Growing Sweet Potatoes
Sweet potatoes are becoming increasingly more popular, with sweet potato fries and sweet potato mash popping up on menus right across the country.
Not only are they tasty, but they also beat traditional white potatoes when it comes to vitamin A and C content and fibre content, and they contain fewer calories. It is a nice alternative to the ever popular traditional potato, so if you’re feeling a bit on the adventurous side why not give growing them a go?
Sweet Potato Slips
Sweet potatoes are a bit different to your average potato, in that they aren’t actually a potato! A sweet potato is a tasty root vegetable. It is grown slightly differently from a traditional potato as it is started from slips rather than a chitted seed potato. Slips come from chitted mature sweet potatoes and they are long shoots that grow off. Sweet potatoes slips can be bought ready to plant in your garden, or you can start your own using the steps below:
Step 1: Wash & Cut
To start with you will need some healthy, clean sweet potatoes. Wash them and cut them in half or in to several large pieces.
Step 2: Submerge the Potato
Place each piece in a jar or glass so that half the potato is submerged in water and the other half is above. Toothpicks can come in handy to hold it in place.
Step 3: Give Them Some Sun
Place them on a warm, sunny window ledge and after a few weeks they will be covered in tall leafy shoots.
Step 4: Twist the Shoot
After around 4 weeks the sprouts should be around 5-6 inches long. At this stage, carefully twist each shoot off the potato.
Step 5: Place In a Jar of Water
Now place the sprouts in a jar of water, leaving them in the same sunny spot. After a few days, roots will start to form and fill the jar. Leave them in here for around 2 weeks to let the roots form large enough so they are ready to plant. You now have your potato slips!
Sweet potatoes like loose, well drained soil and they like to be in a sunny spot. If they could choose they would prefer a neutral or slightly acidic soil but this is not essential. It is important to keep sweet potatoes warm to give them the best chance. If you have a greenhouse, give them a spot in there, or if you are growing them outside plant them through a black polythene sheet to help keep them warm. In addition to this, you can grow them under cloches which help keep the temperature up.
Now you should be all set to plant your potato slips. Dig a hole around 4 inches deep and 3 inches wide, and plant one slip in each hole. Plant them with the roots pointing down into the soil and so that the leafy part is above ground. Plant them around 12 inches apart, and leave 30 inches between each of the rows.
Sweet potatoes like to be kept well watered. After you have planted them, give them plenty of water so that the soil is wet. For the first week, water the plants everyday, after this every other day will be sufficient for the following week and you will be able to gradually reduce how frequently you water them until it is once a week.
Your sweet potatoes will be ready to harvest in the late summer, around 12 to 16 weeks after planting. When the leaves start to turn yellow, this is a sign that they are ready for harvest. They can be left longer to grow larger, but make sure they are all harvested by the time the first frost comes. Carefully lift out of the ground with a fork.
Hopefully you should now have some tasty sweet potatoes to enjoy, straight from your very own garden! If you are so pleased that you want to do it all over again, then keep a few potatoes aside and these can be used to start your next potato slips for the following year, just keep them in a cool dark place. Enjoy!