Saturday, October 8, 2016

Start Your Own Sweet Potato Slips

The 'sweet potato' is an easy to grow, heat and drought tolerant vegetable of tropical origin. Sweet potatoes are grown from 'slips' which are sprouts that are grown from stored sweet potatoes. In the spring, you can buy slips from local garden centers ready to plant. However, if you're looking for a DIY method, it's the right time of year to prepare starting your own slips to plant next spring.
Leaf and flower of red skinned, orange flesh sweet potato

According to the 'Old Farmer's Almanac'; "November is when the best of the new harvest is in grocery stores. To start your own slips for next spring; purchase new harvest, unblemished, medium sized sweet potatoes. One potato should yield about 12 plants. Store these potatoes in a well lit room with a temperature of 18-21C (65-70F.) Keep them there until 90 days before the last Spring frost date. They will then need to be planted in soil and kept continuously warm and moist for another 90 days. To do this, use a 1-1/2 gallon pot for every 2 potatoes. Poke drainage holes in the bottom and fill with 3 inches of mulch followed by potting soil. Plant the potatoes in the pot at a 45 degree angle so the sprouts will grow above the soil. When the slips are 6-12 inches tall you can plant them outdoors providing there is no danger of frost or move them to a greenhouse."
White skinned and flesh sweet potato

This summer was my first experience growing sweet potatoes. Each slip was transplanted to a large pot in the portable greenhouse. The vines and flowers were an attractive addition to the greenhouse and received many comments. The red skinned, orange flesh sweet potato leaf had three points, see top photo. The white skin and flesh potato had more of a heart shaped leaf, see photo on right. Both varieties had the same beautiful purple flower.  
Red skin, orange flesh sweet potato

To harvest, I dumped each pot into a wheel barrow. The root system of the white skinned variety was very heavy with few tubers. The root system of red skinned was much less but more tubers, although small. Interesting, the largest white sweet potato came from a slightly smaller sized container.

In the photo of my meager 'harvest' below right; the white skinned sweet potatoes on the left were from the smaller sized pot. The red skinned and white to the right were both planted in the same sized, larger containers.
I was pretty excited with the amount of red skinned sweet potatoes, my preferred variety, but was disappointed with how small they were.
With no idea of what to expect, I was hoping for larger tubers but will certainly experiment more next year... maybe in the garden instead of containers? ...under a plastic tunnel to keep in the heat?? In the meantime, I will gather a few good candidates for my DIY slips for next Spring.

I have covered the topic of Sweet Potatoes in three previous posts. This past May featured a favorite recipe for 'Sweet Potato Salad' and in Sweet Potato or Yam, January 2015 a delicious 'Curried Sweet Potato Soup' recipe. The price of sweet potatoes has dropped dramatically for Thanksgiving, so if you have yet to try these two recipes, now's the time! And don't forget the pooch! The humongous sweet potatoes dehydrate to the perfect size for doggie treats, another sweet potato method from 'Going to the Dogs'.

Till next time... Happy Thanksgiving and Bon App├ętit!

Photos by Sally Rae