Planting Sweet Potatoes

I put out over 1100 sweet potato slips yesterday.  Come October, that should be a lot of sweet potatoes.

With Irish potatoes, you plant the potato itself (or a piece of it). Sweet potatoes are an entirely different plant (in the morning glory family).  With sweet potatoes you plant slips (sprouts).

A bundle of about 50 maple leaf slips.

A bundle of about 50 maple leaf slips.

The slip is planted like a transplant.

The slip is planted like a transplant.

I planted the Baker's Choice variety as well.

I planted the Baker’s Choice variety as well.

Lotsa sweet potatoes

Lotsa sweet potatoes

Best of all, we had a steady gentle rain all night, which is just what these  plants need to get off to a good start.

For the last two weeks I’ve been spending almost all my time just trying to stay on top of things that can’t wait.  This morning I’ll finish staking and tying the tomatoes and, hopefully, I can finally turn my attention to some of the many tasks that I’ve been neglecting.  With everything growing like crazy it’s just hard to keep up this time of year.

Remember back in the winter when we were longing for summer?  Well, we got it.

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35 comments on “Planting Sweet Potatoes

  1. DM says:

    I did not know that (slips instead of the piece of potato)

    Like

  2. BeeHappee says:

    I did not know about slips either, since sweet potatoes are still somewhat exotic to me. Very interesting, thank you for mentioning. I am reading that you can grow your slips at 12-20 per sweet potato root, but you need 6 weeks of 75F and then you need 90 to 120 days above 50 degrees Fahrenheit to grow sweet potato plant to maturity, which is definitely not very doable in Northern Europe. I am assuming you guys buy the slips?

    Like

    • Bill says:

      I don’t think they could be grown in northern Europe. Sweet potatoes need a long hot summer. They’re a great crop here in the south because they thrive in the heat and once they’re established they don’t need much water. Biggest downside is that deer love to eat the vines (unlike Irish potatoes, which they don’t bother).

      We did buy our slips this year. Normally we start our own but we got our seed potatoes mixed up over the winter and decided to reboot.

      Liked by 1 person

      • BeeHappee says:

        Thanks, Bill! This whole time for some reason I kept thinking you were in PA and not VA, I do not know why. Just looked through your farm website, and read more about you guys, and love Cherie’s blog also! 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      • Deb Weyrich-Cody says:

        Not sure where everyone else is, but my friend from near Ottawa, Ontario (Canadian Zone 5b) started growing Sweet Potato last year and did well enough to give it another go this year… https://livingmydreamlifeonthefarm.wordpress.com/2015/01/11/sweet-potato-plans-for-2015/

        Liked by 1 person

      • daphnegould says:

        I live in Boston and grow them. We live on the 42nd parallel and live 6 miles from the ocean and that really moderates our temperatures. We don’t get the heat of the south, but if you pick the right varieties (I grow Purple and Garnet, though the traditional Beauregard does OK here too) they do grow well here. So traditionally they are a Southern crop, but they can be grown here. That being said. I put them in a bed that is surrounded by bricks (same for my melons) to hold the heat for them.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. How wonderful! I have a new found love for sweet potatoes so I am excited to see how yours get along Bill.
    Have a great day!
    🙂 Mandy xo
    PS. Enjoy the warmer weather for me, it seems winter has arrived over night!

    Like

    • Bill says:

      Thanks Mandy. We’ve been in a drought here, but just after I planted all these slips a gentle steady rain started that’s been going now for nearly 24 hours. Couldn’t have timed it any better. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  4. shoreacres says:

    Not sweet potato related, but an interesting article nonetheless. While it means to focus on a certain variety of chickencide, it’s a fascinating (and perhaps unintentional) look into the world of a different kind of killing.

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  5. daphnegould says:

    Wow 1100 slips. I planted 20, but then I have a garden and not a farm. I feed my husband and I, not a community.

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    • Bill says:

      Just be careful Daphne. It can be a slippery slope. We started out just growing for our family. Then we decided to take our surplus to the farmer’s market. Fast forward a few years and we’re full time farmers.

      Like

      • daphnegould says:

        It would be hard to do that here as we have 9000sqft and it has two townhouses and is shared by two families. Though I do know of a guy that farms peoples back yards in our town. He gives some produce to the landowner as rent and sells the rest at the farmers market. I have no idea if he is pulling it off professionally. It would seem more of a hobby as it would be hard to plant enough that way to make a living.

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  6. Buffy says:

    That is a lot of sweet potatoes! Where did you get your slips?

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    • Bill says:

      I bought the slips at our local feed store. They bought them from a local farmer, so I had to pay their mark up. We usually start them here but goofed it up this year and my other source didn’t have any ready.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. nebraskadave says:

    Bill, sweet potatoes do not grow well here in Nebraska. The hot weather season is not warm enough or long enough to grow them. The Sweet potato is an interesting plant. Is it really a potato? Here’s what Wikipedia has to say.

    You say potato, I say potahto. But they’re not the same

    They’re both called “potatoes”. They’re both nutritious, energy-rich tubers and ancient, honored foods whose cultivation stretches back thousands of years. They both originated in Central and South America and have since spread throughout the world. They both taste great and make a fine side dish. Yet, botanically, potatoes and sweet potatoes are completely unrelated.

    Potatoes (Solanum tuberosum) are in the Solanaceae family, related to tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant along with deadly nightshade. Plants in this family produce solanine, which is poisonous. So don’t eat the leaves or stems of any plant in this group, or potatoes that have gone green. Solanum phureja is a rarer, more wild-type species of potato cultivated in South America.

    Sweet potatoes (Ipomoea batatas) are in the Convolvulaceae family with flowering morning glory vines. Unlike potatoes, you can also eat the leaves of sweet potatoes, which are very nutritious.

    Also note: sweet potatoes aren’t yams. True yams are another type of tuber (genus Dioscorea).
    (In New Zealand and the South Pacific, the tubers called yams are Oxalis tuberosa, a genus related to sorrel and shamrocks.)

    So even though they are both called potatoes and look similar, they are not in the same plant family.

    This time of the year is terribly busy and the rainy days are putting my schedule behind. Not that I’m complaining about having enough rain mind you. 🙂

    Have a great planting and drip line installing day.

    Like

    • Bill says:

      Yes, they’re totally different. Different challenges too. Deer love to eat sweet potato vines, but won’t bother Irish potatoes. We plant Irish potatoes in the early spring and sweet potatoes in late spring. We won’t be harvesting the sweet potatoes until October, but the others will be ready much sooner.

      You’ll be pleased to know it’s been raining here all day. Just a gentle mist but it’s given the gardens a good drink of water. 🙂

      Like

  8. avwalters says:

    Today I’ll be putting in my Irish potatoes. Just yesterday, as I eyed the last of the starts for the garden and planned today, I was wondering if I should raid the kitchen for a sweet potato to try out. You’ve saved me from wasting an innocent sweet potato!
    I love sweet potatoes. I knew that they were an entirely different plant, still there I was, marching to the standard potato drummer. Did you start your slips from seed?

    Like

    • Bill says:

      You can start them by putting the sweet potato in a glass of water if you only need a few. But to get a lot of them the best way to do it is to bury some potatoes (just save the small ones from the previous years harvest) in some rotten sawdust. Keep the sawdust moist and in a few weeks you’ll have all the slips you could possibly need. I dug a little trench and put them in it, then covered them with sawdust. Another way I’ve done it is to put them in a galvanized tub then cover them with sawdust.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Dani says:

    Did you root slips in water that were growing on a sweet potato?

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    • Bill says:

      We’ve sprouted them in a glass if we just needed a few, but the best way for us is to cover them in rotten sawdust and keep it moist (see my response to AV above). I bought the ones we used this year because we grew 4 varieties last year and I got the ones I held back for seed mixed up. So I decided to start over.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. C.C. says:

    This makes me curious how one grows “slips.”

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    • Bill says:

      I should have said more about that in the post. As I’ve mentioned in reply to other comments, the best way to grow them is to bury sweet potatoes (we save the little ones for this purpose) in some composted sawdust and keep it moist. Then just pluck out the slips (we call it “drawing” them) as they emerge.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Deb Weyrich-Cody says:

    “Remember… when we were longing for summer? ” I was just wondering… Is it also a “thing” down there where you are… that people seem to forget that Summer doesn’t technically start until June 21st?
    I tend to get a little ticked with this overwhelming impatience for Summer weather (what with Spring being THE most important season for gardeners, I mean… )

    Like

    • Bill says:

      In the original draft of this post I used the word “spring” in that sentence, inasmuch as it is technically spring. But here using nature as our guide rather than a calendar, we have transitioned into the season of summer, so I changed it.

      Like

      • Deb Weyrich-Cody says:

        Yes, of course… It had totally slipped my mind just how far south your part of the continent is from ours, so the timing there (and your definition of Spring) won’t jive with ours here… But it just seems to me that a lot of people – here, at least – don’t realise just how important the middle seasons are in easing the earth in and out of active growth cycles (that, and the fact that our Summers are just so darned short):
        Lately, it seems that Summer comes on with a “Bang!” [and Spring is more of a suggestion]:

        Like

  12. Zambian Lady says:

    Here’s to wishing you a bumper sweet potato harvest! Sweet potato leaves are a delicacy in my home country, so can I buy some from your farm if ever I am in your area? 🙂

    Like

    • Deb Weyrich-Cody says:

      Hello Zambian Lady, could you please tell us about how you would use Sweet Potato leaves in your homeland? Although I have never grown them in my garden, I have had several different varieties as ornamentals in pots and, rather than throw the (over-exuberant; ) trimmings into the compost pile, I would dearly love to eat them [in a traditional way: ] instead! Thank you so much, Deb

      Like

    • Bill says:

      I’ve known for a couple of years now that sweet potato leaves are edible (I never knew that growing up) but I’m sorry to say we still haven’t tried eating them. Hopefully this year. We end up with literally tons of them. I have to clear the vines out before I can harvest the potatoes and it is a major task. Lately I’ve just been taking down the deer fences about a week before I plan to harvest to allow the deer to eat them away. 🙂

      I’d be delighted to share our sweet potato leaves with you if you’re ever in our area and would love to learn how they are prepared in Zambia. 🙂

      Like

      • Deb Weyrich-Cody says:

        Hmm, sweet potato finished venison…
        Do you notice a difference?
        And, speaking of deer, is that yearling still hanging around with the goats?

        Like

  13. Rebecca says:

    “Stay on top of things that can’t wait”….oh, yes! Each morning my mom asks what needs doing in the garden. I say, “Everything and it’s all urgent. Take your pick.” We must be getting the same rain you are and I’m so, so grateful. I ordered my sweet potato slips from Southern Exposure and planted them in the sandiest part of my garden.

    Like

    • Bill says:

      Yes, I’m laughing at that. What needs to be done? Everything! I’m looking at my to-do list and it has 128 items on them, some of which are all day jobs. It’s a busy time of year (and that is an understatement).

      We get some of our seeds from Southern Exposure. Great company.

      Like

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