How to start sweet potato slips
- I have never seen this before! I thought you just plant [sweet
potatoes] like regular potatoes. Can you post pictures as they
what you do with them later? Thank you!" --- Alice R.
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I thought I'd already made a
cohesive post about propagating sweet potatoes, then realized I was
thinking of the chapter I included on sweet potatoes in the second
edition of Homegrown Humus.
For those of you who haven't given that ebook a read, here's my
tried-and-true method of making homegrown slips --- the little rooted
plants that you use to grow sweet potatoes in the garden.
Mark posted earlier this week, we start by sinking a few skinny tubers
halfway into wet gravel in the bottom of a seed-starting tray (with the
insert removed). I generally save out skinny tubers on
purpose, selecting ones that are less than two inches in diameter since
they seem to spit out slips quickly without wasting too much food.
I place a heating pad
turned to medium or high (depending on the weather) under the flat, and
then mostly ignore it for a few weeks. You can choose to put the
clear top on the seed-starting tray, in which case you really can ignore
the contents (although mold might start to form). Alternatively,
you can leave the top off and just add water as needed to keep the
gravel moist. The warm, moist environment will soon tempt your
tubers to grow little sprouts like the one pictured above.
these sprouts start popping up, it's time to take off the top of the
tray (and to make sure you keep the tray well watered). The
sprouts will grow quickly, and several will pop up on each end of most
tubers. Once a sprout is about four inches long, simply snap it
off the tuber and place it in a vase or other container of water so the
bottom half inch of the sprout is under water. Within a week, each
sprout should have at least two or three roots an inch or so long ---
you've grown your own sweet potato slips!
Sweet potatoes like it
warm, so wait until after the frost-free date to plant them out in your
garden. Pick an overcast day (or set them out in the evening) and plant
each slip so the leaves are above ground and the roots are below
ground. Water them in well, and come back by the next day to water
again as needed. After that, they'll take off and will provide a
carefree crop (as long as you keep the deer away). Happy sweet potatoing!