Ipomoea batatas, commonly known as sweet potatoes, are herbaceous perennial tubers usually grown as annual vegetables.
Like other plants, sweet potatoes require sufficient sunlight, water, and soil rich in inorganic nutrients to grow.
However, planting sweet potatoes on the same piece of land year in and year out may not yield the perfect result.
This is so because the same nutrient required and used by sweet potatoes will most often be deficient in the soil after each planting season.
So, to avoid this and ensure that the soil remains fertile enough to support the growth of your sweet potatoes, practicing crop rotation remains the best agricultural practice to get the best result.
Perhaps you may be wondering and asking, "What to plant after sweet potatoes?" read on as this post unravels everything you need to know about planting sweet potatoes.
What Is Crop Rotation?
Crop rotation is a farming method in which different types of crops are planted on the same piece of land at different growing seasons.
Crop rotation also includes leaving a garden without planting crops to immediately add nutrients to the soil. This process is known as follows.
Rotating crops planted on the same soil will help in making the soil healthy by replenishing the nutrients that have been taken out of the soil by the former crops.
To rotate crops, a farmer may plant specific crops such as potatoes and sweet corn on garden soil and then plant other crops such as cowpea and tomatoes on the same soil in the next growing season.
Planting different crops on the same piece of land has been used by farmers for centuries to boost soil nutrients and attract beneficial insects to their farmlands.
Crop rotation can also involve planting tropical crops in warm weather and choosing other plants in cold weather, such as the late spring season.
The aim of rotating crops is to replenish the soil with the same nutrients that previously grown crops have used on the soil.
For instance, you may grow tomatoes and potatoes on a particular land and harvest the plants in a specific season. You may grow beans in the same location to add the lost nutrients to the soil.
As a farmer, you may also decide to leave the soil fallow for a certain period to get rid of soil-borne diseases.
However, ensure you plant ground cover crops such as green vegetables before harvesting to prevent soil erosion.
Deciding on the next crop to plant after following depends on many factors, including the growing season and the type of crop.
After harvesting, it is ideal for planting heavy feeders such as sweet potato plants and tomatoes that take up a lot of phosphorus and nitrogen from the soil.
These heavy feeders should then be replaced by light feeders and green manure crops such as root vegetables in the next planting season.
A well-planned crop rotation will boost the soil nutrients and deter pests and soil-borne diseases.
Why Rotate Crops?
Several benefits are associated with practicing crop rotation. According to agronomists and agriculturists, crop rotation increases soil fertility and improves crop productivity.
It also helps in controlling the pest life cycle of certain crops. Some reasons you should rotate crops include:
1. To improve soil fertility
Continuous planting of the same crop type causes the depletion of certain nutrients from the soil. This lowers the overall soil fertility.
Each plant absorbs and releases different types of nutrients from the soil.
On the one hand, certain plants deprive the soil of great quantities of a particular nutrient, making the soil deficient in that nutrient and reducing soil fertility, resulting in stunted growth.
On the other hand, other crops release an excess of a particular nutrient into the soil in toxic quantities.
Therefore, practicing crop rotation controls deficient or excess nutrients by absorbing nutrients that are in abundance and replacing the deficient ones.
Crop residue left from harvesting can also improve the organic matter of soil composition.
2. To increase the yield of crops
Based on scientific evidence, crop rotation can increase the yield of plants by 10 to 25% compared to monoculture.
The practice of crop rotation increases the harvest from crops planted at different seasons.
Thus, practicing crop rotation can make you get a seasonal bounty harvest of each type of crop you planted on the same soil.
Farmers are usually advised to practice crop rotation whenever their farmlands do not produce as many crops as they are supposed to yield.
Increasing the total amount of nutrients in the soil ensures that the crops get adequate nourishment to grow well.
3. To reduce soil erosion
Soil erosion is the washing away of topsoil by water or wind, which occurs when farmland is exposed. Crop rotation has proven successful in the control of soil erosion.
The soil is protected from erosion when constantly covered by plants; hence, planting cover crops and crawling plants such as peas and beans after standalone plants such as maize can help reduce soil erosion.
Crop rotation can also reduce the impact of heavy raindrops on topsoil because plants' roots help hold the topsoil together, thus preventing the topsoil from being washed away.
4. To control pests and diseases
When similar crops are planted in a garden year-round, it causes the same types of pathogens, pests, and diseases to build up on the farmland.
Rotating crops helps to intercept the pest life cycle because new crops with different kinds of pests are introduced.
Monoculture, which involves planting the same type of crops yearly on the same land, allows the infestation of pests and diseases.
Farmers can reduce and control the incidence of pathogens and pests by adopting crop rotation.
What Can You Grow After Sweet Potatoes?
If you grow sweet potatoes on your farmland, you may look for great companion plants to grow after harvesting your sweet potato.
Companion planting involves planting crops that can replenish the nutrients taken out of the soil by other crops, and it is an excellent practice for maintaining the fertility of your sweet potato vine.
You may be looking for the best companion plants for sweet potatoes, which you can grow after harvesting sweet potatoes.
The quest for good companion plants for sweet potatoes can make you ask, "What can I grow after sweet potatoes?"
Well, here are the best companion plants you can grow after harvesting your sweet potato plants.
1. Root vegetable gardens
These include Radish, Parsnip, Beets, and Turnips. Vegetable gardens can make great companion plants for sweet potatoes. Root vegetables can increase pest resistance on your farmland.
Companion planting of Horseradish after harvesting sweet potato can help to repel sweet potato weevil and flea beetles from your farmland.
2. Pole beans and Bush Beans
Sweet potato deprives the soil of nitrogen. Companion planting of pole beans can help to replenish the soil with nitrogen.
It can also enhance the absorption of nitrogen by sweet potatoes when planted together at the same time.
If you're looking for legumes with which you can rotate potatoes, consider planting bush beans immediately after harvesting sweet potatoes.
Peas are among the best companion plants that help sweet potatoes absorb nitrogen when planted together.
They improve the nitrogen composition of soil when grown after sweet potatoes.
This is a good companion plant that can be grown after harvesting sweet potatoes from your sweet potato vine. They act as cover plants that can protect the soil from erosion.
5. Garlic, Alyssum, and Herbs
The aroma of garlic helps to repel sweet potato pests such as colorado potato beetle and spider mites from your farmland.
Alyssum flowers are good companion plants that can attract beneficial insects to your farmland after harvesting your sweet potato vine.
Companion planting of herbs such as Thyme, cloves, Dill, and Summer Savory can generate aromas that can help control sweet potato weevil after harvesting your sweet potato vines.
What Can You Not Plant After Sweet Potatoes?
Although companion planting certain crops after harvesting sweet potatoes is beneficial, you should not plant some crops after sweet potatoes.
When trying to rotate potatoes with other plants, you should avoid planting crops with similar features to potatoes because those plants will further reduce soil fertility.
Sweet potatoes are strong growers and can spread fiercely on the ground.
Thus, you should not plant plants such as winter squash, fall tomatoes, Okra, and sweet corn with similar characteristics on the same farmland from which you harvest sweet potatoes.
Planting Winter Squash after sweet potatoes will deprive the soil of the same nutrients. It will also preserve sweet potato pests and pathogens, causing poor yield and reducing harvest quantity.
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Frequently Asked Questions
When is the best time to harvest potatoes?
The best time to harvest potatoes is when the plants are done growing. That is when the foliage begins to die back.
When the plant begins to die, it shows that all its energy has been stored in the tubers; thus, it's time to harvest the potatoes.
What Happens If You Don't Harvest Potatoes?
Leaving your potatoes in the soil without harvesting them at the right time causes the potatoes to shoot out of the ground in warm weather.
When this happens, the potatoes are exposed to light and become poisonous. Thus, late harvesting of sweet potatoes generates diseased potatoes.
Take home - What to Plant After Sweet Potatoes
Crop rotation, a farming method where different crops are planted on a particular piece of land at different planting seasons, is the best way to grow sweet potatoes.
During crop rotation, the soil may be left fallow for a whole planting season, or you can plant different crops on the land for several reasons, such as replenishing the soil's nutrients, increasing crop yield, and controlling pests, and diseases, amongst others.
To enhance the nutrient content of the soil, you can plant root vegetables such as turnips, radish, beets, peas, or even spinach after harvesting your sweet potatoes.
However, avoid planting crops such as okra, squash, or even sweet corn on the same piece of land after harvesting sweet potatoes since these crops requires similar soil nutrient as sweet potatoes to grow.