If you plan to grow sweet potatoes in your vegetable garden, there are a few things you
need to know. You do not plant them the same as regular potatoes.
Sweet potatoes are different in that they grow “slips” from the potato. Slips are grown by placing a sweet potato in an area where they will get diffused sunlight. Keep them out of the direct sun. We place ours on a bed of moist sand or soil to prevent them from drying out. They will start growing sprouts. These sprouts are called slips. One potato will grow many slips over a period of several weeks.
When the slips are 4 to 6 inches long they can be removed carefully by twisting at the base where it grew from the potato until it separates from the potato. The base of the slip is then placed in a container of water like a cut flower and left for a week or so until it grows roots. The slips grow roots quickly. The slip can then be planted in your vegetable garden. You can also buy slips ready for planting at many nurseries and feed stores as well as ordering them from seed companies.
Sweet potatoes prefer a relatively warm soil temperature of 70 degrees or so. They do best in loose soil to make their tubers, and they need moisture on a regular basis (especially when first planted and roots are developing).
I prepare the soil by first digging a trench 12 inches or so deep and lining the bottom with old hay (the older the better). I make the layer of hay 6 to 8 inches deep to provide a bed for the tubers to form and grow. Then, I cover the hay with 4 inches or so of soil.
I also mulch heavily around the base of the plants. This helps retard the growth of undesirable weeds and helps keep the soil moist allowing the plants to thrive. Sweet potato plants will grow vines which will also help shade the ground and preserve moisture.
Sweet potatoes are ready to harvest in the fall when the plant dies back. They are harvested by digging up the roots (tubers) from the layer of hay. Spread the potatoes out in the shade on a dry tarp or cloth to allow them to dry thoroughly before storing them in a cool, dry, and dark place.
They will keep all winter in this manner if kept on a layer of hay and covered with a little hay. They need to be kept dry and from freezing. You can store them in other mediums (dry sand, for instance) if you wish. I just grow my own hay and have it available.
Sweet potatoes are easy to grow and do not require a lot of care. You just need to insure they get enough moisture throughout the season and pull any weeds that happen to get through your mulch. They are a hearty plant and will thrive with just minimal care. You will be rewarded with delicious sweet potatoes that you can enjoy all winter. Be sure to save several to grow your slips for the next spring’s planting.
Besides sweet potatoes, this is also an excellent method for growing any other kind of potatoes in your vegetable garden except they aren’t all grown from slips. We grow all our potatoes this way with excellent results.
To learn about harvesting and storing your sweet potatoes check out this article; Harvesting Sweet Potatoes .
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