Many of us are stuck at home and may even be a bit bored. However, North Carolina farmers are busy caring for their farms, from livestock to little sweet potato plants, farmers are continuing to work to feed, fuel and clothe the world. With schooling looking a little different over the next few months, we hope you find the information below as an educational resource and fun activity to do with your children.
North Carolina Farmers Educational Resource
Topic: Greenhouse Operations & Sweet Potatoes
North Carolina is special when it comes to sweet potatoes. Our state grows more sweet potatoes than any other state in America! North Carolina has been first for almost 50 years, and that is a good thing since the sweet potato is our state vegetable! Growing so many sweet potatoes (662.5 million pounds of them) takes a lot of work and some tender loving care from many farmers throughout North Carolina.
Some plants like watermelons, cantaloupes, and sweet potatoes start out in greenhouses before being planted in a field. When it comes to sweet potatoes, the farmers do not start with a seed. Instead, the farmer takes potatoes and lines the greenhouse with the potatoes and dirt. After the farmer waters and takes care of them, spouts begin to grow from the potatoes! This all happens around February and March.
The sweet potato plants are to be grown in a greenhouse for warmth and protection. We all know it can still be cold in February and March in North Carolina, so growing the plants in a greenhouse traps heat to keep the little plants warm. How does it do this? Well, when sunlight shines through the greenhouse walls and roof, three things happen.
- It changes from light energy (wavelength) to infrared energy.
- Because the type of energy changes when entering the greenhouse, this infrared energy is trapped inside the greenhouse due to the walls and roof.
- The warm trapped air heats the greenhouse and keeps the plants nice and warm. The farmer makes sure it doesn’t get too hot by opening vents.
Although the greenhouse does not just trap heat. It also traps moisture. The farmer waters the plants, but the greenhouse keeps the air moist in addition to the soil. Sweet potatoes love greenhouses, and with farmers taking care of them, they grow fast.
Once the sprouts (also called slips) are big enough, they are cut and planted in a big field to grow and produce delicious sweet potatoes! They’ll be ready to be dug up, harvested, and eaten around August. (yum!)
Did you know you can easily grow sweet potatoes right at home? Here’s how:
- 1 firm sweet potato
- 1 glass jar
Instructions: Stick your sweet potato with the toothpicks to suspend the sweet potato in the jar. Fill the jar with water so that the end of the sweet potato in the jar is submerged. Place near a window and keep an eye on the water levels.
In a few weeks, roots, stems, and leaves will grow. If you want to grow sweet potatoes, cut the sprouts and plant outside (2 weeks after the last frost). You can also take the entire sweet potato from your jar and plant in a pot with potting mix to grow sweet potato vines. Ta-dum! You have a lovely houseplant.
We hope you enjoyed this educational resource about greenhouses and sweet potatoes. For more information about North Carolina Sweet Potato Farmers, visit https://ncsweetpotatoes.com/