Fall Garden Experiment – Growing Sweet Potatoes in Containers

Back in the spring I did another one of my experiments.  I planted marigolds all around four Roma tomato plants to see if they would keep away the stink bugs.  When I did it, I really didn’t expect too much.  Even though the belief that marigolds repel stink bugs is so pervasive that it is assumed to be a fact, I wanted to see for myself.

Marigolds surrond the Roma tomatoes in my potager

Marigolds surrond the Roma tomatoes in my potager

Well, I am happy to report that I was wrong (kind of).  Based on my results, there may be some truth to the belief that planting marigolds with tomatoes helps repel bugs.  Early in the season, when I compared the number of bugs on my marigold encircled tomatoes to those planted in my row garden, the insect numbers were much lower.  However, by the end of the season (when the marigolds were infested with spider mites and stink bug populations were high) there appeared to be no noticeable difference.  Based on this, I am willing to say that if you want to use marigolds to repel bugs in your tomatoes, it is worth giving it a try.  While the marigolds will not keep your plants bug free, they do apparently reduce the severity of infestations over the season.

a-swtpot1I did the marigold experiment to test a “horticultural fact/wives tale”.  The one I am doing now is using sweet potatoes to test a couple of things.  First, I want try and figure out why you have to grow sweet potatoes from slips. Quite frankly, I don’t think you do.  However, this practice is so widely accepted that I could find absolutely nothing on the internet about growing sweet potatoes without slips.  Based on this highly unscientific research, the uninitiated might believe it is impossible to grow sweet potatoes without using slips.  I know this is note true.  I mean nature doesn’t produce slips that have to transplanted.  No, sweet potatoes have survived for thousands and thousands of years by making a tuber that stays dormant in the ground until temperature and day length tells it to start producing vines.

My first experiment is to see if you get more potatoes from slips than you do from planting a whole potato.  To test this I am growing sweet potatoes in two raised containers.  The containers I am using are “Smart Pots”.  These “Smart Pots” are 15 gallon fiber bags that are designed for growing squash and potatoes.

a-swtpot2I filled both pots with an identical media that I created by mixing river sand and mushroom compost in equal parts.  In one of the containers, I have planted a whole sweet potato.  In the other container I planted a slip.  If everything I have read is true, I should be able to dump my pots over in 100 days or so and harvest a bunch of sweet potatoes.  It will be interesting to see which method produces the most potatoes.

I love the heart shapped foliage of sweet potatoes

I love the heart shapped foliage of sweet potatoes

This leads to the second test.  I have grown sweet potatoes in my gardens before.  However, my gardens are built on black clay.  Because of this, even though the sweet potatoes grow pretty well, they are very difficult to get out of the ground.  Since I truly love sweet potatoes, I am hoping that growing in pots will provide me a way to produce a respectable crop that is easy to harvest.  If it works out I will have absolutely no problem switching from growing them in the ground to growing them in pots.

Wish me luck and don’t forget to check back in a 100 days or so to see how it goes!

8 thoughts on “Fall Garden Experiment – Growing Sweet Potatoes in Containers

  1. I love your experiments, Jay. I’ve never grown sweet potatoes in a pot or planted this late in the season. Should be interesting. If all else fails you can always eat the foliage!

    • I am late. I usually have them in the ground by the first of July. I am hoping for a late freeze. How are things growing for you?

  2. How did it go? I am researching growing sweet potatoes in containers for a different reason (short growing season here and unused green house) and wondering if there is a decent yield. Jealous that you can start these in Aug!

    • Honestly August was too late. I should have planted no later than July 4. However, I did get a decent harvest in each pot. On the pot that I started with slips, I got 12 medium sweet potatoes and on the pot that had whole potatoes I got 10. If I had planted them earlier I would have harvested two dozen sweet potatoes from the two containers. I did not notice much of a difference whether I used slips or whole potatoes. If I do it again I will use slips and I will plant them earlier. If you do it, please let me know how it goes. I really think it is a worthwhile way to grow sweet potatoes.

      • Did u plant only one slip and one potatoe in your pot or more then one?Also how deep did u plant your whole one potato in your pot and if u have a few smaller pots,10.5 in wide by 12 in deep and some 11 in wide by 9.5 in deep could u try to plant one potato in one of those pots (or r they too small)and if so which one would u use?

  3. Pingback: Tip of the Week – Week 18 in the Zone 9 Garden |

  4. So r you planting marigolds next to your tomatoes or not?Yes,No?
    R u saying that overall marigolds help lower your rate of bug infestation over the long tomato growing season and u would recommend one to try it for it out weighs the fact that by the end of your tomao season your marigolds get infested with spider mites and stink bugs? Yes,No? So maybe one should pull out ones marigolds the moment u see the spider mites/and or stink bugs or not even wait till u see them and just pull them out once u get your determinate tomatoes ?or close to the time your tomatoes can be harvested?(to avoid that end of season infestation of bugs on your marigolds , which I imagine could spread to your tomatoe plants,Yes ,No?
    When I have grown marigolds before along with zinnias a few of the heads will die before the whole bunch of flower heads die,if your tomatoes r still growing well (with out bugs) and it is still too early to harvest them, should u just pinch off the dead flowers(I think they call that dead heading , if I am not mistaken) Yes,No?
    And that will let u continue to grow more flowers?Yes,No?

Leave a Reply