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A sweet potato is a root vegetable that is popular around the world. These plants generally grow best in climates that are warm with ample sunshine. When planting sweet potatoes, care should be taken to have a healthy sweet potato sprout, or slip, and properly prepared soil. Sweet potato plants also require a precise watering schedule and regular weeding in order to grow well and produce vegetables.
Sweet potatoes are not grown from seeds but from plant sprouts called slips that grow out of a mature sweet potato. These sprouts may be purchased from a gardening center or can be sprouted at home. A healthy slip sprout that is ready for planting is usually removed from the potato and submerged in water until roots grow.
The best location for planting sweet potatoes is an area that receives full sunlight each day. To grow well, these plants require warm weather. Therefore, the best time to begin planting sweet potatoes is after the danger of frost has passed, as in spring.
The condition of the soil being used is very important when planting sweet potatoes. These plants require the soil around them to be loose, so the roots are able to expand easily without resistance. The hole used for planting should be 4 inches (10.2 cm) deep and 3 inches (7.6 cm) wide. Sweet potato plants generally grow best when a high-quality potting soil is used.
When planting, the slips are placed in the holes and covered with potting soil. The roots should be covered by the soil, with the green sprouts above ground. Sweet potato slips must be planted carefully to prevent bruising the plant. After the plant sprout is in the ground, the soil should be gently patted down.
It is important for the newly planted sweet potato plants to receive a lot of water. Immediately after planting, they should be watered well, until the surrounding ground is wet. For the first few weeks following planting, they should be watered daily. As they start growing larger, they can be watered every other day and this may be tapered off, eventually, to once a week depending on weather conditions.
The area around sweet potato plants should be weeded regularly to maximize vegetable yield and keep the plants healthy. On average, a sweet potato plant will be mature, and sweet potatoes will be ready to be harvested, in about 120 days. Late in the season, if the plants are exposed to a light frost, some of the leaves of the plant may become black or damaged. If these are removed, the plant usually continues to grow well until the first hard frost.
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