Gardener123
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Sweet potatoes all long and thin.

So, I planted sweet potatoes ( near Philly, so not exactly the best place, but OK ).

I had them in a 45 gallon plastic trash can that was bought just for this purpose. I used brand new soil, with about 30% compost. There were 2 pounds of fish placed in the can for fertilizer. I also fertilized maybe 3 - 4x over the summer..... The leaves looked fantastically healthy all summer. But when I went to harvest them, all but two of them were about 6 to 8" long and about 1.5 inches wide at the widest. I harvested about 40 potatoes.

Any ideas what went wrong?
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imafan26
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Re: Sweet potatoes all long and thin.

My guess, you planted the potatoes too close. If you had big leaves, probably a little too much fish and not enough bone meal or phosphorus.
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jal_ut
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Re: Sweet potatoes all long and thin.

"6 to 8" long and about 1.5 inches wide "

Sounds about right. Just as it should be. What were you expecting?
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ACW
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Re: Sweet potatoes all long and thin.

jal_ut wrote:"6 to 8" long and about 1.5 inches wide "

Sounds about right. Just as it should be. What were you expecting?
For work I some times visit one of Londons two wholesale vegetable markets.
When there the sizes and shapes and colours of sweet potatoes is widly variable ,variety and where they come from must have an effect .So I would say be happy !
Beyond that I know very little about sweet potatoes ,over here in the UK ,we did not see them except in very limmited ethnic stores ,now ever supermarket has then in the produce section ,even ready pureed.
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applestar
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Re: Sweet potatoes all long and thin.

Good point ACW. There are different varieties of sweet potatoes with different shapes. And time it takes for them to reach their maturity. There are varieties of sweet potatoes that require 150 days which I have no hope of growing in my garden — even Extending with protection in spring and fall, I have only achieved pencil to marker-thick tubers by frost, though I haven’t tried growing in containers yet (well, I did with one Hawaii’an variety and voles got into that one :evil:.)

So part of the equation will depend on what variety sweet potatoes you were growing Gardener123.
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gumbo2176
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Re: Sweet potatoes all long and thin.

Louisiana has always been a big producer of sweet potatoes and I know a lady that lives in Central La. that has a fair amount of acreage that she leases to a sweet potato grower and I've seen some of them over 1 lb. apiece. Most are in the 6-8 inch long range and easily wider than a man's wrist at the center.

My wife and I visited her in the fall a couple years ago and she gave up a shopping bag full of potatoes and there were several that it only took one potato to feed both her and I when I fixed a nice pork roast.

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Gary350
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Re: Sweet potatoes all long and thin.

I have very good luck growing sweet potatoes. Sweet potatoes love hot dry weather with full sun all day. I usually plant about 3 plants about 4 ft apart in the center of a 12 ft circle. As the vines grow longer I keep turning the vine to make them grow in a circle. Vines will grow 30 ft long keep them growing around and around in a circle. Every place vines touch the soil they grow roots that suck up more water for the plant pulse it grows more sweet potatoes every place the vine grows more roots. I plant my sweet potato plants early as I can about first week of May let them grow until frost kills the vines first week of Nov. The 3 mother plants will usually produce about 25 lbs of potatoes each and every place where the vines grow roots will grow 3 to 5 lbs of sweet potatoes. The hotter and dryer it gets the better the plants like it. Plants do not seem to care if I water them or fertilize them or give them better soil they still produce the same amount of potatoes as long as the soil is not hard clay. I often cover the vines with a large hand full of soil every 20" this encourages the vines to grow roots and make more potatoes there. 1 year I got 130 lbs of potatoes from 3 plants. Potatoes come in many sizes, small, medium and large most are long skinny potatoes. 1 year I had 1 large potatoes from 1 mother plant is looked like a dozen potatoes all grew together as 1 large lumpy 10 lb potato.

I think your 45 gallon trash can will probably work good with 1 sweet potato plant. Keep the vine growing in a tight circle and cover the vine with soil about every 20". Keep the trash can in full sun all day. Drill 15 water drain holes around the side about 12" up from the bottom of the trash can this will allow the trash can to hold water like a well in the bottom. Soil above will wick water up to the roots. Mix about 25% garden soil with your potting soil there are a lot of minerals in the soil that are not in the potting mix. Do not give your plant much nitrogen, you want to grow potatoes not large leaves. I give my plants wood ash for fertilizer, 1 hand full of wood ash once a week. How much ash can you pick up with 1 hand maybe 1/3 of a cup.

imafan26
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Re: Sweet potatoes all long and thin.

You are right. Varieties and day length do make a difference. The sweet potatoes I am used to seeing in the tropics do take 150 days or more to mature and they are more rotund than some other varieties. We also eat the leaves of some of the sweet potatoes cultivars as well and that does affect the tubers. Some varieties are grown mainly for the leaves and since the leaves are harvested frequently, they do not produce much in the way of tubers.

When I have grown sweet potatoes, I find they need a lot of space. If the tubers are too close they are thinner and and smaller. They require a lot of water and they like a lot of phosphorus and potassium. I did grow them in a bag once, it did o.k., but they did much better in the ground in soil without rocks and with a lot of compost.
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Gardener123
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Re: Sweet potatoes all long and thin.

jal_ut wrote:"6 to 8" long and about 1.5 inches wide "

Sounds about right. Just as it should be. What were you expecting?
No, not just as it should be. These are shaped like thick pencils. They weigh like 3 -4 ounces each. A large one might weigh 6 ounces.


I don't think they were crowded at all. In fact, when I poured the barrel out, as best as I can remember, the potatoes were never touching each other. And the soil was nice and loose, so they were definitely not compacted.

The more I think about it, the more likely I grew the wrong variety, or we did not get enough heat. It was my first attempt at growing them. Cheap as they are, I don't think I will give them another chance.
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jal_ut
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Re: Sweet potatoes all long and thin.

All I can suggest then is to try a different variety next season.
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imafan26
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Re: Sweet potatoes all long and thin.

When you grow anything in a confined space, the plant will size up only as much as the planter allows. That is why I had much bigger sweet potatoes in the ground than in the bag. I think I should not have planted more than 5 in a bag. I get the same thing with taro. The roots also compete for space so even if you did not think they were crowded, they might not have had enough water, nutrients or space for them to grow best when they had to compete for resources.
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Gary350
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Re: Sweet potatoes all long and thin.

Now is a good time to buy a grocery store sweet potato to sprout in the house. I have not grown my own plants in many years. Put a small potato is a jar with water 1/2 up the potato, change the water every other day. In about a month it starts to grow roots. A month later it will have roots & tops. Potatoes grow slow in a jar of water cut the potato into 4 pieces for 4 plants, plant them 3 ft apart in the garden. I am lazy these days I buy plants at the Amish Garden store in a 4 pack. Hard clay soil restricts the roots they do not do very well, loose sandy soil is better for the roots. If the mother plant is the only roots for the whole 30 ft vine you get small potatoes, if you make the vine grow roots about every 20" or so the extra roots adds lots of water for all the potatoes on the vine, you get larger potatoes & more potatoes.

Gardener123
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Re: Sweet potatoes all long and thin.

imafan26 wrote:When you grow anything in a confined space, the plant will size up only as much as the planter allows. That is why I had much bigger sweet potatoes in the ground than in the bag. I think I should not have planted more than 5 in a bag. I get the same thing with taro. The roots also compete for space so even if you did not think they were crowded, they might not have had enough water, nutrients or space for them to grow best when they had to compete for resources.

So that is logical.... but how come so may people on YouTube are getting amazing results? No hostility here.... but some of these places aren't any hotter than Philly. I would not have even tried it if I had not seen so many successes on YouTube.
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thanrose
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Re: Sweet potatoes all long and thin.

First, where did you source your sweet potato starts? What were they called? Some are actually ornamental.

Second, how were the leaves and vines? Pruned, or let loose, coiled back in on top of the soil? Healthy leaves of good size, at least equal to the palm of your hand?

Sweets can grow in all kinds of soil. Some folks even use them to break up hardpan or heavy clay or thatched sod. Mine had grown rampant many years in the past, and before I moved a little more north, I had five or six from several areas where they'd never grown before. Some in a large pot of geraniums and the others between and under pavers. Of course, I had let vines do what they will, even though I hadn't planted them in the past ten years. Yeah, they were slender and small, but they were eaten by me eventually.

I'd suspect that if your sourced sweet potatoes were for good sized marketable sweets, it was something in the cultivation that didn't work well. Too dry, or maybe excessive nitrogenous additions to the soil, possibly not enough calcium.

Sorry that it didn't work out for you. All I know about you is general location. If you have better vegetable production with other crops, then all we can do is guess.

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