Sweet potato companion planting

The year I decided to grow two tons of food, potatoes were my favorite crop. They are super easy to grow, it’s easy to grow a ton of them, and they taste great with pretty much any meal {it didn’t hurt that they drove the scale for produce grown that year upward with their sheer density, either}.

Companion planting with potatoes is another way to increase your yields and ward off potential diseases and pests that could strike your taters before they hit your plate.

In an effort to keep companion planting simple, here’s a list of plants that do well with potatoes. {Lists are awesome. That’s just a fact.}

  1. Marigolds. These flowers pretty much get along with everything. Plus, they provide some defense for pests.
  2. Beans. Beans grow up, potatoes grow down…that’s what makes the world go round {picture me singing that nursery rhyme style–then question whether I spend too much time alone}. Potatoes help beans out too by deterring pests.
  3. Cabbage. Anything in the cabbage family does well next to potatoes {and vice versa}.
  4. Peas. Peas provide nitrogen to the soil {like beans}. Potatoes like nice fertile soil {though, truth be told, they will grow in just about anything}.
  5. Eggplant. Eggplant is one of those crops you either like or you don’t. If you do, potatoes and eggplants do well together.
  6. Basil. Basil helps repel potato beetles.
  7. Horseradish. Not only does horseradish deter some pests, it also helps the taters grow better. It’s win-win.
  8. Lettuce, spinach, and other leafy greens. Potatoes take up quite a bit of real estate. Leafy vegetables can be planted in between potatoes and harvested before they are ready. They potato leaves provide some shade in the warmer months, and you can get the most out of your garden space.
  9. Coriander and catnip are also rumored to help deter the potato beetle.

Also, while the above list make potatoes happy, make sure to avoid planting potatoes near: tomatoes, cucumbers, turnips, pumpkins, squash, sunflowers, rutabagas, and raspberries. They can slow potato growth and/or make potatoes more susceptible to blight.

Do you use companion planting with your potatoes? What do you plant with them?


Growing Sweet Potatoes(Impomoea Batatas)

How To Grow Sweet Potato Vines At Home

Growing Sweet Potatoes is very easy in tropical and sub tropical climates.
(And not difficult in cool climates, either.)

In fact, the question is not how to grow sweet potatoes, it’s rather how to stop sweet potato vines from taking over the whole garden! Sweet potato is a very invasive creeper…

But even though they can be a pain in the you know what if not managed (harvested regularly), you absolutely have to grow sweet potatoes! Why?

Sweet potato is one of the most useful food plants in a warm climate:

  • Sweet potatoes are the perfect substitute for normal potatoes.
  • Sweet potatoes have less disease problems.
  • Growing sweet potato vines is much easier than growing other potatoes.
  • Sweet potatoes are very nutritious.
  • And sweet potatoes grow with little water and fertilizer.

You can use sweet potatoes in the kitchen just like you would use potatoes. Boil them, steam them, mash them, fry them… But sweet potatoes have more uses:

  • You can eat young sweet potato shoots and leaves in stir fries and salads.
  • Sweet potatoes also make a wonderful quick growing ground cover.
  • You can use them as a living mulch and to keep weeds down.

So, how do you grow sweet potatoes, and how do you keep them under control?

How To Grow Sweet Potatoes

Sweet potato plants are fast growing vines that cover the ground.

Originally they come from Central and South America, which means they are a warm weather vegetable. You need a long warm season to grow good sweet potatoes.

There are sweet potato varieties with red, yellow and white tubers. The red ones have the highest carotenoid content and have become the most popular variety. But all sweet potatoes are very nutritious in general, especially if you use the leaves and shoots, too.

You’ll be hard pressed to find a plant that produces more nutrition per square metre than the humble sweet potato!

What Sweet Potatoes Like And Dislike

Sweet potatoes like growing in sandy soils, lots of sun, lots of space, and a reasonable amount of water and nutrients. They love heat. The hotter it is the faster they grow.

Sweet potatoes don’t like heavy, waterlogged soils, cold weather, and fertilizers high in nitrogen (like chicken manure, it makes them grow lots of leaves but no potatoes).

Propagating Sweet Potatoes

The quickest and easiest way to grow sweet potatoes is to use cuttings. Simply cut a piece of a runner, about a foot (30 cm) in length.

Remove all the leaves except for the tiny leaves at the very tip. Plant the cutting by covering the whole length with soil, only the leaves of the tip should stick out of the ground.

The cuttings will root at every leave node. Not just the leave nodes under the ground will root. A sweet potato also grows roots from every leave node that develops as your cutting grows.

If you can’t get hold of cuttings you can start growing sweet potatoes by planting the tubers. You can use any shop bought sweet potatoes.

Place them on the ground, cover them with soil, and keep them moist. The tubers will develop shoots, called slips.

Slips can be snipped or pulled off and planted out when they are about 15 cm in size. The original root will continue to produce more slips.

Growing Sweet Potatoes In Water

It’s a popular project in school classes: growing sweet potato vines in a glass of water. You can do that by putting a tuber into water, pointy end down, with the top third above the water. Slips will grow from the eyes of the tuber.

You can plant those shoots out just like the slips grown in soil.

Some people root the slips in water as well. It’s nice to watch for children but it has no benefit whatsoever. Rooting any plant in a glass of water does not make sense other than for demonstration and teaching purposes.

Planting Sweet Potatoes

The best soil for sweet potatoes is sandy but they can grow in all soils. If you have heavy soil plant sweet potatoes on mounds or ridges.

Raising the beds improves the drainage (very important) and gives the tubers a nice deep soil to develop in. (Otherwise you may end up with small, bent and forked sweet potatoes.)

The soil should have a good supply of nutrients, for example from digging in mature compost. Do not use fresh manures or any fertilizers high in nitrogen (like pelleted chicken manure). You’d just end up with lots of leaves and no tubers.

Growing sweet potatoes requires some space, so plant them where they can spread. Space your cuttings or slips about a foot apart in a row, and leave three to four feet between rows. (If you plant in rows, that is.)

Mulch thickly between plants and even between the beds to initially keep the weeds down. Once the sweet potatoes grow they will choke all weeds down themselves.

For planting time the general recommendation is to plant a patch in spring. (May in the northern hemisphere, November in the southern). In a cool climate you may indeed have to get by with a single planting. Sweet potatoes do need four to six months of reasonably warm weather to mature.

But in the tropics one big spring planting does not make sense, unless you are a commercial grower.

Sweet potatoes don’t keep well after harvest, so the best way is to plant a few cuttings every week or two. Just one row of one metre length, with three cuttings. They will take about 16 to 18 weeks to mature in warm weather, longer in cooler weather.

That way you can grow sweet potatoes all year round, and you don’t find yourself with a big pile of them all at once.

Growing Sweet Potatoes The Lazy Way

If you have enough room you can also plant a permanent sweet potato patch. I did.

When I started growing sweet potatoes I didn’t plant in rows. I have plenty of space, so I planted some sweet potatoes as a ground cover under most of my fruit trees.

They did extremely well, and now my whole orchard is covered in sweet potatoes. They don’t need any care, and when I want some sweet potatoes I can usually find a few there. I just look for a thickened stem, or walk around feeling for a lump, and start digging. It’s too easy.

How Much Water? How Much Plant Food?

Although sweet potatoes are a very tropical vegetable they can get by with little water once established. However, the freshly planted cuttings need to be watered regularly.

Make sure plants don’t become waterlooged. If your soil isn’t free draining it’s safest to grow sweet potatoes on mounds.

If you think the quality of your soil is not good enough fertilize your plants at planting time, at six weeks of age, and maybe once more at twelve weeks. Or whenever you remember to do it…

Just make sure you use a balanced fertilizer, for example seaweed extract. A sprinkle of sulfate of potash also doesn’t go astray. Compost that had lots of wood ash in it is even better. Avoid high nitrogen fertilizers. Root crops like potassium and phosphorus, not nitrogen.

Harvesting Sweet Potatoes

After four to six months, depending on the temperatures, your sweet potatoes will be ready. You will see that the original stem of your cutting or slip will have thickened, and when you carefully lift the plant with a fork you should find two or three sweet potatoes at the base.

You can harvest sweet potato leaves and young shoots at any time, it does not affect the plant or tubers.

Problems When Growing Sweet Potatoes

In the tropics sweet potatoes have one serious pest, and that’s the sweet potato weevil. An adult weevil is a metallic blue and orange and about 6 mm long. It eats everything, stems, leaves and roots. The weevils lay their eggs in the roots and the larvae tunnel through the roots and make a rotten mess of them.

If you have problems with sweet potato weevils you can’t grow a permanent sweet potato patch. Just use the other sweet potato growing method.

Plant slips or cuttings, that way you don’t transfer any weevils. Dig up the whole crop, don’t leave any tubers in the ground, and start afresh with cuttings in a different bed. That way weevils will never be a problem again.

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On the Verge

Jerry Coleby-Williams

JERRY COLEBY-WILLIAMS: When it comes to growing food, I like to use my space creatively and today, it’s time to plant out my nature strip.

You’ll need to check with your local council before planting out your nature strip because while some municipalities will allow it, others will not. If you can plant, you must, for safety reasons keep the sight lines and access to the road and the footpath clear for any pedestrians or vehicles passing, entering or leaving your property.

It’s also important to keep the area looking neat and that’s one of the reasons why I’m planting sweet potato. Apart from being a great food, it has soft, decorative leaves and it forms a wonderful ground cover.

You can propagate sweet potato either by planting tubers or taking cuttings. If you use tubers, you’ve got to make sure that they don’t contain weevils, otherwise you can spread them around the garden and they’re a serious pest. I prefer to take cuttings. Now a cutting needs to be about 30 centimetres long. You almost completely bury it in the soil and they can root in a frost free area almost all year round. The reason I’ve got these here is I like to root them, in my garden before I put them out into the nature strip because that is quite a harsh growing environment.

As with any crop, it’s important to prepare the soil. I’ve dug the soil to the depth of a spade and I’ve added a surface layer of spent mushroom compost – about this deep (Approx 5 centimetres) because sweet potato like lots of organic material. I’m also going to surface mulch it with sugarcane and then I’ll plant through with the sweet potato. Planting through mulch saves a lot of time – it’s a lot less fiddly than mulching after you’ve planted.

Sweet potato are easy to plant. I’m putting the spade into its full depth, wedging back the soil to create a deep hole and pushing as much of the cutting in as I can bury and then I’ll firm it really well. I’m putting them a metre apart because they grow very vigorously and in about 3 months time, I should have a crop.


Radicchio ‘Rossa Di Treviso Precoce’ is ready in 70 days and is great used in salads and grilling. Also try ‘Rossa Verona Tardiva’ for an open head salad.

(Vern Nelson)

Our garden has lots of visitors. I am reminded of this when I recommend edible ground covers. Crops don’t like being stepped on. Many people new to the idea of edible ground covers aren’t prepared for the damage that may come.

Siting can be as important as which plants you use as ground covers. Sites must also be thoroughly weeded before planting.

Lettuce is a good ground cover.

Here are my top tips:

  • Keep edible ground covers away from paths and shortcuts, especially if children are around.
  • Be careful when dragging hoses across edible ground covers.
  • Mark edible ground covers well if you plant from seed so you don’t forget about them.

I recommend these plants. Some choices may come as a surprise.

These plants are good for sun sites:

  • Sweet potatoes cover well. Although they are transient, they are very productive and some varieties have vines and flowers that are beautiful. Use raised beds that are at least 10 inches high. Cover the raised bed with plastic sheeting to trap heat for several weeks before planting in June. Choose short season varieties.
  • ‘Thumbelina’ lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) grows to only 12 inches tall and wide. Keep spent flowers trimmed for repeat blooming of fragrant flowers. Plant 12 inches on center in staggered rows 12 inches apart for dense coverage not more than three rows deep for easy flower trimming.
  • Daylily ‘Stella d’ Oro’ grows 12 to 16 inches tall and ‘Itsy Bitsy,’ which is also small, has a long bloom time. These are widely available.
  • Zucchini ‘Zucchino da’ Fiore’ is planted for its heavy production of huge flowers, though there may be a baby fruit. Give this one room.

These plants tolerant partial shade but will yield better crops in sun:

  • Arugula/Roquette (Eruca vestcaria sub.sp. Sativa) makes a quick, low, transient hedge or edging of just 12 to 18 inches tall before going to seed. Re-sow often as it matures in 36 to 40 days. Don’t forget to harvest the very flavorful flowers
  • Corn salad or mache (Valerianella locusta) has a sweet nutty flavor, ‘d’ Olanda’ or ‘Verte d’ Cambrai’ make a nice single serving, small head, salad.
  • ‘Bullet’ romaine lettuce grows upright so it can be planted close together and matures in just 50 days or less as a smaller head.
  • ‘Crisp Mint’ grows just 8 inches tall and about 12 inches wide. I love this one for Caesar salad.
  • Radicchio ‘Rossa Di Treviso Precoce’ is ready in 70 days and is great used in salads and grilling. Also try ‘Rossa Verona Tardiva’ for an open head salad.


Sweet potatoes: Sand Hill Preservation Center, 1878 230th Street, Calamus, Iowa 52729-9659, 563-246-2299, www.sandhillpreservation.com

Seeds from Italy, PO Box 3908, Lawrence, KS 66046, 785-748-0959, www.growitalian.com

Territorial Seed Company, PO Box 158, Cottage Grove, OR 97424, 541-942-9547, www.TerritorialSeed.com

— Vern Nelson

Freelance writer/photographer Vern Nelson: The Hungry Gardener, P.O. Box 25565, Portland, OR 97298; [email protected]

An In-Depth Companion Planting Guide

Broccoli and Brussels Sprouts

Cabbage and Cauliflower

Plant near: broccoli, brussels sprouts, celery, chard, spinach, tomatoes.
Keep away from: strawberries
Comments: tomatoes and celery repel cabbage worms.


Plant near: corn
Keep away from:



Plant near: apples, berries, carrots, grapes, peas, roses, tomatoes.
Keep away from:
Comments: Improves flavor and growth of companions. Deters aphids and Japanese beetles.



Plant near: beans, cabbage, corn, early potatoes, radishes, sunflowers.
Keep away from: late potatoes
Comments: Radishes deter cucumber beetles. Cucumbers encourage blight in late potatoes.


Plant near: broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, cucumber, lettuce, onions
Keep away from: carrots
Comments: Improves flavor and growth of cabbage family plants.



Plant near: green beans, peppers, potatoes, tomatoes
Keep away from:
Comments: green beans deter Colorado potato beetles.


Plant near: cabbage, cane fruits, fruit trees, roses, tomatoes
Keep away from: peas, beans
Comments: deters Japanese beetles and aphids. A garlic oil spray deters onion flies, aphids, and ermine moths. A garlic tea helps repel late potato blight.


Plant near: aromatic herbs, buckwheat, cabbage family, marigolds, nasturtiums
Keep away from: pole beans, strawberries


Plant near: cabbage/cauliflower companions (except tomatoes)
Keep away from: fennel, pole beans, tomatoes
Comments: kohlrabi stunts tomatoes


Plant near: beets, carrotsparsnips, radishes, strawberries
Keep away from: cabbage family
Comments: lettuce tenderizes summer radishes.


Plant near: all garden crops
Keep away from:
Comments: stimulates vegetable growth and deters bean beetles, aphids, potato bugs, squash bugs, nematodes, and maggots.


Plant near: all garden crops
Keep away from:
Comments: stimulates vegetable growth.


Plant near: alfalfa cover crops, fruit trees, grapes, legumes
Keep away from:
Comments: stimulates growth of companion plants.


Plant near: apples, beans, cabbage family, greenhouse crops, potatoes, pumpkins, radishes, squash
Keep away from:
Comments: repels aphids, potato bugs, squash bugs, striped pumpkin beetles, and Mexican bean beetles and destroys white flies in greenhouses.


Plant near: beets, cabbage family, carrots, chamomile, lettuce, parsnips
Keep away from: beans, peas
Comments: deters most pests, especially maggots.


Plant near: all garden crops
Keep away from:
Comments: deters many insect pests.


Plant near: corn, roses, tomatoes
Keep away from:


Plant near: onions, radishes, wormwood
Keep away from:
Comments: onions and wormwood help keep root maggots from parsnips.



Plant near: basil, carrots, eggplant, onions, parsley, tomatoes
Keep away from: fennel, kohlrabi


Plant near: basil, beans, cabbage family, corn, eggplant, flax, hemp, marigolds, peas, squash
Keep away from: apples, birch, cherries, cucumbers, pumpkins, raspberries, sunflowers, tomatoes, walnuts
Comments: hemp deters phytophthora infestans. Basil deters potato beetles. Marigolds (dug into crop soil) deter nematodes.


Plant near: chervil, cucumbers, lettuce, melons, peas, nasturtiums, root crops
Keep away from: hyssop
Comments: radishes deter cucumber beetles. Chervil makes radishes hot. Lettuce helps make radishes tender. Nasturtiums improve radishes’ flavor.


Plant near: beans, cabbage, carrots
Keep away from:
Comments: repels bean beetles, cabbage moths, and carrot flies.


Plant near: cabbage family, carrots, tomatoes
Keep away from: cucumbers
Comments: deters cabbage moths and carrot flies. Invigorates tomato plants.


Plant near: corn, potatoes
Keep away from:
Comments: chokes weeds and enriches soil.


Plant near: celery, cauliflower, eggplant, strawberries
Keep away from:


Plant near: borage, bush beans, lettuce, pyrethrum, spinach
Keep away from: cabbage family


Plant near: cucumbers
Keep away from: potatoes
Comments: can provide a trellis and shelter for shade-loving cucumbers.

Swiss Chard

Plant near: bush beans, kohlrabi, onions
Keep away from: pole beans


Plant near: all garden crops
Keep away from:
Comments: improves vegetables’ flavor and growth.


Plant near: all garden crops
Keep away from:
Comments: deters cabbage moths.


Turnips and Rutabagas

Plant near: peas
Keep away from: knotweed, mustard
Comments: mustard and knotweed inhibit the growth of turnips and rutabagas.

For more information on how-to set up your own garden:

• How to Build Raised Beds for Next to Nothing
• How to Start a Vegetable Garden
• Growing Herbs: A Little Goes a Long Way
• Grow Your Best Fall Garden Vegetable: What, When and How

Check out these recipes:

• Mixed Bean Recipe with Lemon Dill Butter
• Young Carrots with French Tarragon Recipe
• Onion and Kale Pizza Recipe

EDITOR’S NOTE: Companion planting is not an exact science. Use your own experience, this chart, and the advice of other local gardeners to help you achieve successful partnerships in your garden.

Sweet Potato

Sweet potato, Ipomoea batatas, is a tender, warm-weather vegetable that requires a long frost-free growing season to mature large, useful roots. Sweet potato is native to Central and South America. It is one of the most important food crops in tropical and subtropical countries, where both the roots and tender shoots are eaten as a vital source of nutrients. Commercial production in the United States is mainly in the southern states, particularly North Carolina and Louisiana.

Sweet potatoes, which are related to the morning glory, grow on trailing vines that quickly cover the soil, rooting at the nodes along the way. “Bush” varieties with shorter vines are available for situations where space may be limited.

Though orange-fleshed varieties are most common today, white or very light yellow-fleshed types were once considered the finest types for sophisticated people. Some white-fleshed types are still available, though they may be hard to find outside the Deep South.

For their ornamental value, sweet potatoes are often grown as ground cover or in hanging baskets, in planters and even in bottles of water in the kitchen. Cut-leaf types exist that are particularly attractive. The sweet potato is rich in vitamin A. It is not related to the yam, though in the marketplace the two names are often used interchangeably. The true yam, Dioscorea sp., is an entirely separate species that grows only in the tropics.

Recommended Varieties

Beauregard (100 days to harvest, light purple skin, dark orange flesh, extremely high yielder from Louisiana State University)

Bush Porto Rico (110 days, compact vines, copper skin, orange flesh, heavy yield)

Centennial (100 days; orange skin, flesh; good keeper; resistant to internal cork, wilt)

Georgia Jet (100 days, red skin, orange flesh, somewhat cold tolerant)

Jewell (100 days, orange flesh, good yield, excellent keeper)

Sumor (ivory to very light yellow flesh, may be substituted for Irish potatoes in very warm regions)

Vardaman (110 days, golden skin, orange flesh, compact bush type, young foliage purple)

Commercial production is currently dominated by Jewell in North Carolina and Beauregard in Louisiana.

When to Plant

Sweet potatoes are started from plants called “slips.” Transplant the slips as soon as the soil warms up after the last frost to allow the maximal warm-weather growing period. Always buy plants grown from certified disease-free roots. To grow your own plants, place several sweet potato roots about one inch apart in a hotbed and cover with two inches of sand or light soil. Add another one inch of sand when the shoots begin to appear. Keep the soil in the bed moist throughout the sprouting period, but never allow it to become waterlogged. Keep soil temperature between 70° and 80°F. Plants are ready to pull in about 6 weeks (when they are rooted and 6 to 8 inches tall). You can allow roots to continue possibly producing additional flushes of plants if more are desired. The sprouts (slips) are planted directly in the garden from the sprout bed.

Spacing & Depth

Set the plants 12 to 18 inches apart, preferably on a wide, raised ridge about 8 inches high. A ridge not only dries better in the spring but also warms earlier than an unridged area. Black plastic mulch can be a good way to speed early season growth by capturing and storing more of the sun’s heat in the soil under the plastic cover. Because the vines of spreading varieties need a great deal of space, allow at least 3 to 4 feet between rows.


After early cultivation (which is not necessary with black plastic), sweet potatoes need minimal care to keep down weeds. Once the vines spread to cover the ground, little weeding is required. Irrigate if an extended drought occurs. Do not water during the last 3 to 4 weeks before harvest to protect the developing roots.


Early roots may be “robbed,” starting in late summer, by digging into the side of the ridge and carefully removing some developing roots while leaving the plant in place. Dig the main crop of sweet potatoes around the time of the first frost in the fall. Use a spading fork or stout shovel and be careful not to bruise, cut or otherwise damage the roots. Dig below the level of the ridge and gradually move closer toward the plants, removing soil until the fat roots are exposed. Carefully dig under these roots to gauge the depth to dig as you go down the row.

Proper curing can be a problem in the cool fall season. Ideally, the roots should be allowed to dry on the ground for 2 to 3 hours, then placed in a warm room for curing (85°F and 85 percent humidity (if possible) for 10 to 14 days and then stored in a cool (55°F) location. Sweet potatoes should be handled as little as possible to avoid scuffing and bruising. In case of frost, cut the vines from the roots immediately to prevent decay spreading from the vines to the roots and dig sweet potatoes as soon as possible. Cold soil temperatures quickly lessen the roots’ ability to keep in storage. Do not allow roots drying in the garden to be frosted because they are quickly ruined. For best quality, use the potatoes as soon as possible after they have been stored.

Common Problems

To prevent diseases, plant varieties with multiple resistance, use “certified” plants and rotate sweet potatoes’ location in the garden.

At certain sites, mice may become a problem by burrowing into the mound and eating the tasty, nutritious roots before harvest can commence. Check for evidence of mouse infestation regularly and apply appropriate control measures as needed.

Questions & Answers

Q. My sweet potato roots are covered with black splotches in the skin. What can I do to prevent this condition?

A. This condition is probably caused by a disease known as “scurf” that is superficial in the skin of the root. The sweet potatoes are still good to eat, although they may not keep as well in storage. Check for varieties resistant to this problem.

Q. Why did my sweet potato roots grow long and stringy instead of short and plump?

A. Too much rain, irrigation or poorly drained soil prevents proper root formation. Sweet potatoes prefer hot, dry weather once the vines cover the ground.

Q. What makes sweet potatoes crack and split?

A. Heavy rains or too much irrigation during the final 3 to 4 weeks before harvest may cause the roots to split, especially if conditions have been dry for a period before late water application begins.

Q. Are sweet potatoes ruined if the vines were frosted before digging?

A. No, but they should be harvested immediately. The length of time that they can be stored may be reduced and some experts say that taste and quality of the roots may be adversely affected.

Q. What are yams?

A. Moist-fleshed cultivars of sweet potato are often called “yams” in stores, but sweet potatoes are not yams – they belong to the morning glory family (Convolvulaceae). The true yams belong to the Dioscoreaceae family. These vary greatly in size and need a long, warm growing season. In addition, they grow only in the tropics.

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