While I refuse to dig around in my white potatoes until they start to die (which they are showing minimal signs of doing now after growing four full months), I did stick my hand into the soil around my sweet potatoes . I was so excited when I felt an actual potato down there. It’s growing directly under the original slip that I planted. It’s really small, only a couple of inches in diameter, and I can’t tell how long it is because I don’t want to mess anything up by digging around too much, but yea!!!!.
The sweet potato plant is sharing space in a self-watering container with a very tall cherry tomato. It’s hard to see, but the sweet potato is the plant growing up the left side of the porch railing against the building. Up until a few days ago, it also shared space with two watermelon plants which produced only one baby sized melon per plant.
Sweet potatoes grow from slips, not seeds or cut up chunks of potatoes like white potatoes. In fact, no part of the actual potato is used. A slip is grown from the surface of the mother potato either by suspending the tuber in water or half burying it in soil.
I’ve never tried the soil method, but back in March I grew my own slips using a potato I bought from the grocery store. At first I just put the potato in the cup and waited for it to start sprouting, and waited, and waited, and waited, and waited. Then when I stuck the skewers in the sides and suspended it, that’s when it started growing. The second picture is some of the slips I had in the window thinking they’d get more light than on top of the refrigerator, but in the end I don’t think it really made a difference.
As long as I kept the potato in water it continued to send up slips. I got more than 50 from that one plant. I planted the slips in a few different spots just to see how well they’ll do in different locations in the garden.
I had enough slips for myself, my mother-in-law, and our friend Sidney. I also started the slips way too early. I ended up putting some of the slips into little Dixie cups when the roots started growing. I read that water roots are different from soil roots, so I gave it a try. I planted the potted up slips in the raised bed and just one slip in the container and a few here and there in the yard. By the time I planted them, the slips were over a foot tall.
It took a minute for them to start growing because they had to put on more root growth, but once they started, they really grew. The slips were planted the early part of May, and this was taken at the end of June when the plant started to vine. The heart shaped leaves are from the sweet potatoe. You can see it’s beginning to grow up onto the porch.
I removed the broccoli that was in the squares in front of the sweet potatoes. I was trying to figure what to replace the square with, but what I’m going to do instead is cover the area with cardboard to hopefully encourage more tubers to grow in that area. And since they’ll keep growing until the leaves start to yellow, I know I’ve got more time because the leaves are growing like crazy. I won’t cut them because I’ve read that reduces the ultimate size of the tubers, and I’m also careful not to let the plants root on the ground for the same reason. If a leaf node stays on the ground it will start to root there and eventually make more potatoes. And since you’re supposed to harvest when the tubers are 3 1/2 inches in diameter, I’ll wait on the container potatoes too, but they’ll all come out before the soil temps get below 50 because that will cause damage to the potato since sweet potatoes are sensitive to frost.
There are some leaves that have turned brown, but I think it’s more from dry soil than from the plant starting to die, but we will see.
Anyway, my curiosity got the best of me and I dug around one of the potatoes I stuck in the tomato bed, and guess what I found. It’s only about 5 inches long, but double yea!!!! This one was planted later than the others, so I have hope for some decent sized potatoes.
I found out a little while ago from one of the posters at GardenWeb that the sweet potato leaves are edible. I tried some in a salad once and it didn’t really turn me on, but I saw this recipe that sounds kind of appetizing I think I’ll try.
Just as an aside, if you’re into the ornamental sweet potato vine, if a tuber forms under the plant, you can save it over the winter and make slips for it the same way you do for the edible sweet potato vine.Â You get to save yourself a few dollars and have the satisfaction of knowing you did it yourself.
Can’t wait until harvest time.