Snow is beginning to melt. Temperatures are on the rise. Now is the time to start sweet potato slips. There are many ways to start sweet potatoes, but in this tutorial, we will show you a simple way that produces great results and can be done with resources already available in your kitchen.
Start with organic sweet potatoes from the store or from a previous harvest. If you purchase conventionally grown sweet potatoes, they may have been irradiated to prevent sprouting. A quick note about products labeled as yams – all products marketed as yams in the United States are technically still sweet potatoes. The “yams” you find in the store are usually a variety of sweet potato known as ‘Jewel’ – a selection with moist, orange flesh and orange-reddish skin. The other variety, which is marketed as a sweet potato, is usually either ‘Jersey’ or ‘Hannah’. Both Jersey and Hannah are characterized as having white or creamy, dry flesh, and creamy skin. If you are fortunate enough to have access to a decent organic food co-op or natural food store, you may find other varieties as well.
Organize your sweet potatoes and gather enough jars or glasses. Plan on using one jar for each medium- to large-sized sweet potato. Multiple smaller potatoes can be placed together in one jar. Pint-sized mason jars work well.
Carefully insert toothpicks into your sweet potatoes, three per potato, spaced evenly around the circumference of the sweet potato. You want the toothpicks to keep the sweet potatoes suspended above the bottom of the jar. Depending on the size your potatoes, they will end up being about halfway down the length of the potato.
Place the sweet potatoes into jars, label your varieties, and add water. Add enough water to cover the bottom few inches of each potato.
Place your sweet potatoes in the warmest spot in your house. We place our jars on top of a seed heat mat. Changing out the water every few days helps prevent the potatoes from rotting. If you notice part of a potato rotting, cut off the rotten part.
Within a week you should start to see roots. We first noticed roots forming on this potato within 4 days.
Soon you will notice vines starting to grow. When any of these vines grow to about 5-6 inches, carefully remove it from the sweet potato and place in a jar of water. The vines grow out of many different nodules on each potato. Once a potato starts producing slips, it frequently becomes extremely prolific. You can continuously pick off slips from one potato for a long time.
The slips will soon start to root out. Once they have a good set of roots, they are ready to plant. We keep ours growing indoors until we are ready to plant.
Once the soil has warmed up in your garden, you can plant out your sweet potatoes. Here where we live, in Zone 7, we try to get all of our sweet potatoes planted in the last part of May or first part of June. They need a long and hot growing season to be successful and produce good yields.
Looking for different, unusual varieties or don’t want to start your own slips? Sandhill Preservation offers an amazing selection of sweet potato slips and a bounty of information about growing sweet potatoes: http://www.sandhillpreservation.com/catalog/sweet_potatoes.html
So on your next shopping trip to the store, pick up a few organic sweet potatoes and get them started for a fun new crop in the garden this season.