Can space between plants influence the yield?
When planted too closely, lower leaves and soil gets shielded from sunlight. Thus, resulting in moist environments – the condition loved by most pests and diseases to inhabitate.
Eventually, when sweet potato plant gets infected it produces fewer yields.
Unlike other vegetables, this warm-weather plant can be grown from slips. They are nothing but, sprouted adult sweet potatoes.
It’s so easy to grow this plant that even accidentally dropped plants are willing to grow. However, the roots of sweet potatoes need space to thrive. Also, the vine spread across the garden, so how far apart to plant sweet potatoes in your garden.
Spacing between sweet potatoes slips must be 12 to 18 inches apart. And 3 to 4 feet space between rows. This will allow the vine to spread and it will be easy to harvest.
The vine type plant roots at leaf nodes and spreads upto 20 feet. While the bush sweet potato type can grow upto 3 feet long. (Source)
Why Does Spacing Matters?
Spacing between plants allows easily airflow and it is much-discussed method to limit infestation.
Closely planted sweet potatoes can accommodate pests and diseases that spread easily from plant to plant.
Not giving space will also block sunlight from reaching lower leaves of the plant and soil surface stays moist, which can again facilitate infection.
As a gardener we all know the importance of sunlight for plant growth. Inadequate sunlight eventually results in less fruits.
Close sweet potato plants may fight for soil nutrients and as a result you get malnourished crop with weak steam that can’t even bear weight of the sweet potatoes.
Amount of sunlight and spacing between plants influence overall health of your crop.
Space between rows and between plants will make your work easy. You can easily keep an eye on every plant and harvest the yield without damaging the stems.
Inspecting, harvesting, pruning and applying pesticides can be an easy work with spacing.
Allot Extra Space for Companion Plants
Unused place left while planting sweet potatoes can be reused by companion plants.
Scientifically it is proven that companion plants benefit your garden. Either by attracting insects that control pests, inhibiting weed growth or deterring pests, companion plants will benefit each other.
Not just this. Companion plants belong to mini community that doesn’t fight for similar nutrients available in the soil. This is called polyculture system and is recommended by many agricultural scientists. (Source)
You can plant, beets, parsnips, bush beans and potatoes along with sweet potatoes.
Aromatic herbs like thyme, oregano, dill and flowering plants like yarrow, sweet alyssum and nasturtium can be planted along with this vegetable plant. (Source)
How Far Apart Do You Plant Sweet Potatoes?
In above lines we’ve discussed about the importance of spacing and how closely planting will affect the yield.
Unlike other vegetables plants that can be grown from seeds, sweet potatoes are grown from slips.
No matter what variety of sweet potatoes you decided to grow in your vegetable garden, the technique stays same.
Later in this article I’ll list simple steps by which you can easily grow sweet potatoes at home.
Before that, how much space must be left between plants?
This takes me to another question, how are you planting, in a container, raised bed or in ground?
Check this out: How much sunlight do potatoes need?
#1 In the ground
If you’re planting sweet potatoes in the ground or backyard directly, then plant 12-18 inches apart. 36 inches space must be allotted between the rows. This will ensure that the root system of every plant is left with enough space to grow and uptake nutrients.
#2 Container gardening
Surrounded with concrete jungle many are turning towards growing plants in pots. Choose a container that is 12 inches wide and 24 inches deep.
Plant only ONE sweet potato plant in ONE container.
It can be tempting to grow more, but again the issue of malnourished plant arises. Instead you can plant companion plants listed above along with one sweet potato plant.
As these companion plants won’t compete for nutrients, you can easily fill the container with plant with zero loss.
#3 Raised Beds
Unlike soil in your garden, raised beds have less compacted soil with better drainage and filled with natural fertilizers. (Source)
With less weed growth, more gardeners are opting for raised beds to grow their vegetable plants.
However, it requires initial cost.
Depth of raised bed do have important role in producing best yield.
Similar to planting in the garden, allow 12 inches space apart between sweet potato plants with 24 inch depth.
Need not say, you can and must grow companion plants along with sweet potatoes.
Also Read: How to grow sweet potatoes from scraps?
How to Grow and Space Sweet Potato Plants?
As mentioned earlier, you can grow sweet potatoes from slips.
First, you must identify the top and bottom part of the tuber. The pointy end if the top and blunt end is bottom.
Step: 1 Submerge Sweet Potato in Water
Insert 3 tooth picks inside sweet potatoes, so that it can used to elevate the tuber in cup of water.
Now, place the sweet potatoes with tooth picks inserted in a cup of glass water. Pointy end upwards and blunt end impressing in the water.
Change the water every 2-3 days.
After 2 weeks you’ll notice the roots and slips start appearing on the tuber.
After few more weeks you’ll notice roots come-up at the bottom and slips appear at top.
Step: 2 Soil
Like most vegetable plants, sweet potatoes like well drained sandy soil. This will ensure formation of large tubers.
Add sand, compost and well drained garden soil to container or raised bed.
You can either grow in a container, raised bed or in the ground. I personally prefer growing in raised bed if you’ve space. Though it takes extra expensive to construct raised beds in your garden, it has less compact soil.
Step: 3 Planting
Dig a hole that half of the slip in covered in soil and other have is above the surface.
Loose soil in your container or raised bed will allow the roots and tubers to grow and spread throughout the garden.
Plant slips 12 inches apart and 36 inches space between rows. Sweet potato vines spread rapidly and they root at leaf nodes. Space between plants allows you to inspect every plant and easily harvest the tubers.
Step: 4 Watering
These are warm season crops. So, you must water them regularly.
Frequent watering will help them to grow the root system and large tubers while harvest.
If you’re growing in a container, then check the soil surface for moisture by inserting the index finger. If the soil is sticky, then don’t water. In case of dry soil, water the plant immediately.
Overwatering is one of the common issues faced by new gardeners, especially when you’re growing in containers.
Step: 5 Sunlight
After water, your sweet potato plant needs full sunlight to thrive.
Choose the plant location that gets 8 hours of sunlight.
Inadequate light exposure will eventually result in yellow leaves and poor tubers.
Step: 6 Harvesting
It takes 3-4 months to harvest most sweet potato varieties.
These are annual plants.
When the tubers are ready and fully grown, stop watering.
Soil should be dry and harvest complete crop at once.
You must be careful while digging to harvest the tubers. Small damage can spoil the tuber.
Cure the sweet potatoes to store them future use.
You can easily grow sweet potatoes in almost all regions. Only thing is the soil must be loose and weather should be warm enough for plant growth.
12 inches space between sweet potato plants will allow them to easily grow their root system and share soil nutrients.
Close plantation results in spread of diseases and shied the soil surface from sunlight. Moist environment often harbor infestation and diseases.
How would you prefer to grow sweet potatoes, in raised beds or containers?