty of compost into your soil. Don’t add manure. The compost will add nutrients and help with water retention during the hot, dry summer months.
Sweet potatoes need a fairly long growing season to produce a good harvest. They can be planted in spring or summer, but the earlier you get them into the ground, the bigger your harvest will be.
You can grow your own slips. Allow a sweet potato to sprout. Take cuttings of the shoots and place them into soil to root. Take care to keep the soil moist while they root. Alternatively, buy sweet potato slips and plant them into your garden.
Sweet potatoes handle hot dry weather well. Water them when the soil is dry.
Don’t over-feed your sweet potatoes with nitrogen. Give them a balanced, organic feed every 8 weeks through the growing season. Compost tea or a balanced organic fertilizer are good options.
A good thick layer of organic mulch will help with water retention. Straw, shredded leaves, grass clippings or coconut husks are all good options.
Pull the vines out of the way so that you can see the soil and then dig your tubers up using a garden fork. Take care not to damage your tubers while harvesting.
Sweet Potato Weevils
Buy slips that are certified weevil-free and practice good crop rotation. Mulch also helps to keep the soil from cracking which makes it harder for adult weevils to access the roots.
Spray with soap spray weekly until the problem is under control. It may be necessary to reapply more often if it’s a particularly rainy winter.
What to do about Sweet Potato Weevils?
What to do about Aphids?