Sweet potatoes have soared in popularity as more and more people are trying to eat nutritious, healthy meals. Understanding how to grow sweet potato slips is ideal if you’re interested in adding more color to your diet.
What are potato slips? Slips are the sprouts from a mature sweet potato that are used to grow even more potatoes. Growing sweet potato slips in water, pots, or traditional vegetable gardening is a project that you or your kids will love.
You can’t always find reliable information on how to grow sweet potatoes in water or other locations. Home growers all have different preferences and usually stick to one method. Learn all your options to grow sweet potatoes, whether you want to start slips in a glass of water, raised beds, or a pot.
About Sweet Potato Slips
It doesn’t matter if you are trying to regrow sweet potatoes in water or dirt; you likely don’t know exactly how the process starts.
A sweet potato plant, also called Ipomoea batatas, is an earthy vegetable in the morning glory family and is often used in place of regular potatoes because of its high levels of vitamins and minerals.
Explorer Christopher Columbus and his companions get most of the credit for bringing these new plants to other parts of the world, but that belief has recently changed. Anthropologists have since found evidence of sweet potatoes in the New World long before Columbus ever landed here.
Sweet potatoes originated from areas in Central and South America, although some were discovered in Polynesia around 1000 A.D. Today, these veggies are at nearly any grocery store or farmers market and only getting more popular.
One cup of cooked organic sweet potato has under 180 calories and less than half a gram of fat. It contains vitamins A, B, and C, along with fiber, potassium, and copper.
These plants are perfect for a vegetable garden because they are easy to grow and benefit our health in numerous ways.
Unlike most other vegetables, they don’t start from seeds, which is why learning how to grow sweet potato slips on your own is important.
A mature potato will start slips when it begins sprouting and developing roots. You may create your own sweet potato slips at home, but some people find it easier to buy them online or from a nursery.
How to Grow Them
Starting sweet potato slips isn’t as hard as you’d think and growing a sweet potato plant at home doesn’t require any special tools or sweet potato varieties. Here are a few different ways to get them going.
Growing in Water
The technique of growing sweet potatoes vines in water is similar to how you get an avocado seed to start sprouting. Wash your sweet potato well and search for tiny roots showing on the ends of the potatoes.
The root end often tapers down to a point, and the other side has sweet potato tubers on it, similar to what you’d see on white potatoes.
If you’re unable to determine the difference, set the potato in a warm, sunny window for a few weeks until they emerge.
Once you know what end has the roots, fill a jar with some cold water. Put the root end in the jar of water and the sprouting sweet potato leaves above it. Sticking several toothpicks into the side of the potato and resting them over the edge is a simple way to prevent them from sinking too low.
Grow Sweet Potatoes in Water
Once your slips are started, it’s time to learn how to grow sweet potatoes in water. Keep the half-submerged potatoes in the jar of water and put them in a sunny location. Use grow lights or a heat mat if you don’t live in an area with warm weather.
Grow lights give you a head start to speed up the growing process. Ensure you keep the water level halfway up the potato and change out the water once or twice per week.
After about one month, the roots start to form fully, and the leaves start appearing from the top of the potato. If five or six sprouts are visible, you’re ready to start growing sweet potatoes in pots or transplanting them in the ground.
Planting in Dirt
Similar to the water method, it is possible to create slips in soil instead of water before transplanting them. Find a container with a few drainage holes or use a clean tray from an old rotisserie chicken.
The way to grow potatoes in containers starts with filling the small container with fresh potting soil and moistening it with water. Set the sweet potato into the potting soil mix so that the potato is about halfway covered.
Set a cover over the container and keep it moist for about a week until it starts sprouting and forming roots. It is ready for transplanting when the sprouts are five or six inches long.
How to Separate Slips
Once you’ve successfully started your potato slips, don’t just plant them in the ground right away. You have to separate them into individual pieces to keep them from competing for nutrients.
Carefully twist each sprouted area away from the meat of the potato. If any of the individual segments don’t have roots already, set them in a Mason jar with the bottom part submerged until roots form after a few days. The slips are ready for planting after they are a few inches long.
Growing Them Outside
Timing is crucial if you plan to plant sweet potato slips in your outdoor garden beds. The surrounding soil temperature must be a minimum of 65°F because this potato variety loves warm weather, unlike many other potato types.
Because sweet potatoes take roughly eight weeks to fully mature, start the slips six weeks before the last frost date at the beginning of the growing season.
Sweet potatoes thrive in very loose, well-draining soil types and locations with full sun. They enjoy dirt with high acidity levels. Adding mulch and coffee grounds to the beds before planting them helps with the acidity, moisture levels, and ability to drain.
If you have sweet potato vines, put a trellis near the plants to encourage them to climb on and support themselves. Bush varieties do fine without a trellis.
Plant each sweet potato slip 12 to 18 inches apart and four inches deep. Sweet potatoes require a lot of room, and putting them too close to one another crowds the plants and gives you smaller potatoes.
Once planted, soak the area well with water. Continue to water the slips every day for the first week and then adjust it to three times per week thereafter. If you have parched soil, you might have to adjust your watering schedule.
Sweet potato plants are best suited for the outdoors during the sweet potatoes growing season, but it isn’t impossible to grow them in pots or as indoor plants. The biggest reason they do better outside is because of the amount of sunlight they require.
As long as the plants receive six to eight hours of direct sunlight, they should grow perfectly. Find a big planting pot and fill it with a high-quality potting mix.
Place the root end of the slip down and keep the sprouting end above the soil line. Keep the plants well-watered and in a warm, sunny place.
Check the water every day to make sure it is moist and ensure that the bottom section of the slip is always under the dirt. Keep the temperature above 65°F at all times.
Pests and Diseases
Avid gardeners are well aware of the pests and diseases that come after their crops, but some beginners don’t know how to protect their fruits and veggies.
Some of the most common sweet potato pests are the sweet potato beetle, rootworms, and white grubs. The adults lay eggs on the plants, and the larvae either feast on leaves or burrow under the soil and consume the roots. Know when sweet potatoes are gone bad so you can toss them.
Either way, too many pests affect your harvest. One DIY strategy that most people use for soil pests is to spread black plastic on the top of their beds and around their plants.
The plastic prevents larvae from reaching the soil, and it also keeps weeds away that compete for nutrients with the potatoes.
Aside from pests, sweet potatoes risk damage from fungal, bacterial, and parasitic infections. Leaf blight, bacterial soft rot, and leaf scab are some of the most common issues home gardeners face when growing sweet potatoes.
The best way to avoid these pesky problems is to prevent the earth from getting overly soggy or using fungicides found at your local garden center.
Harvesting Sweet Potatoes
When to harvest sweet potatoes depends on the growing season’s conditions. If there is enough water and sun, most are safe to harvest between 100 and 110 days.
If it is dry or mostly cloudy, it might be longer. In general, look for the leaves to start yellowing in late September or early October.
Sweet potatoes are sensitive to frost, even when insulated in the ground. If you haven’t harvested your sweet potatoes and there is a light frost, harvest them right away.
Try to pull the potatoes from the ground on a cloudy day since the thin skins scald if they sit out in the sun too long.
Use a garden fork to loosen the soil around the plants, but keep a reasonable distance so you won’t bruise or break the delicate skin of the roots. Minor scrapes heal, but always be gentle when handling these veggies.
Storing Your Yams
After digging up your sweet potatoes, bring them out from direct sunlight and allow them to dry for about three hours. Don’t let the potatoes sit out overnight, or the cool temperatures could damage them.
Once the outer surface is dry, move the potatoes to a warm and dry place for two weeks. This allows their skins to toughen and increases the sugar content to make them taste sweeter. During this time, the light color darkens to deep orange.
Move the potatoes to a box or basket after they cure for two weeks and store them in a cool, dark, and very dry place during the winter where they last for six months or start cooking with them right away.
Can you freeze raw sweet potatoes? You can, but the result will likely be mushy after thawing. Cooking them before freezing is better.
How to Spice Them Up
Most people don’t get too creative when cooking their sweet potatoes. They turn them into sweet potato pie, fries, or mashed potatoes.
However, adding different seasonings give these veggies a sweet and spicy flavor that you’re probably not used to. This dish will blow you away and soon become a new favorite in your household.
Heat your kitchen oven to 400°F. In a small glass bowl or container, stir the olive oil, cumin, cinnamon, turmeric, cayenne, and salt. Wash and peel the sweet potatoes and then cut them into ¾-inch cubes.
Set the potato cubes into a large bowl and pour the olive oil and spice mix over the top. Stir the sweet potato cubes with a wooden spoon until everything is evenly coated with oil and seasoning.
Spread the spiced potatoes over a baking sheet and bake them for 15 minutes. Stir the potatoes with the wooden spoon and cook them for an additional 15 minutes until they are tender all the way through.
Once the potatoes finish, sprinkle some extra salt and fresh cilantro over the top before serving them to friends and family.
Sweet potatoes aren’t grown or cared for in the same way as white potatoes. These sweeter family members take warmth and gentle handling for them to turn out perfectly.
We hope this planting guide has given you all the information you need to know about starting potato slips and growing them to maturity.
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