Friday, February 10, 2017

Growing Sweet Potatoes

Last fall I discussed a DIY version of starting your own sweet potato slips in; 'Sweet Potatoes ~ from Slips to Harvest'...  there are several ways to start the sprouts; in soil or water. I have heard using soil produces more sturdy, vigorous slips, so I am starting some with each method. A week after these photos, I found the sprouts growing faster in the water version rather than soil. However, in the soil, roots were growing alongside the sprouts, so I will monitor their progress and see how my comparison pans out.

Already sprouting in the kitchen
I bought three, orange flesh sweet potatoes last November. I stored these potatoes in the kitchen, above the stove on a turret for good air circulation. The kitchen is well lit with a temperature of 18-21C (65-70F.) The beginning of February, I planted two in soil, kept continuously warm and moist, and cut another in half, suspended with skewers in jars of water. (Be sure to rinse the jars and replace the water when it becomes cloudy.) The potatoes already had small sprouts, so now I will wait until the sprouts are 2-3 inches and vigorous. Then pull the sprouts off of the sweet potato and put into water until there are lots of roots. At this point, transplant them to starter pots with 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."
Cut in half in water ~ In moist, warm potting soil
When it is warm enough outside, transplant the slips 12-18 inches apart in tilled, fertile, well-drained soil. Plant deep enough to cover the root and about 1/2 inch of the stem. They are a vine, so provide some type of structure for them to climb and do not remove any of the foliage or vine as it grows. Water with a starter solution of fertilizer high in phosphorous, then water generously for a few days to be sure the plants root well. Water regularly after that, provide good drainage and don't let them sit in water. Deep watering in hot, dry periods will help increase yields. However, if you are planning to store some of the potatoes don't give them extra water late in the season. Weed occasionally but do not prune the vines, they should be vigorous. Harvest 3-4 months after planting when the leaves begin to turn yellow.

In the meantime, Denman Island has been hit with a week long, winter storm of unusual, heavy snowfall and power outages. It has been difficult to get computer time and cooking some days was either on the wood stove or outdoor propane BBQ. The temperature is rising above freezing and the snow has turned to rain. It will take us a day or so to dig out of this one!!
Day two of seven... and still snowing!

Till next time... Bon Appétit!

Photos by Sally Rae


  1. Interesting, as always, Sally. Looking forward to seeing how the comparison pans out.

    1. Thanks JP, looking forward to a better harvest than last year!! Fingers crossed.