Every summer I grow something a little different than the previous year. My first year, I only grew tomatoes.Figuring I mastered tomatoes, I was ready to move on to the intermediate leagues and decide to grow green peppers, peas, green beans, basil, and the list goes on. Yeah, I know, I bit off more than I could chew last year (literally.)
But, I made it through the season with just a few ugly slugs, a bunch of beetles, and blue corn when I thought I planted some other type of corn.
So, this year, it was time to think of something different. I thought and thought. What could I grow that would be amazingly cool and my family would actually eat? Sweet Potatoes!Then I stopped and said, “how am I going to grow organic sweet potatoes?”
When I did a little research I found that I could grow the slips myself, following these instructions. But which type of sweet potato would I like? I turned to my trusty Mother Earth News Magazines, to find a great article on which sweet potatoes their editors suggested.
Sweet potatoes grow best when it is hot outside. In the north, you don’t have a long hot period, so I sourced sweet potatoes that had shorter growing periods. I decided the Beauregard sweet potato was the right one for me with its ninety five day growing period. Doesn’t this potato just reek Gone with the Wind?
“Rhett, pass me the Beauregard sweet potato …”
Every week in April, I kept reminding myself to be on the lookout for this potato so I could grow my own slips. Weeks went by, then a month, and I realized I did not have time to grow my slips.
I quickly revisited the resource list on Mother Earth News. Sand Hill Preservation was on the list. They had a list a mile long of the type of varieties I could choose from. However, since I was so late most varieties I wanted were sold out.
A little dejected, I called and spoke to the owner and asked what I should do. She suggested that I order the season close out of the Northern special, but given the time in which I called I would have to wait until the end of June for my sweet potato slips. She further indicated that I should put black plastic over the dirt to get the soil nice and hot.
Just like clockwork, twelve slips wrapped in paper and plastic (to stay moist) arrived. There were three different varieties.
How to Plant
The University of Illinois extension suggested to make a ridge 8 inches high, and plant the slips 12 inches apart in rows that are three feet apart.
I found making these mounds very hard, which I am sure mine are not that high. While I made the mounds, I plunked the slips right down in the soil to keep them from wilting. I never imagined how much soil it takes to make 8 inch by 12 inch mounds. Of course, I did not have enough soil and sent my husband running to the nearest garden center for more.
Thereafter, I mixed about 20% compost, some peat moss to make the soil lighter for the potatoes to grow, as well as soil to make the mounds.
I poked a hole in my mound, put the slip in and surrounded it with black fabric to retain the heat.It seemed like I had more than 12 slips so I planted about 15 all together.
I noticed after a few days that the mounds seems to dry out too quickly, and the new slips seemed to be wilting.I covered them with a thin layer of straw, which I figured would retain the water. Hoping I did the right thing, I checked a few days later and almost all of them were alive with the exception of about 4. The dead ones could have been extensions from other slips that I separated accidently.
A month later, the slips are growing nicely and starting to vine. I will keep you posted as to how they progress in the season.I can’t wait until harvest!
Update 05/17/2012: I think my summer wasn’t hot enough so my harvest was not great. However, when I used potato bags, my harvest was amazing! This year, I finally grew my own sweet potato slips without even trying. Can you tell I love growing sweet potatoes?
Join the Conversation:
- Have you ever grown sweet potatoes?
- What did you learn from growing sweet potatoes that you could share with me?
- Ever grow them in hanging baskets?
- Do you have a great sweet potato recipe?
- Or if you don’t grow sweet potatoes, what is the most unusual veggie you have grown?
Photo by permission of Mikka H.