Sweet potatoes are an easy vegetable to grow in the home garden. But where do you get the starts for this vegetable. Sweet potatoes are not started from seed but instead are grown from “slips.” Slips are little starts that are grown from sweet potatoes.
Sweet potatoes come in two types. These are bush or vine. Both types produce sweet potatoes and the type you use depends on the amount of room you have in the garden.
To grow your own “slips” is easy and only requires a trip to the grocery store. The first step in this process is to pick sweet potatoes that are blemish free. Once you select these potatoes, the next step is to scrub the potatoes with a scrub brush and water. After this has been done, cut the potato in half or in large sections. At this point you will need a jar for each piece of sweet potato. Fill the jars with water and place them on a sunny windowsill or over a radiator. Now, simply stick toothpicks into the pieces of sweet potato and place in the jars of water. The toothpicks will prevent the sweet potato from falling into the jar.
Monitor the water level in the jars and fill as needed. In a few weeks, green leaves will fill the top. At this point, the slips need to be twisted off the parent potato. Once this is done, place the slips in a shallow pan with water. Make sure that the leaves of the slips are not in the water.
In a few weeks, roots will begin to appear. At this point, it is time to prepare the soil.
Sweet potatoes need loose soil that is rock free. Soil that is hard and full of rocks will prevent nice shaped tubers from forming. The best approach when it comes to the soil is to turn it several times to not only loosen it but also to expose any rocks. Any debris that is found needs to be removed.
Once the soil has been prepared, the next step in this process is the planting of the slips. Each sweet potato slip needs to be planted 12 to 18-inches apart in a hole that is 4 to 5-inches deep and 3-inches wide. After the hole has been dug, place one slip into the hole so that the roots are in the ground and the leaves are above ground. Once this is done, gently fill in the hole with soil making sure not to cover the leaves. Then, slightly compact the soil around the plant with the foot. Continue this process until all the slips have been planted.
The first week the slips are in the ground they will need to be watered every day. Then, the second week the watering can occur every other day. The third week the slips will need to be watered every three days. This pattern will continue until the slips only need to be watered once a week.
In four months, you will have sweet potatoes to harvest. To prevent the tubers from splitting, avoid watering 3 to 4 weeks prior to harvesting.
Sweet potatoes suffer from wireworm and root knot nematode damage. To prevent this damage, always follow a crop rotation program.