And finally in our series on neglectful gardening: starting sweet potato slips.
Generally sweet potatoes are grown from slips: green vines that sprout from one of last year’s sweet potatoes, plucked off the mother potato and planted in the ground to grow more sweet potatoes.
It’s easy to start sweet potatoes at home. If you grow your own, save some for growing slips the next season. If you don’t have your own, you can either a) buy slips from a local garden center or mail-order seed company, or b) try starting slips from purchased sweet potatoes. If you go with option b), use organic sweet potatoes, because they will be less likely to have been sprayed to prevent them from sprouting.
To encourage the mother potato to sprout, you can either submerge it partially in water and let it live there like a bunch of flowers, or partially bury it in sand or soil. It will also need warmth to sprout, and you’ll want to start it very early compared to when you want to plant your slips, because it can take several months for the slips to really get going.
Once the vines are several inches long, you just pull them off and plant them in your garden. Easy cheesy.
This is where the neglectful part comes in. I opted for the water method, and many weeks later, had nothing to show for it. (In the future I would probably go with the soil method so that the whole potato can be buried and encouraged to sprout. Plus it’s less likely to grow algae.) I probably wasn’t giving the mother potato enough warmth, so she was slow slow slow.
Eventually it started to sprout, but growth was still slow. I forgot all about the sweet potato. Many weeks (months?) later, I came back to find the sweet potato had taken over our basement and was growing through the rafters. Seriously.
By the time I got to them, the vines were 6 feet tall. There were only a few vines, though, and I wanted to plant a couple dozen slips. Instead of planing a 6′ slip, I chopped the vines into sections and planted all of them. Sweet potato slips are remarkably resilient, and thus far they seem to have all survived.
I got them planted later than I really wanted, so I hope they have enough time to give us a substantial harvest like last year.