Growing Sweet Potatoes in Western 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. They have a much shorter growing season in temperate climates, but can still be grown successfully during the hot, Western 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 and well-rotted manure. Sweet potatoes do well with a good nitrogen boost in the beginning. It’s important that your soil is loose and well-draining. If you have heavy clay soil, rather plant your sweet potatoes into containers or raised beds.
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. Just make sure that the ground is properly warm, or they’ll have a tough time settling in.
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 or plants 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. Lucerne, sugar cane or pea-straw 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 potatoes need to be cured to make them sweet and tasty. Leave them to stand in a warm, humid, well-ventilated spot for a few days before eating them or storing them away.