Growing Sweet Potatoes

I get this question a lot: Can I grow sweet potatoes from this sweet potato that grew sprouts in my kitchen?  My answer is absolutely yes!  This is so easy to do.  If you have a sweet potato with tiny sprouts (or no sprouts!) you just need to partially immerse it in water.  You can put your whole sweet potato in water with the sprouted end sticking out or you can chop off just a third of your sweet potato (eat the other two thirds) and immerse most of that cut piece in water with the sprouts sticking out.  Consider poking toothpicks through the sweet potato to assist in suspending the sweet potato in water.  This is the first year I have used the one third cut tuber method and it’s working really really well.  If the sweet potato hasn’t sprouted yet, generally the narrow end is the “bottom”.  It will start sprouting after it’s in water.  The sprouts will grow into lengthy vines.  If the vine reaches about 8 inches and you aren’t ready to plant in the ground yet, trim the vine back so at least a couple leaves are on the cut off piece and put the cut end into water.  The cut end will form roots and the sprout will keep growing.  The piece attached to the tuber will continue to grow too.  Keep trimming it as it gets longer and put the cut pieces in the water to grow roots.  These cut pieces are called “slips”.  Sweet potatoes like heat and cannot tolerate frost.  Do not plant sweet potatoes until danger of frost has passed but be sure to get them planted as soon as possible once past last frost as sweet potatoes take a long time to grow so they need to be in the ground as early as possible.

The ideal growing soil is light sandy somewhat acidic soil.  But sweet potatoes are not all that fussy, they can grow in pretty well anything, even clay soil.  I personally have had tremendous success growing sweet potatoes in straw bales and will continue to use this method as it makes for extremely easy harvesting.  Choose a warm sunny spot in your yard for planting.  Sweet potatoes love warm soil so you may wish to take the additional step of mulching the bed by either natural means or with black mulch plastic.  Dig a mini trench in your soil and lay the slip in the trench then bury the slip leaving a few leaves above ground.  Water well.  During the first few days you will want to take special care of the slips to be sure they aren’t stressed by too much direct sun or drought.  After a few days the slip’s roots should be strong enough to continue without much effort on your part.  The sweet potato slips may appear to stop growing at this point but part way through the summer the vines will grow like crazy. Sometimes the vines will root along the vine as they run across the ground, you can choose to allow them to root or gently pull them up and train them where you want them to go. Sweet potato vines are beautiful; many varieties are grown for aesthetics.  If you have large containers, you can grow sweet potatoes in the containers and allow the beautiful vines to cascade over the sides. Sweet potatoes are happy to live in your warm sunny yard and will tolerate some drought throughout the summer season.  Try to water deeply during dry periods.  Stop watering as the season nears the end.

After the first frost, the vines will turn black.  You need to harvest the tubers immediately.  Gently dig them up so as not to scratch their soft surface.  Leave them laying out in the yard for a few hours to dry.  Transfer them to a newspaper lined container and store them in a warm environment for two weeks.   Once “cured”, you can store them at room temperature for up to a year.


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