For years, I was such a failure in growing my own sweet potato slips. I followed everyone’s method of cutting the potato in half and keeping the bottom half submerged. Inevidently, the potato would rot, and I wouldn’t have any sprouts. Well, I finally figured out what I was doing since I was forced into figuring it out. Read on as to my painful twisted sweet potato saga where the girl gets sweet potato slips and lives happily ever after. Be sure to watch my videos below.
All the elements of a made for television movie. Anxiety, depression, rage, exhilaration, and love. Ellen Page can play me. (Um, the star of Juno.)
What Are Sweet Potato Slips.
First things, first. Just to give you some perspective, sweet potatoes grow from their sprouts. They are called slips. When they reach four to eight inches you root them in water, and then plant them. And the journey begins all over again.
(So you don’t get confused, you grow regular potatoes by sprouting them and putting them in the ground. Read how to grow potatoes HERE. It the sprouts on a potato became as long as a sweet potato slips, you would end up throwing the potato in the compost since it is too old and shriveled.)
The Painful Journey
Back to the journey.
No matter what I did, I could never figure out why I could never be like all the cool kids who could grow sweet potato slips. As I mentioned, most just submerge half the potato in water and magically sprouts appeared.
The last couple of years, I bought sweet potatoes slips from various places since I wasn’t able to propagate the slips myself. (Read where to buy them HERE.)
A funny thing happened one year. The sweet potatoes in the pantry started to grow their own slips when the weather started to warm up. I thought I had found the keys to the kingdom. (My pantry has a window and a dark floor. Sweet potatoes love heat.)
I was so excited that I shared it HERE. I was one proud peacock strutting around thinking I no longer had to sprout my slips like all the ordinary gardening boys and girls.
Take that– glass of water.
Then the raccoon and squirrels just knocked me right off my pedestal. And believe me, it was a hard fall. In fact, it was earth shattering. (I told you my story is DEFINITELY a made for TV movie. We are moving into the heartbreak part.)
What did those squirrels do? They bit the sweet potato vines and nearly killed the plants. Then the raccoon who were clearly into cahoots with the squirrels decide to reach in and grab the tubers. (I found scraps of letters written to each other. They referred to me as the “dumb human.”)
I was devastated. How would I ever come back from this painful occurrence?
But I hadn’t hit rock bottom yet.
(Ominous music playing in the background.)
Sometimes, you have to hit rock bottom to find the love.
Hitting Rock Bottom
I saved some of my unplanted sweet potatoes slips from that summer and kept them alive through a white fly storm. (I hate white flies but they love sweet potato leaves.) I planted them the next summer and put bird netting all around the plants. When you picture my netting, think of Fort Knox for sweet potatoes. (I plant mine in 20 gallon potato bags.)
The plants were happy the whole summer. Although the raccoon found the soy beans, I thought my sweet potatoes were safe.
A tell tale sign that a raccoon found your sweet potatoes is dirt on the ground as the raccoon harvests the potatoes. Last year, there wasn’t any dirt, no one ate the vines, and they look gorgeous.
But they started to bloom kind of early. In zone 6, a flower or two shows up in the last summer or maybe early fall. Last year, the plant was covered with dainty purple flowers. (They are related to the morning glory plants.)
What’s up with the sudden blooming?
I just ignored it and went on my way. When it was time to harvest the plant, they were all leaves and no tubers. Some tubers were actually below the bag hiding from the animals.
Who ate the tubers?
I thought. And thought, and thought some more. There could only be one animal that could get through my fortress.
How could they?
Voles are meadow mice and I despise them. They make such a mess in my garden. Read how I have tried to control them.
Or perhaps it was the raccoon who put her hand in the potato bags and was much neater than the previous raccoon?
Who knows? I only harvest little wimpy sweet potatoes and sulked the whole winter.
How was I going to grow sweet potato slips with my wimpy small potatoes?
The Light Bulb Went On–How to Grow Sweet Potato Slips
“It is time to face your fear,” said a small voice in my head. I responded with “um, you mean my gardening failure and my dislike of voles?”
So, I tried again. I bought two organic white sweet potato. (This was the key. You have to buy organic if you want to sprout the potatoes. I guess in the past I didn’t pay attention to what I bought.)
By the way, the white sweet potatoes are my newest favorite. (In years past I grew Beauregard sweet potatoes. Believe me, they didn’t save Tara–meaning they were okay but not great sweet potatoes.)
I left them on the floor hoping they would sprout. Nothing.
Nothing a few weeks later.
Nothing a few months later.
I was in trouble.
How to FINALLY Grow Your Own Sweet Potato Slips
Then my inner gardening fairy godmother said, “you know what you have to do.” I mustered up all my courage and cut one of the potatoes in half. (See picture above) I secured the sides with toothpicks so they wouldn’t fall in the water. (So Mr. Potato head looking.)
The other potato was put in Mechanic potting soil up to its sides. I put it in an aluminium container thinking that the aluminum would be a good conductor of heat. I put both potatoes under my grow lights and on my seed mat.
I changed the water every three days with glass in jar potato. I kept the potato in soil moist.
Nothing was happening or it was so slow, I could have raced the potatoes and won.
Finally I got desperate.
Desperation makes you think.
I put them both under halogen lights. When we build my house, the under-cabinet lights are halogen. They produce glorious heat. I use them now for my plants.
They started to sprout and I jumped up and down like a little girl. The potato in the dirt sprouted quicker and grew faster than the glass container one. See my video below as I compare my two results.
You want to harvest them when they are about 4 to 8 inches tall. Once you harvest them put them in water to root. They root right away. See my video below as to how they look.
The whole process took about 6 weeks.
In fact, to date, I have harvested 6 slips from the dirt potato and one from the glass container one. I need 9 in total to plant.
As I mentioned above, I use potato bags. Read how I plant them HERE
Now I just need to figure out how to stop the voles. Any ideas?
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Do you grow sweet potatoes?