Sweet potatoes are delicious and highly nutritious with many vitamins and minerals such as vitamins A, C, and B6, as well as Potassium, Manganese, and Niacin. They are easy to grow using the traditional method of sticking the sweet potato spud in water and waiting for it to root and grow vines to then cut and root. The problem is, that way takes forever. Today I'm going to show you and equally simple way that takes a fraction of the time.
The Fastest Way to Start Sweet Potato Slips
Step 1 - Obtain Organic Sweet Potatoes
When starting sweet potato slips it is most important that you start with organic sweet potatoes. Conventional potatoes, including sweet potatoes, are sprayed with an inhibitor called chlorpropham to prevent them from sprouting. Besides the fact that it will keep your sweet potato from sprouting, it's a nasty chemical that we don't want near our food. Remember this when you go to plant regular potatoes. It will work perfectly fine to plant store bought potatoes as long as they are organic.
Back to sweet potatoes. You can get almost an endless supply of sweet potato slips from just two or three sweet potatoes. I never use more than 2 or 3 and easily get 30 slips. I could get more but that is about where I stop.
I like to use extra slips to grow sweet potato vines in my planters for some nice greenery to spill over the edge. The leaves are edible and they get pretty little purple flowers. The flowers aren't big and showy but pretty all the same.
Step 2 - Planting
Fill your seed starting tray or vessel of choice with potting soil. Moisten the soil. Potting soil is usually drier than you think. The soil should be moist but not soggy. Moistening the soil before planting enables it to better take up the water after planting, during you regular watering.
The potatoes are planted by laying them on their side and wiggling them into the dirt a bit. You don't need a deep vessel. Give a few inches of space between each potato. Once they are in place give them a bit more water.
You can see that I planted my sweet potatoes in a tray with several other things. They really don't need that much room. You can see in the picture that they are planted very shallow. If you look carefully you can see the little roots of the sweet potato in the soil.
Step 3 - Keep Watching
Now that your potatoes are planted you get a little break. Keep the soil moist and watch for sprouts. Once they emerge it is almost like you can watch them grow. They grow inches in days. Below is what my sweet potatoes looked like just after 2 weeks and 3 days.
Step 4 - Cut Your Slips
Now it is time to take your sweet potato slip cuttings. I like mine to be from 10 - 12 inches in length. You can do them longer or shorter and they will still root just fine. I find 10 -12 inches to be a nice length for pint jars. It allows for enough of the vine to get good root growth. If you have a really long vine that is 30 inches long go ahead and cut it in half. Any section of the vine will root.
I do like to leave a small section of the vine on the sweet potato. Not cutting the vine off right at the potato. This allows new shoots to grow very quickly without having to sprout from the potato itself.
Check the sweet potatoes at least every other day for vines that are ready to be cut. Like I stated before, they will literally grow inches in a day.
In the above left picture you can see that I am cutting the vine near the sweet potato but still leaving a portion of the vine to sprout more shoots. This particular vine was very long so I cut it in half as shown in the picture on the right.
In the picture below you can see how I leave a small section of the vine so that it can grow new shoots more quickly.
At two weeks and 3 days after planting my sweet potatoes I got 13 cuttings. Two days latter I took 7 more cuttings. In less than 3 weeks I got 20 cuttings!
Step 5 - Rooting Your Cuttings
Once you ave taken a cutting trim off any leaves on the bottom 5-6 inches of the vine. These leaves are edible and nutritious so throw them in you salad!
Many times the vine already has little root buds as you can see above. We are constantly amazed how quickly they root. Place your cuttings in a jar or cup and fill with water. Make sure there are no leaves below the water line.
Now find a sunny spot for you cuttings or you can put them under grow lights with the rest of your starts like I did below.
Here are what the vines look like just 2 days after being placed in water and then at 3 days. Growing roots takes no time at all.
Step 6 - Planting Out
Sweet potatoes are extremely sensitive to frost. Once your slips have a healthy supply of roots they are ready to plant out 3 weeks after last frost date. You don't want to plant them early only to be stunted by cool temperatures.
Most varieties of sweet potatoes take 90 - 120 days to form harvestable tubers. This may be difficult in places with shorter growing seasons. You can always plant them in a large pot or grow bag early in the season and bring them in for several weeks at the end of the season to allow them to reach full maturity.
Don't attempt harvesting before 90 days. You don't want to disturb the root system before they are ready. Once 90 days have past carefully remove the soil on an outer edge of a sweet potato vine slowly working your way in. If you find that the tubers are ready, go ahead and harvest the remaining plants without the worry of disturbing immature tubers.
That's it! Your done! Now go enjoy some sweet potato fries, or how about some sweet potato pie? Mmmm, I like sweet potatoes prepared in so many different ways! What is your favorite way to eat sweet potatoes?
Happy planting my friends!
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Hello, I'm Jaci. I look forward to sharing my gardening and homestead adventures to help you reach your gardening goals! If you have any questions then don't be shy, I'd love to hear from you. Send me a message and I will be glad to help!