Growing Guide: Sweet Potatoes
Chances are that you have probably accidentally started a sweet potato slip. Remember that forgotten potato you found at the bottom of the bowl that sprouted little leaves and roots? That potato was on its way to producing slips! Unlike most vegetables, sweet potatoes are not grown from seed. Sweet potatoes are grown from slips which can be ordered from seed catalogues or started at home.
To intentionally grow sweet potato slips, cut a sweet potato in half, fill a container with about a ½ inch of water, place the fleshy part of the potato in the water. Potatoes need warmth to sprout slips, so sit the container in a sunny location or on top of a radiator. Within a couple of weeks, you will notice your sweet potato has sprouted its first slips (think Chia Pet). Be sure to change the water weekly or things can get a little stinky!
Once your sweet potatoes have sprouted, you have to separate them into plantable slips. Once they’re 6”-12” long, carefully twist each slip off of the sweet potato. The next step is to help the slips grow roots. Place bundles of slips in a cup with about half of the slip length submerged in water. Slips will develop roots within a few days making them ready for the garden. To keep newly rooted slips happy, keep changing their water frequently.
Planting your Slips
Sweet potatoes like to grow in loose soil so before planting your new slips, be sure to loosen up and aerate the soil at least 6” deep. With the bed prepared, you are ready to plant your sweet potatoes. Using your hands or a trowel dig a hole 4-6” deep and place the slip roots inside the hole. Ensure the slip leaves are above ground and cover the roots, lightly patting the soil in place to remove air pockets. Sweet potatoes vigorously grow by vining so we recommend planting slips 12 inches apart.
Newly planted sweet potato slips will need to be watered daily during their first week outside. Watering every other day during the second week will help establish plants. Once the plants are established, sweet potatoes can be watered once a week. This is a drought tolerant crop so it can be planted and left to its own devices during the summer months. Please note that although this crop can survive with little to no water, it will produce fewer tubers.
Once your sweet potatoes are ready for harvesting, be sure to check the Growing Guide for Harvesting Sweet Potatoes.