Starting Sweet Potatoes

Starting Sweet Potatoes

It’s difficult to believe that it’s already time to start sweet potatoes. From beginning to end, it takes about 9 months to grow and harvest sweet potatoes. That sounds like a lot of work, but they are really very easy, low maintenance plants.

This will be my second year to grow sweet potatoes. I cannot imagine NOT growing them now, there are just so many benefits! Because of their great usefulness as a ground cover, I will be growing them as a companion plant for taller plants like okra and peppers. The bed in which they were planted last year required no weeding and even became a haven for our adopted garden turtle, Francisco. I spent a day blanching and freezing sweet potatoes in September and we are enjoying them with our winter meals.

You can start sweet potatoes anytime between now and early March to get slips to plant in May. There are two steps to getting sweet potatoes started: Growing the slips and rooting the slips. Today, we are going to talk about growing slips. You can use sweet potatoes purchased from a seed company or simply buy a few organic sweet potatoes from ONF and root them. That’s what I did last year! This year I’m using sweet potatoes I harvested from my garden last summer.

sweet pot

  1. Place the sweet potato, pointy side up, in a glass of water, securing it with toothpicks. (see photo). Keep the rounded bottom of the potato submerged in water.
  2. Very soon the sweet potatoes will grow roots.
  3. Shortly after the potatoes have grown their roots, they will start putting up stems and leaves. Those are your slips! Each eye will produce several slips.
  4. Once the slips grow about 6” tall, we will snap them off at the base and put them in a glass of water. The slips will grow roots. Once the roots are at least 1” long, they are ready to plant in the garden in May. Just leave them indoors in water until it’s warm enough to plant outside.

sweet pot 2

This is a great project to do with the kids. Since the plants are growing indoors in water, the kiddos can see every aspect of growth daily. They might even be more likely to eat their sweet potatoes if they are involved in growing them from the very beginning!

Chickens in Springdale
While you’re still reading, I would like to bring a local cause to your attention. While all the other big towns in our area allow for backyard hens, Springdale still has a ban on all fowl inside city limits in residential properties. I would imagine that the irony of this situation isn’t lost on anyone. There is a growing group in Springdale that wants to see this law changed. We believe in food freedom and, most importantly, food security in our community. We understand the benefits of a few backyard hens for pest control (rather than pesticides, which seep into our water supply), natural fertilizer, and nutrient-rich egg production. If you support the ability to have a few backyard hens in Springdale, please sign our petition and share it with your friends! Even if you don’t live in Springdale, the quality of our water in NWA affects us all, so please sign and encourage your Springdale friends to sign, too! Please feel free to contact me with any questions, and follow our blog for updates. Sign the petition here. Thank you for your support!

Tiffany Selvey is a Master Gardener who writes about her passion for growing, cooking, and living naturally at www.Songbird-Gardens.com. When she’s not elbow deep in soil, she enjoys raising a very active son, laughing with her husband, and wrangling their pets. Follow Tiffany’s gardening adventures on facebook , instagram and on twitter.

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One Response to Starting Sweet Potatoes

  1. APS says:

    My experience last year was that the slips which I let root produced four times less than the slips I planted immediately.

    You can root the sweet potatoes in moist soil/mix also.

    We start slips in late April for late May/early June planting.

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