Something I plan to do this spring is grow sweet potatoes. They are so healthy and have many benefits. I ordered some slips and just read that I can grow my own slips with sweet potatoes from the store. I have never grown sweet potatoes before and I am very excited about doing so.
Sweet potatoes are not potatoes. They are a member of the carrot family. They are a high source of beta carotene (Vitamin A), like carrots, which supports healthy vision. They are full of fiber and antioxidants. Fiber is good for digestion, especially if you have digestive illness. Antioxidants fight free radicals in the body during the breakdown of food. This in turn lowers your risk of cancer.
Sweet potatoes maintain blood sugar levels so they are good for diabetics. They have Vitamin C, Vitamin B6 and potassium and are good for regulating blood pressure. They are tasty and good for you. Sounds like a win-win to me!
Again, as of 2/24/2023, I have not grown sweet potatoes. I have my slips ordered but they will not ship until sometime in May. At the time I receive them, I will start updating this page with photos and let you know what I am doing with them and how they are doing.
I will be getting sweet potato slips in May of 2023. It will probably be horribly hot here by then but the only place I could find to order them from does not ship them until May. When you receive your slips to grow sweet potatoes, you should not place them in water. If you are not going to plant them right away, then you should spray the ends with water to keep them moist, and lay in a warm area until they can be planted and watered.
If it is hot like it will be here in Texas in May when my slips come, plant the slips in the evening and provide shade for at least the first week. You can use shade cloth to do that. If you are in Texas like me, you may want to leave the shade cloth up permanently to protect your plants.
Update: Today is May 10, 2023. I still have not received my sweet potato slips. My purchase email says I will receive an email when they have shipped but nothing yet. I am afraid that it will get too hot before they ever arrive. Last year at this time, it was 100° or more every day for the whole summer. This year has been cooler and wetter but we are in Texas. I hope they send them soon.
Update: Today is Thursday, May 25, 2023 and today, finally, my sweet potatoes are arriving courtesy of USPS! I am excited. This morning would have been such a cool time to plant them. I hope tomorrow morning is cool!
This is what I bought from Southern Exposure Seed Exchange:
Quantity: 1 74107a O'Henry Sweet Potato, 6 Slips
Quantity: 1 74156 Sweet Potato Collection, Orange, White & Purple, 18 Slips
So I should have 24 slips to plant, some orange, some white, and some purple! I am not looking forward to getting out there in the heat but it will be fun to try another new vegetable in the garden!
My box of sweet potato slips came in the mail. I went to the house and opened them. They were pretty wilted, smashed, etc., and not wet at all. They were wrapped in paper. I pulled out a big vase and filled it with cool water and got them all in the vase. I am hoping to grow sweet potatoes from these beat up vines. I would have wrapped them in wet paper towels inside of baggies at the roots so they could have some moisture on the trip. Let's hope they do well.
Hopefully, we will plant the sweet potato vines tomorrow morning. It is already very late in the season and I ordered these back in February but they would not send them until the end of May. Our growing season is honestly almost over because of the heat we get here. Hopefully, the 100° plus that we normally get will stay away for a while so we can get these vines growing.
Before you grow sweet potatoes, you will need to get the garden bed ready. Pull up all weeds, till the soil, add some compost and mix it in well. Your holes should be two to three inches deep, leaving at least two leaves on the slip above the ground. The slips should be about a foot apart from each other in a row. Space the rows at least three feet apart so you have plenty of room to walk between the rows and so that the slips have plenty of room to get big. This will make bigger sweet potatoes than if you crowd the slips together.
As soon as your slips have been planted, make sure to water them. Don't wait. They need the water to help establish good roots. Keep them well watered for the first week or two. Make sure they are getting at least one inch of water a week. You should water a bit more in hot, dry climates. We use irrigation on our plants now around the farm. That will help the sweet potatoes to grow better. You will need to keep the bed weeded.
I got up this morning, June 1, 2023, with the thought that I had to plant my sweet potatoes today. I took all of the sad little vines, mostly with some roots now, outside and planted them in the row of my potatoes, where there is a big gap. I planted them up pretty high, covering all of the roots so they can establish good, deep roots. Some vines had just one or two roots. Others, with leaves, had a lot of roots going far up the vine. So you are supposed to plant them at least two inches deep, but if there are higher roots, make sure to plant them deep.
I planted them about a foot apart. Then we turned on the water for a good deep watering.
They take between 90 and 120 days to grow. I planted mine on June 1, 2023 so mine should be ready sometime between September 1 and October 1 and then it will be time to plant fall sweet potatoes. The company we ordered them from should have gotten them to us here in Texas in April but they refused. If people don't live in Texas, they just don't understand that by June 1, the summer gardening season is almost over for most things.
I went out to the garden and flagged each of my sweet potato plant so they don't get pulled up when weeding. There were 15 live plants out of 30, which is sad. From now on, I will make my own vines instead of ordering half dead ones online.
Today is July 10 and so far, they are still doing okay. At least they are not disappearing like my peanut plants are.
The 15 sweet potato plants that are growing out in my garden look beautiful. They are growing big, except for one, and looking happy. I don't know if they will make it or if they will be pulled out like my peanut plants were, but they do have plenty of space to grow and produce lots of little sweet potatoes under the ground.
I was busy this past weekend so I did not have time to go check on my sweet potato plants until this morning. There are 15 green flags but only ten plants. I guess the stupid gophers pulled down five. They are gone, leaves and all. Can you believe that? My sweet potatoes should be ready for harvest around October 1, if there are any left in the ground. I will not plant them in the ground anymore.
Sweet potatoes take between 90 and 120 days in the ground before they are ready to be harvested. You can try digging one up to see if they are big enough for you. Be gentle with the plant so you can replant if they are not big enough.
Sweet potato leaves can be clipped and eaten as long as you don't take too many of them from each plant at a time. If you cut off all the leaves on a plant, your sweet potato growing is over for that plant.
Stop watering as much as you have been about three to four weeks prior to your planned harvest so the potatoes have a wonderful flavor, instead of tasting watery.
Gently dig six to 18 inches away from the center of each set of leaves, so as not to disturb the sweet potatoes. They should be about six inches down. Lift them up.
If the ground temperature will be hitting 55° Fahrenheit, dig them up because that temperature and below will damage your sweet potatoes.
Separate each potato and lay them out flat on the ground for about 30 minutes to dry.
Now, shake off the garden dirt or sand but do not wash the potato. For the next seven to ten days, you should cure them by placing them in a room with a space heater and some pans of water to create a warm, humid environment that has about 90% humidity and the temperature should be at 85° Fahrenheit. If there are blemishes from digging them up, the blemishes should harden up and heal for long term storage.
Today, Tuesday, October 2, 2023, we went out and dug up the seven sweet potato vines that were left out of 24. The gophers missed the vines but they ate all but one small morsel of sweet potato under the ground. This chewed up piece of sweet potato is all that we harvested after carefully planting, caring for and watering 24 sweet potatoes. Of course, over the course of four months, some of the vines died and most were pulled under the ground by the gophers. Then they got lazy and ate the sweet potatoes, leaving the vines so I would think I had something. The joke was on me.
This fall, I have grown my own sweet potato vines and I have already planted some in containers. I will plant all the rest of them in containers as well. I do not intend to feed those varmints ever again.
Your sweet potatoes should be stored in a cool, dry place, that is well ventilated without light. The sweet potatoes should be laid out flat and not touching each other. The ideal temperature to store them at is 55° to 65° Fahrenheit. Do not refrigerate your sweet potatoes because that makes them hard. They should store well from five to twelve months like this.
You can make your own slips in the spring, either from store bought sweet potatoes or from some of the medium sized sweet potatoes that you grew and have in storage. You will need to start six to eight weeks prior to when you want to plant them in the ground.
First, soak a sweet potato in water for two hours. Then, cut the sweet potato in half width wise. For example, if you have an eight inch long sweet potato, cut it in half so each half is about four inches long.
Now get two glasses that have water in them, about an inch or two from the top. The cut end will go in the water. It has to actually be in the water for this to work. Use toothpicks stuck in the sweet potato halves to hold the potato up so only about half of it is in the water.
The sweet potato will grow roots and at the same time, it will grow sprouts that turn into slips on the half of the sweet potato that is not in water. The slips should grow eight to ten inches. When they are that size, cut them off of the sweet potato, leaving an inch of slip on the sweet potato. I am currently finding out that this takes about two months to do so plan accordingly. The slips are now ready to be planted in the ground.
Next spring, I will be doing this instead of waiting until the very end of May to receive half dead slips.
I actually decided to try this now. I bought a few kinds of sweet potatoes from the grocery store and cut them all in half last Saturday, July 15, 2023. I propped each sweet potato half in a short glass with toothpicks, having the cut side down in the water.
On Saturday, July 22, 2023, I noticed there are some roots on some of the halves and some sprouts are beginning to come out of the tops of some of them.
My sweet potato vines sitting in my kitchen window are coming along now. In fact, there was one this morning that was taller than eight inches so I cut it off and put it in a large glass of water so I can root it. Once it develops roots, I will plant it in a pot out in my plant area. No more sweet potatoes for the gophers.
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