Grow your own sweet potatoes

by Cristina on April 25, 2012

Grow Your Own Sweet PotatoesHave I told you yet about my love affair with sweet potatoes? Have I explained how they are the ideal plant for a front yard vegetable garden; the perfect combination of beauty and ease and taste? Have I mentioned their attractive foliage and their purple flowers?

Oh. Yeah. I did. Looks like I already covered that pretty well in my post about the sweet potato harvest last fall.

Ok, then. We won’t cover that again. Instead, let’s talk about growing sweet potatoes.

[Update: There's more!! You might want to read about last summer's sweet potato harvest (click here: Sweet Potatoes!) or explore the sweet potato FAQ page (click here: Your Sweet Potato Questions: Answered!).]

You may not know this, but sweet potatoes and potato potatoes are nothing alike. Sure, they are both tasty treats that grow underground. But, that’s where the similarities end. Sweet potatoes are related to morning glories, which explains their cheerful purple flowers and their rambling vines. But, those trusty Irish spuds? They belong to the tomato family, and are cousins to peppers, tomatillos and eggplants — the nightshades. Sweet potatoes like the heat. They need the heat. Potato potatoes? Well, they thrived in Ireland (until they didn’t). Heat is not something they really appreciate. Cool and moist suits them just fine. This is why we plant our spuds in the early spring, and wait until the real heat sets in to introduce the sweets to the garden.

Here, in northern Virginia (USDA Zone 7a), we can plant our regular potatoes in March. But, the sweet potatoes should wait until early to mid June. No risk of frost, and plenty of promise for heat. Just what those tropical vines desire. And, while we can harvest early potatoes by mid-June, we won’t be digging up the sweet potatoes for months. If you want a nice full harvest, you really need to give your sweets 100 days (or more) of serious growing time.

If we don’t plant the sweets until June, why am I writing about them in April? Well, because, if we want sweet potato seedlings in June, we need to start our sweet potato slips in April. Or, thereabouts.

[Note: You can skip this whole thing, and just order sweet potato slips from a quality nursery or seed company. But, what's the fun in that? Well. Ok. Actually, there is one BIG advantage to purchased slips: quality seed companies offer a much greater selection of sweet potato varieties than your average grocery store.]

To grow your own sweet potato, first you need an old sweet potato

To make new sweet potatoes, we start with an old sweet potato. An organic sweet potato (the non-organic sweet potatoes may be treated with sprout-suppressing chemicals). Ideally, you’ll start with a locally-grown organic sweet potato, because then you’ll know that variety will thrive in your region. But, don’t sweat this step too much. A sweet potato from the grocery store should also work just fine. Just, really, buy an organic one.

[Don't think organic makes a difference here? Watch this girl's video about her sweet potato project. You may change your mind.]

Ok. So, you’ve got your organic sweet potato. Great. Now, we’re going to cut it up. Just slice it in half, across the middle.

In order to grow your own sweet potatoes, first you need an old sweet potato

Next, place each section of sweet potato into a container with water. Plenty of people use toothpicks to suspend their sweet potato halves in a glass of water, but I think it’s easier to just set the whole thing into a casserole dish. Use enough water so that about an inch or two of the potato is submerged.

Soak sweet potato halves in water in order to start your own sweet potato slips.

Set the container near a window, and you’re done. Over the next few weeks, the sweet potatoes will send out little baby plants. Your only responsibility during this time is to keep that water level fairly constant. The sweet potatoes will take care of everything else.

After four to six weeks, you should have a nice growth of little baby sweet potato plants. These will become your slips.

Sweet potato slips are easy to grow from old sweet potato tubers.

After a few weeks of soaking, your sweet potato halves should be covered with sprouts. Some of the sprouts will already have roots.

With any luck, some of your sweet potato sprouts will already have roots. Excellent. These little plants-to-be are ready for planting. Others won’t have any roots at all. No worries, those laggards will catch up real fast.

Remove the sprouts by snapping them off at the point where they emerge from the sweet potato tuber. Congratulations! You have your first sweet potato slip!

Sweet potato slips should have strong roots before planting.

If the roots are well-formed, you can go right ahead and plant your slip. Some folks recommend planting slips directly into the garden, but I like giving the seedlings a headstart with some rich potting soil (not seed-starting mix). This allows you to keep the roots evenly moist while the plants establish, and gives the seedlings a nice burst of nutrients (I plant into a blend of leaf humus, compost and dirt). Also, if it’s still cold outside, this step is a necessity. Sweet potatoes hate to shiver.

So, that’s it for the little over-achieving sprouts. But, what about the other ones? The rootless ones?

Well, that’s easy too.

Same process. Just slip those sprouts right off the tuber. Then, instead of planting them in soil and compost and leaf humus, you’re going to soak those slips in a cup of water. Just a few inches of water is all you need. Within a few days, you should have roots. Then, you can plant those slips into pots as well.

Plant your sweet potato slips into 4-inch pots, filled with compost, leaf humus or rich potting soil, or a mix of the three.

Once you’ve got all your sweet potato slips in their pots, all you need to do is keep them happily watered until it’s warm enough for them to move outdoors. I like to keep mine in a big styrofoam box. Easy to water. Easy to transport outside for some sunlight during the day. And, easy to bring inside again before the evening chill.

No styros? Well, anything that holds water should do fine. A casserole dish. A plastic storage tub. A big pot. It’s just easier if it holds water and holds a bunch of seedlings, because you could be doing a daily shuffle from inside to outside to inside again for a while now.

Whatever you keep them in, it’s best to coddle your sweet potato seedlings until two or three weeks after your last frost date. Then, once the nights are reliably above 50°F, you can plant them out into the garden. Most people grow their sweets in the ground. I prefer containers, because it makes the harvest easier. Last year, I tried bushel baskets with great success. This year, I’m building a big potato planter. And, yes, I’ll be doing bushel baskets too. A gardener can never have too many sweet potatoes.

sweet potato in a bushel basket

Sweet potatoes, overflowing their bushel basket

It takes all summer to grow a proper crop of sweet potatoes, but it’s worth it.

sweet potatoes

Will you grow sweet potatoes in your garden this summer? Have you grown them before?

Update: There’s more!! If you enjoyed this post, you might want to read about last summer’s sweet potato harvest (click here: Sweet Potatoes!) or explore the sweet potato FAQ page (click here: Your Sweet Potato Questions: Answered!).

And, don’t forget to sign up for email updates — you’ll be among the first to learn about new posts, planting guides and more!

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{ 184 comments… read them below or add one }

El Brant April 25, 2012 at 11:39 am

I picked up a small one at the grocer just for this purpose. Very timely blog – I’m off to get mine started! Thanks!

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Cristina April 27, 2012 at 9:25 am

Wonderful! Enjoy your sweet potatoes!

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Heather April 26, 2012 at 9:07 pm

Your blog is wonderful! Thank you for the wonderful pictures and great writing. I am very excited to start my sweet potatoes!

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Cristina April 26, 2012 at 9:52 pm

Thanks so much, Heather! Enjoy your sweets!

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Kat April 27, 2012 at 11:46 am

Thanks for posting this. I am going to try this this year. I don’t think I’d mind having the slips hang out on the window for a while. They are rather pretty.

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Cristina April 28, 2012 at 8:48 am

Definitely give it a try, Kat. Sweet potatoes are much easier to grow than most folks realize. And, I agree, so pretty too!

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Erin April 28, 2012 at 12:25 am

Yes!! We have already started ours indoors and have BEAUTIFUL vines trailing all over the kitchen window sill. This post is inspiring me to get a few more started this weekend. You can never have too many sweet potatoes…

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Cristina April 28, 2012 at 8:47 am

I agree, Erin! It’s just not possible to have too many sweet potatoes.

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elena April 28, 2012 at 12:50 am

awesome,now I can grow my very own sweet potato patch,where I came from we use the young leaves for salads and as a part of stew,so I reall wanted to grow them for so long for I can’t find sweet potato leaves in any grocery store,thank you ,I do have some so I’ll start right away.

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Cristina April 28, 2012 at 8:41 am

I had no idea the leaves were edible too, Elena. I’m going to have to look for some recipes. Thanks for the tip!

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Chrisstine April 28, 2012 at 8:21 am

I read somewhere that after the sweet potatoes are harvested, you must store them in a cold cellar for several months. Any comment about this? thanks

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Cristina April 28, 2012 at 8:46 am

Well, yes and no. I’ve read that sweet potatoes become sweeter with storage, and I definitely found that with my sweets last year. But, a root cellar isn’t necessary. In fact, a root cellar might make them pout. These are tropical plants, and they don’t like to be below 50°F, or thereabouts. I just stored mine in an open bin on the kitchen counter. I still have one or two left from last fall’s harvest.

Sweet potatoes store best if you cure them. I’ll post about that when the time comes (late summer / early fall), but you can also check out this article from Mother Earth News. Good tips here: Sweet Potatoes, Even in the North.

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karen April 14, 2013 at 6:56 pm

Wondering about how many sweet potatoes can#nt. I expect from each slip I plant,

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Cristina April 23, 2013 at 6:43 am

It varies a lot, Karen. My biggest plants gave me about 5 pounds from a single plant (thus, 5 pounds from one slip). My worst-producing plants gave closer to 1 pound per plant. Average works out to about 3+ pounds of sweet potatoes from each slip. The better harvests come from plants grown in full sun, in hot microclimates and in good, loose soil.

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Catie April 28, 2012 at 10:13 am

Any tips on how to care for them once they’re planted outside? How much water do they need? Should they be planted in a super sunny spot, or part shade? I love this, and want to start some today!

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Cristina April 28, 2012 at 10:39 am

Sweet potatoes are fairly undemanding in the garden. Their biggest requirement is heat. They do best in full sun, and I did notice that my part-shaded plants produced less than the ones I had in full sun. Other than that, they are super easy — fairly drought tolerant and low nutrient requirements. A bit of compost in their soil, and they should do fine.

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Neeley April 30, 2012 at 8:18 pm

How many plants come from a half a potato? Can they be companion planted near tomatoes? I have a very limited garden space. Finally, from each plant, how many potatoes can I expect? I am excited to try this and look forward to your responses as well as future posts on the topic!

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Cristina May 1, 2012 at 8:52 am

A single sweet potato can produce up to a dozen slips, though some of those slips may be rather small. I used two sweet potatoes for my slips, and have a bit more than 20 seedlings now.

As for tomatoes, I’m not sure. Why not give it a try? Since sweet potatoes are ground-crawling vines, and tomatoes are usually trained up a trellis, they might be perfect companions. The only trick is that you will need to dig around your tomatoes to harvest your sweets. But, since you generally wait until right before the first frost to harvest the sweets, maybe that won’t be a problem at all. Or, if you want to skip the digging, try growing the sweets in large containers.

My happiest sweet potatoes grew in the sunniest spots, and gave me about 4-5 nice-sized potatoes each, with a handful of smaller ones (good for saving for starting the next year’s crop).

Have fun with your sweet potatoes!

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Tina May 1, 2012 at 12:30 pm

I didn’t have luck with my sweet potaoes and I am sure it was *green thumb error*. Do you add additional soil as the vine grows to increase the depth for potato growth? I was successful with fingerling and red potatoes last year using haybale method would this work too for sweets?

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Cristina May 15, 2012 at 5:37 pm

No need to hill sweet potatoes. They have a different growth pattern than regular potatoes.

You’ll find more information about sweet potatoes here: Your Sweet Potato Questions Answered.

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Diane May 2, 2012 at 12:43 am

I tried this method, but the mother sweet potato turned to mush within 4-5 days. It was a firm sweet potato when I cut it half and put it in the water. Do you have any suggestions or thoughts?

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Cristina May 15, 2012 at 5:39 pm

Not really sure what happened, Diane, but I suspect you might have started with a bum sweet potato. You might want to check out the FAQ post for more information: Your Sweet Potato Questions: Answered!

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Diane May 15, 2012 at 7:38 pm

Thanks Christina, I will check out the FAQ post and try again. I am determined to have sweet potatoes. :) I will let you know how it is going.

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Alison May 31, 2012 at 6:17 pm

Mine turned moldy. I also had a green giant one in the plastic wrapper and when I opened it to use it, I noticed it had some sprouts. I put it in a large plastic ziplock bag and it is sprouting nicely. Maybe you could try that.

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jim March 12, 2014 at 2:42 pm

Diane.I had several that started to get soft also! I cut the bad part off and set them back in to the water, I had to remove some bad several times bf the shoots started. I usually change out the water every other day till the slips start then I just add water till im done taking slips off or the water starts to smell bad.

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Paula May 2, 2012 at 1:49 am

Any chance these sweet potatoes can make it in the heat of Tucson, AZ???

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Cristina May 15, 2012 at 5:41 pm

I think so, but am not 100% sure. I hope you’ll give them a shot, and then report back!

You might also want to check out the FAQ post for more information about growing sweet potatoes: Your Sweet Potato Questions: Answered!

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Randi May 2, 2012 at 3:12 pm

Hej Christina

We are for sure gonna try this in our collective house. I Denmark. I really hope for a warm summer this year ;o) What a good tutorial, good pics and fun to read. Gonna share your blog with my housemates, we are just in the middle of building a greenhouse.

kind regards
Randi, Copenhagen, Denmark

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Jaime May 3, 2012 at 3:45 pm

Hi-I live in Western WA (across the Sound from Seattle) and it’s pretty cold here. I think our average temp for summer is in the 60′s. It’s May 3 and it was barely 40 degrees this morning. Should I even bother trying these? We have a short summer and it doesn’t get very hot.
Thanks!
jaime

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Cristina May 15, 2012 at 5:42 pm

Jaime — I’ve heard sweets can produce as far north as Canada. You’ll probably just want to help them along with some black plastic mulch, to heat the soil.

You might also want to check out the FAQ post for more information about growing sweet potatoes: Your Sweet Potato Questions: Answered!

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Angie@Angie's Recipes May 5, 2012 at 12:41 pm

Cristina, thank you for this great post. I am going to try it too.
You said container (with cut potatoes) needs to be set near a window….does it need to receive lots of sunshine at this phrase? The window in my kitchen faces east, and I am planning to place the container at a shelf next to the window….would it work? Or do I need to place the container on the bank of the window?
Once again, thank you for this sweet potato post!
Have a great weekend!
Angie

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Cristina May 15, 2012 at 5:43 pm

Indirect light is fine for the developing slips. But, aim for full sunlight when you do plant them out into the garden.

You might also want to check out the FAQ post for more information about growing sweet potatoes: Your Sweet Potato Questions: Answered!

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Toni May 5, 2012 at 7:14 pm

Love this post and I have my cut SPs sitting next to my window right now (day three) in an east facing window which is facing a covered patio so no direct sunlight. I am in the high desert in CA and daytime temps are around 80-90, night temps in the high 40s to low 50s. I have a greenhouse that gets direct sun most of the day and am wondering if I should put them in there to sprout or is that too much sun and heat for them right now? Very kind regards, Toni

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Cristina May 15, 2012 at 5:44 pm

I’m not totally sure, Toni, but I think your slips would be fine in the greenhouse. They are a tropical vine, after all…

You might also want to check out the FAQ post for more information about growing sweet potatoes: Your Sweet Potato Questions: Answered!

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Shannyn May 15, 2012 at 4:56 pm

Before finding this, I had seen on another blog to just stick the sweet potato in a jar of water a la avocado seed. Now there are roots in the water only from the sweet potato and the slips have no roots. Did I do something wrong? Where can I take it from here before it gets too late? I don’t want it to be all for naught :(

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Shannyn May 15, 2012 at 5:02 pm

Oh, derp. I just read what to do with the slips that have no roots, thanks!

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Cristina May 15, 2012 at 5:31 pm

Glad you found what you needed, Shannyn! You might also want to check out the sweet potato FAQ post, from earlier this week. There’s a bit more information there about starting, growing and harvesting sweets.

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Chiffon May 19, 2012 at 11:48 am

Hello I love this post about the sweet potatoes and I would love to give it a try but I was wondering if it is too late it is mid May and I will not be able to start until June 1 because we are going on Vacation but I really want to do this and plant them in planters; but will that be too late?

Thanks for sharing and I am looking forward to hearing from you
Chiffon

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Cristina May 21, 2012 at 10:30 pm

It can’t hurt to try! Unlike some vegetables (tomatoes, for example), sweet potatoes don’t get “ripe.” They just get bigger. So, the worst-case scenario would just be that you harvest some smaller-than-normal sweet potatoes at the end of the season.

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Susan June 2, 2012 at 8:57 am

I found your blog this morning after seeing you would be a judge in a front yard edibles contest that Suburban Stone Age posted on Facebook. I am just getting started with gardening (of any kind) this year and somehow am stumbling through it with all the right pieces coming together at the right time. Just wanted to let you know that I literally got up off the couch in the middle of reading this post to cut the already sprouting store-bought sweet potato on my kitchen counter and put it in some water. I did have to use some toothpicks, but only because they were shaped funny and I wanted to keep all the sprouts above the water line. I know it is a little late in the year, but hey, I’m in Georgia so heat won’t be an issue :) Thanks for your inspiration! I know as I have time, I am going to enjoy meandering through the richness of your blog. Now, I just have to keep my eye out for some nice containers for these little guys . . .

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Cristina June 5, 2012 at 8:30 am

Oh, Susan, I LOVE this! Good luck with that sweet potato (you’re right, you should have plenty of time in Georgia).

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Lara Fara June 5, 2012 at 12:30 pm

so cool! thank you!

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Karie June 25, 2012 at 7:03 pm

i thought sweet potatoes were actually the same color on the outside and inside as a regular potato, but just bigger and much sweeter. i always thought yams were the orange ones you use at thanksgiving like you have pictured??

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Cristina June 26, 2012 at 8:08 am

You’re in good company Karie; a lot of folks would say the same thing. But, in this case, both of the vegetables you describe are sweet potatoes. Yams are a large (often very large!), starchy tuber, and are drier and less sweet than sweet potatoes. Sweet potatoes, on the other hand, are moister and sweeter. This is what we use for our Thanksgiving dinners (even though sweets are often labeled as “yams” in the United States). Here’s a bit more of an explanation: What is the difference between sweet potatoes and yams.

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amber June 27, 2012 at 3:42 pm

hello. my husband and i live in Italy, where you cannot get sweet potatoes. :( this makes me rather sad since i LOVE them. my question is this…if i were to get my hands on a sweet potato from the States, do you think i could have success planting them, if i followed your steps?

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Cristina July 5, 2012 at 7:44 pm

Hi Amber -

Well, I’ve never been to Italy, so I’m not entirely sure. But, if you can find some sweet potatoes, I imagine you could probably grow them there. They aren’t especially fussy, as long as they have enough heat. It’s at least worth a shot.

If you do try this, please check back and let me know how it went. Good luck, and happy gardening!

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Steve June 30, 2013 at 8:50 am

They sell a type of sweet potato in Vicenza, Italy that the Italians call American potatoes, (Patate americane). It is white and sweet but not as sweet as the orange sweet potatoes you find in the United States.

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Alyssa July 5, 2012 at 5:37 pm

Hi! I just found your blog and was wondering if I could still possibly start my sweet potatoes? We are in western Kentucky and I have been wanting to start some gardening :)

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Cristina July 5, 2012 at 7:30 pm

Hmm… It’s definitely late to begin, but there’s no harm in trying. Sweet potatoes don’t ripen like tomatoes or peppers. Instead, they just get bigger. So, you may just end up with a small harvest. But, it’s so easy and inexpensive, it’s probably worth a shot. Good luck! By the way, there are lots of crops you can start in early July. Fast-growing heat-lovers are best, like bush beans, summer squash and herbs (basil and parsley, especially). But, I’ve also been told that this is the best time to start winter squash and pumpkins, and my favorite local grower plants tomatoes every week until mid-July, to ensure they have a steady harvest from healthy plants. So, don’t be afraid to experiment!

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Melanie July 8, 2012 at 9:22 am

One of my neighbors just sent me the link to your site. Yes! I am an outlaw gardener, too! I just started getting obvious with my edible lndscaping, and blogging, this year. Can I post a link to your blog on mine? I think the more people become aware of what is possible, the more neighbors will try this. And maybe the rules will get changed!
Melanie

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Cristina July 8, 2012 at 10:25 am

Wonderful, Melanie! I love meeting fellow outlaws! And, yes, please do share a link on your blog. I’m about to add a list of blogs here too, and will be sure to include your blog. Because, I think you are absolutely right; the more we talk about edible landscaping and front-yard vegetable gardening, the better chance we have of inspiring our neighbors and ultimately changing the rules!

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Jilda Hinton July 17, 2012 at 3:17 pm

I live in Atlantic Canada. Can I start the sweet potato plants now and put them in my greenhouse? I just bought the green house and am experimenting with anything I think might grow.

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Cristina July 18, 2012 at 10:48 am

Gosh, Jilda, I’m not sure. Those sweets will want heat and light. If your greenhouse is heated, and you have some sort of supplemental light to help out with darker fall / winter days, you might be just fine. It’s certainly worth a shot — all you need is a single sweet potato tuber to get started.

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Mizuko July 25, 2012 at 3:57 pm

Thanks for the great advice! I’ve been having trouble getting anything to grow this year, other than the things in my fridge and cupboards. I recently found a giant sweet potato sprouting, so I’m definitely going to follow your advice.

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Cristina July 30, 2012 at 9:36 am

Good luck with your sweets!

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Abiola July 24, 2013 at 6:53 am

the teaching is really great, will surely like to explore the world of sweet potatoes by starting to do my planting now.thanks

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orah August 13, 2012 at 3:28 am

I must try this! I love sweet potatoes, but they seem to be getting rather expensive lately. Though I wonder if it isn’t too late to start in August- and the weather in my area is around 84 degrees by day. Any advice? :D

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Cristina August 13, 2012 at 8:42 am

Unless you’re in the way way south, it’s almost certainly too late to grow sweets this year. The plants require about 90-100 days to develop those tasty edible roots. But, the next gardening season is only a few months away. If you start some slips in March, they will be big and healthy and ready for the garden by May or June. Or… You could always start some plants now. Just be prepared for a small harvest of under-sized tubers. Still edible, but small. Could be good practice for next year. :)

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orah August 14, 2012 at 3:01 am

Thanks very much! I live in Israel, not the US, and we usually have warm weather well into October. I’ll give it a shot, and keep your awesome blog bookmarked! :) Teeny tubers are better that overpriced ones, anyway.

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Carole August 20, 2012 at 11:07 pm

I live in zone 4. Knowing that anything can happen in my zone with regards to temperature and growing seasons, I have my doubts about planting outdoors. I do SFG gardening. One thing that another person suggested is to plant in containers and keep them in my small greenhouse for the duration. I question that because I feel that they would do nicely on the hot days by being outdoors. Was also told that sweet potatoes do not transplant very well. Is this true? I could start them in the greenhouse and then in June – no matter the size – plant them in my garden or a large container. What say you.

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Cristina August 22, 2012 at 8:21 am

I’m thinking you can probably grow sweets in Zone 4, as long as you’re willing to coddle the plants. Sweets transplant fine when they are small (say, a dozen leaves or so: a seedling), but once they put on size and start developing edible tubers, they HATE to be disturbed. I’d suggest growing them outdoors, in the ground or in containers. Look for the warmest microclimate on your property, and grow the sweets there. If you have a paved driveway, that’d be a great place to grow a couple sweets in a half wine barrel or something similar. If they’re in the ground, you probably want to mulch with black plastic. Not the prettiest, but effective. And, for those too-cold nights, I think a floating row cover would probably do the trick.

Good luck! And, if you try this next year, please report back and let me know how it goes!

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Carole August 22, 2012 at 12:05 pm

Thanks Christina, for your answer. I am going to try an experiment this fall/winter and attempt to make my own slips and put them in large containers in my sunroom. It is always 70 or more when the sun is coming through. I have a very small 4 shelf grow house that I can put them in and if they survive I will take them outdoors after last frost. Does that sound like a plan just to test the possibility. Also, will make some slips later on follow your advice about transplanting when they are still small. Those will go directly into my SFG (outer squares so they can go crazy :) ) Will definitely come back and update and/or ask for more advice.

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Katie September 3, 2012 at 5:04 pm

Well, I know it’s super late in the season, but down south (Houston) we have a little longer summer to work with. I’m going for it! My daughter is going to have a ball with this little project (age 3). She has a gardener’s heart like her Mama. (Hopefully some day her Mama will figure out what she’s doing in the garden). =)

Katie

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Cristina September 4, 2012 at 9:02 am

My nephew (also 3) LOVES his sweet potato plants, and I’m sure your daughter will too. Good luck with the sweets, and the rest of the garden!

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Leisa September 4, 2012 at 2:14 pm

Hello. Great blog, very helpful. I love this post on sweet potatoes. What I love most is the convience of the bushel barrels. I live in the city and don’t have much space. Can you please give me a list of easy veggies to grow in them? I’m new to gardening and this would be a starting point. Thanks!

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Cristina September 10, 2012 at 8:21 pm

Hi Leisa – I’m so glad to hear you’re giving gardening a try. Warning: this is a seriously addicting hobby.

I’ve only grown sweet potatoes and regular potatoes in my bushel baskets so far, but I think you could grow most anything in them. Just a couple of caveats. First, the bushel baskets aren’t terribly deep. So, they may not be a great choice for the really big root crops, like carrots or parsnips. Second, I’ve found the bushel baskets seems to lose water faster than most other containers. So, be sure to pay attention to soil moisture, especially if you’re somewhere with really HOT summers. Finally, I’m thinking most bushel baskets have a usable lifespan of just two or three years. Mine sit directly on the ground, so the worms and other soil critters have easy access. If yours are on a balcony or porch, they may last longer. But, they are made from thin sheets of wood, and it will rot away eventually. Luckily, bushel baskets are extremely inexpensive. I found mine for about $3-4 at a local Tractor Supply store, and you might be able to find them even cheaper with some online sleuthing.

Also, if you’re new to gardening, I highly recommend getting yourself a copy of The Vegetable Gardener’s Bible. This is absolutely the best guide to vegetable gardening I’ve found. Great for beginners, but still packed with lots of info for the more experienced gardeners (I refer to my copy all the time).

Good luck with the garden, and please report back on your progress!

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c simmons September 11, 2012 at 2:12 pm

You can eat sweet potato leaves, raw or stir fried. Good source of lutein.

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Jyl September 18, 2012 at 10:20 pm

What kind of soil do sweet potatoes like? I’ve heard they thrive in sandy soil. Where I live in Texas we have a lot of clay in our soil and not so much sand. I can definitely put them in a pot but want to make sure I’m giving them the good stuff!

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Cristina October 7, 2012 at 2:25 pm

Sweets will grow in just about any type of soil, but loose and sandy is best, because it encourages big, straight roots and allows for good drainage. If you want to grow your sweets in the ground, you may try mixing a bag of construction sand into the soil where you plant each slip. Or, just go for containers, and grow in a blend of soil, sand and compost. My favorite thing about growing in containers? Super easy to harvest!

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Jyl September 18, 2012 at 10:24 pm

One more questions….how do you know when the sweets are ready to be dug up?

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Cristina October 7, 2012 at 2:27 pm

There’s no “perfect” time for harvesting sweets. Unlike fruits and some other veggies, they don’t ripen. Instead, they are more like regular potatoes, or other plants you can eat at any stage of growth (greens, for example). Most sweets want about 90-120 days to fully develop. Here, in Virginia, I just let my plants grow until right before the first frost. That usually gives them about 100 or so days of growth, and gives me a nice harvest. You can harvest earlier, but the roots may be a little small (though still tasty!). Just don’t let the plants go too long past 120 days, or the tubers may start getting too big to store or cook easily.

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rachel September 28, 2012 at 11:57 am

This is exciting! I want to try this next year (too late this year). I love that sweet potatoes are beautiful yet practical! I see yours are in a container – which is excellent for those of us that live in an apartment.

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Cristina October 7, 2012 at 2:29 pm

Yes! I have great luck with containers for my sweets. Bushel baskets work well, but only last one or two growing seasons. Whiskey barrels would be great, as would any container that offers about 12-18 inches of depth — those roots need space to develop!

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carmen October 7, 2012 at 9:33 pm

great reading, I love to grow stuff anything just to see it grow.
One ? do they take a lot of space? I don’t have a lot of space. My daughter in law had them in Georgia but she grew them for the plant not to eat. I wonder if thats the same.

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Cristina October 8, 2012 at 8:38 am

Hi Carmen – Thanks for the comment and the question. Sweet potatoes do ramble, although some varieties are more compact than others. If you’re short on space, you might try growing them in containers. Anything that’s about two feet across and a foot or so deep should be fine for one sweet or two sweet potatoes (I use bushel baskets). An old whiskey barrel should hold three or maybe four plants.

The sweets we eat are different than the ornamental ones they sell at nurseries. Those plants may produce tubers too, but they don’t have the flavor we expect. It’s best to either start your own slips from a store-bought or farmers-market-bought sweet potato, or to order some slips from a gardening catalog in the spring. I hope you give them a try next year; growing sweets is lots of fun, super easy and very tasty too. Happy gardening!

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carmen January 25, 2013 at 10:52 pm

I tried but failed before they sprout it. About how long before they sprout?
I WILL try again . I get little nats when I leave standing water around.

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Cristina January 27, 2013 at 9:19 am

I usually start seeing sprouts within a week or two. If you saw no sprouts at all, you may have been working with a bum sweet potato. Definitely worth trying again!

If the water attracts gnats, you might want to try starting your sweets in damp sand. I haven’t tried this technique before, but I know other folks have. Same basic idea as described in this post, except you use damp sand instead of water. Good luck!

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munik-munik October 18, 2012 at 12:14 am

Hi there! Very nice and detailed instructions for these lovely sweet potatoes (camote as we call them here in the Philippines). You can also use the young leaves (camote tops) as viand. :)

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sophia November 3, 2012 at 5:36 pm

love your post. I am going to try that next year. but probably in the greenhouse. I am at 9000 feet and we get sometimes snow even in June… sounds like an experiment worth trying.

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Beverly December 3, 2012 at 1:26 pm

1 question…can you take one long runner of sweet potato vine, cut it into sections and propagate it?

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Cristina December 3, 2012 at 4:48 pm

Probably. Sweet potato vines root readily whenever they touch the ground. You might try rooting your cuttings in a glass of water before transplanting them.

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ann c December 4, 2012 at 11:33 pm

I’m happy to have found this page… I was out digging on this unusually warm Dec day here in the mid-Atlantic area… and have re-claimed some space in my front yard where this will work quite nicely… can’t wait to give it a try. Much more rewarding than just looking at mulch :)

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Patty December 12, 2012 at 3:52 am

Nice post! The image you have in this post is of a yam. Sweet potatoes are the ones that are lighter yellow in color. I expect the directions would be the same for growing both?

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Cristina December 13, 2012 at 10:50 am

Glad you enjoyed the post, Patty! The photo, though, is most definitely a sweet potato. It’s a tricky thing, because some marketers call some forms of sweet potatoes “yams,” but actual yams are nothing like sweet potatoes. A real yam is generally very large and very starchy, with drier and less sweet flesh. Sweet potatoes are smaller, moister and sweeter. Color isn’t a good determinant, since sweets range from white and pale yellow, through the orange spectrum. Some varieties are even purple!

Here’s a link that provides more of an explanation: What is the difference between sweet potatoes and yams.

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Karen December 24, 2012 at 10:43 pm

Hi! What a GREAT blog! I’ve been veggie gardening for only a couple years, and learning as I go. My question….The spot that I have designated for the garden has VERY clay-ey , clumpy soil…which works ok for most of the stuff I plant there, (I don’t do root crops there, as my carrots were SO stunted/split, etc.)…so I wonder about sweet potatoes. I have a creek on my property, and the banks of it have some pretty silty and sandy soil. What do you think about an attempt to plant them there?

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Cristina December 26, 2012 at 3:10 pm

Hi Karen! Clay soil sure can be a challenge, eh? The good news is that is does get better with time. Try mulching the bed with leaves to encourage earthworms. Compost helps a great deal too. In the meantime, you might try growing your root crops in deep containers. I’ve had great luck with sweet potatoes in containers, for example. Anything that’s approximately bushel basket sized or larger should work for one or two sweet potatoes.

As for growing along the creek… I’m not sure that’d be the best spot for sweets. They prefer well-drained soil, and I’d worry about bogginess and flooding that close to a creek. Still, if the soil drains well, it just may work fine. Maybe plant one or two sweets there in the spring, just as an experiment?

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Sascha January 23, 2013 at 5:05 am

After a couple of days in the container the water turned pretty murky, the potatoes look good though. Do I have to change the water from time to time?

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Cristina January 25, 2013 at 8:00 am

Hi Sascha -

Sure. If the water is getting yucky, go ahead and swap it out. You won’t hurt the growing sweet potato.

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Rose January 31, 2013 at 7:26 pm

There was an old-timer named Ernie who lived in Herndon a while ago. He was a local legend known for his famous sweet potatoes. His secret was turning a little bit of sand into the soil. The sand is supposed to help the tubers to better absorb nutrients from the soil. Must work, because his sweet potatoes were the biggest, sweetest around. It might be worth experimenting with.

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Tami February 26, 2013 at 3:19 pm

Hi, I’m here from Pintrest. I was wondering, how many sweet potatoes will you usually get from one little sprout?

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Rose March 15, 2013 at 1:08 pm

I live in Zihuatanejo Mexico so the heat factor is year round. People eat kamote (sweet potato) here all the time and there are little push steam wagons that sell hot kamote with sweetened condensed milk over it as a snack. I want to grow sweet potatoes for our Home for at risk seniors in the garden area. Will it be too hot here? I think most of our product comes from higher altitudes.

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Dyann March 18, 2013 at 8:32 pm

Hello, I don’t know much about sweet potatoes but from eating them these look like Yams which I like a lot better. The sweet potatoes in the store are very pale yellow and the yams are more reddish/orangeish, Or are you using sweet potato as a broad term? Are these sweet potatoes or yams? If sweet potatoes would I grow a Yam in the same manner?

Thank you so much, very confused.

Dyann

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Cristina March 18, 2013 at 9:24 pm

It’s a common point of confusion, Dyann. Sweet potatoes and those sweet-potato-look-alikes called yams are actually both sweet potatoes. Sweet potatoes are, well, sweet potato sized, thin skinned and vary in color from white to yellow to orange to purple, with semi-sweet to very-sweet flesh. Actual yams are a large (sometimes HUGE) root crop from Africa with very thick skin and dense, starchy, non-sweet flesh. You can rest assured, if it looks like a sweet potato, it’s a sweet potato (even if your grocery store calls it a yam).

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Lisa March 21, 2013 at 5:41 pm

My neighbors grew potatoes just by burying store bought potatoes and letting new ones grow from those. Why can’t that be done with sweet potatoes? Or can it?

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Cristina March 22, 2013 at 8:52 am

Technically, this will work for sweets too. The problem is that most sweet potatoes need a longer growing season than most gardeners can offer. By starting slips indoors and transplanting them outside when the weather is truly warm, we get a 1-2 month jump on the season. Starting sweets as you suggest would probably work fine for folks in very warm climates, but it wouldn’t work here in Virginia — just wouldn’t allow enough time for full-size tubers to form.

By the way, this method works for regular potatoes because they actually LOVE cool weather and mature faster than sweets. No need to worry about running out of growing season with those guys.

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Loraine March 23, 2013 at 8:50 am

Wow what a lovely post full of amazing information! Thanks so much I will surely be starting off my slips soon!

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Dianne March 26, 2013 at 11:51 am

I L-O-V-E sweet potatoes! Thanks so much for all the great info……I’m headed to the kitchen now, to cut up the sweetest little organic sweet potatoes to start in water to grow a bunch of plants this summer. I’ve found the smaller potatoes are so sweet.

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Debbie Herod March 26, 2013 at 11:55 am

I am wanting to grow my own veggies and a novice. I live in Florida. With the heat won’t this draw insects to the potatoes while they are soaking in the water to sprout? Any solutions. I have tries to start seeds in starters and the moist caused me to get a house full of gnats. Also I have used the cutoffs from green onions and put in water and they are regrowing. I am very excited about that,

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Vicki Arnold March 29, 2013 at 2:47 pm

This is an awesome tutorial. We are going to try growing sweet potatoes this year. I bought both sweet potatoes and yams from Azure Standard to see which we like better. I can’t wait!!

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Laura April 2, 2013 at 6:12 pm

Awesome. Thanks for the post! I can’t wait to have lovely garden pots AND a harvest of sweet potatoes.

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Julie-Ann April 3, 2013 at 4:52 am

Thank you so much for this post, it’s brilliant
I have been looking for slips for ages and haven’t found any.
I have 1 sweet in my cupboard and once I’ve finished this message I’m going to follow your advice.
I live in the UK, I was thinking maybe they would be best kept in the green house as we seem to have nothing but rain.
I’m oddly very excited

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Cynthia Johnson April 10, 2013 at 6:46 pm

After discovering this on Pinterest , I went to store purchased a potatoe!!
Also reading everyone’s post in reallynexcitednto getting started as well. I will keep up with you all, thanks eveyone, also just planted strawberries hoping I succeed at those also! Noticing I missed out on the previous blog on strawberries , that’s ok I can catch up! Really excited for my Sweet Potatoes to get started. Thanks again

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Colleen April 20, 2013 at 2:01 am

Sweet potato leaves, unlike potato leaves are edible, so you get a bonus there!
Also, you can take the vines, wind them into tight bundles, let them dry, and then use them as fire logs.

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Karen April 21, 2013 at 8:50 am

Thank you so much. I am in a community garden and two of our gardeners taught me how to grow sweet potatoes and peanuts, from their slips. They are moving back to North & South Carolina and I want to keep up with this growing tradition here in Boston.

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Margaret Ogilvie April 21, 2013 at 4:00 pm

This information is really exciting. I work with disabled adults here in Walla Walla WA These are adults who love to see the results of their handiwork. We also produce jewelery and other art work for sale. We also run a recycling program that pays our folks wages out of the money received from the recycling station. Thanksfor the wonderful gardening idea. Margaret Ogilvie

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Charles Hudson April 24, 2013 at 2:11 pm

Hi Cristina,
I was just wandering if I can use the potato barrel method with growing the sweet potatoes? I am a new gardener and I am building me a potato barrel to try for the first time. Do you think this will work with Sweet Potatoes as well?
Thank you for this great article.

Charles

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Cristina April 25, 2013 at 7:14 am

Good question, Charles. How tall will your potato barrel be? Sweet potatoes don’t need a lot of depth (two feet is more than enough). And, unlike regular potatoes, sweet potatoes don’t want to be hilled during the growing season. So, if you’re building a tall potato barrel, it might be better to save the potato barrels for your potatoes, and then grow your sweets in a regular container that’s ideally 18-inches or larger in diameter, and at least 12 inches deep. I’ve had success with bushel baskets, for example: http://www.outlawgarden.com/2011/10/11/sweet-potatoes/

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Kat April 25, 2013 at 2:27 pm

First time sweet potato grower here. Just put my halved potatoes on the window sill as you suggested. Crossing my fingers that this works! Looove sweet potatos! I’ve already lost my green beans to the weather and planting the seedlings too early

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Marie eg de boyett May 1, 2013 at 9:01 am

Hi. What type of soil is best when planting in containers? What about fertilizers, what type and how much?

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Kim May 2, 2013 at 3:24 pm

In northern Virginia are sweet potatoes a perennial? Can I pick a spot and let them self-propagate?

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dee May 4, 2013 at 7:28 pm

Do you think the large plastic black flower pots like plants from the store come in would work instead of the bushel baskets ? They would last a lot longer and be more economical.

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Cristina May 6, 2013 at 6:45 am

Absolutely, Dee. You’ll want to use the big ones to allow enough space for tubers. But, sure, no reason why they shouldn’t work.

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Kristi May 8, 2013 at 8:50 pm

I did 18 sweet potatoes with my class and they all molded and turned to mush. So disappointing.

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Cristina May 9, 2013 at 9:36 am

Aw, what a bummer. I’m not sure why some sweet potatoes turn to mush with this technique, but I have a hunch the problem may be the transport and/or storage of the roots before we’d buy them at the grocery store. Cold storage, in particular, can cause big (but relatively invisible) problems, essentially killing the root. I’ve started many sweet potatoes this way, and have only had one go mushy and icky on me. I hope you’ll try again. When shopping for sweets, look for roots that are firm and wrinkle-free and without sunken spots on their skin. Good luck!

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Vic March 29, 2014 at 4:30 pm

Actually even easier is simply putting the whole sweet potato 1/2 -3/4 in water. Not cutting the potato would seem to be better for it. I have done them both inside on a window sill and outside in a giant bowl. At some point, sprouts should come out – usually from an eye at about water level, or near the upper tip. Wait for the sprouts to be about 6″ long, then twist the ready ones off the growth location. If there are small sprouts, try to just take the larger ones off. Then I drop the sprouts right back in that bowl of water or in their own cups of water for a few days until they have enough roots, and because I’m too lazy to plant one at a time. I wait to have a few plants, then plant those all at once. A potato this way seems to put out slips right up until it gets too cold to have sprouts. Sometimes I add compost tea to my water, since my potato is in that bowl a very long time. I have not had insect problems in that water and I do not change the water for months. Once in awhile though, since I am in the high desert. the water can get really low in the summer heat. Also, since the bowl usually sits in window sun or gets some sun on a patio, the water can get lots of algae. That does not bother the potato or its slips, though too long w/o water can dry out the roots. As long the potato is intact though, just add water and keep going. Usually I end up with way more sprouts than I need and end up using the bowl as a leafy plant. I prefer the leaves anyways – my mom always had sweet potato vines around so she could always have sauteed greens just by going outside and chopping off a few vine stems. All the leaves and leaf stems can be used when cooking. One would probably only use the very tender tips to eat raw.

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Cristina March 30, 2014 at 8:37 am

Thanks for the great advice, Vic! You’re absolutely correct that there are several ways to start sweets. Some folks even start them in trays of damp sand.

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Laura May 11, 2013 at 10:06 pm

FYI. You called the regular potatoes ‘Irish’. The potato came from America. The Native Americans introduced the potatoes to them and they took the potatoes from the New World back to Ireland. So the potato is actually American, not Irish. Thanks!

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S.J Gamby May 16, 2013 at 2:40 pm

Wonderful post!! I recently noticed an organic sweet potato of mine start to sprout..I was so intrigued and instantly wondered if I could plant it. Well, this is how I stumbled upon your site. Great information – Thank you! I have already put my potato in water and I’m ordering bushel baskets today (another great idea!)

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Adrien May 22, 2013 at 9:26 am

how many slips do you put in a bushel basket?

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Cristina May 23, 2013 at 6:58 am

One or two slips per bushel basket seems to be the way to go. You’ll harvest more from the bushel basket with two slips, but each slip will be individually more productive if grown in its own basket.

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Timothy May 28, 2013 at 11:07 am

If growing Sweet Potatoes in containers, can you use a trellis for the vines or does the vines need to be on the ground to keep producing roots and such?
I have been growing slips from a single sweet potato and some are getting over a foot long, am I waiting too long to get them to root and planted? This past week-end we had frost warnings in Upstate NY so nothing is outside yet :-(

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Cristina May 31, 2013 at 3:28 pm

Sweet potatoes don’t need a trellis. In fact, they don’t really want one. Sweets are rambling vines rather than climbing vines. Some people do grow sweets on trellises, but they need to tie them up. I generally just let them ramble around the garden as a ground cover.

If your slips are getting too big, you can go ahead and pot them up on four- or six-inch pots. Then, when it’s warm enough outside, just transplant them into their permanent home. Best bet is to wait until after nighttime temperatures are staying above fifty degrees. Around here (Virginia) that’s generally early June.

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Amanda June 3, 2013 at 3:47 pm

I’m in South Africa and one day thought to put the whole sweet potato in the ground with the sprouts above ground. Never thought they would actually grow. Much to my surprise it was not long before my small little garden was over take by the now growing wild sweet potato! i did not know how long before harvest or if it would actually projuice anything.Well after about 5 months i decided its time to clear out the potato because my other plants was not getting enough sun and water. was I surprised to find sweet potato under the ground! Now I know the right way to plant and care for them and thanks to you i’m growing carrots , tomatoes and other veggies too! Thanks so much from a sunny SA for your interesting articles.

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KMN November 13, 2013 at 6:09 am

Hi! You have sweet potatoes?! I have been searching everywhere for them. Have you seen them in any stores here in SA? Thanksgiving is next week and would love to have some.

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Nerine January 13, 2014 at 6:23 am

We most definitely do. Did you manage to find some? Try a veggie market. Or one of the organic outdoor markets on weekends, we have loads of them in Cpt.

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Bethany Kasey June 12, 2013 at 7:52 pm

THANKS :) Awesome and supportive guide for those (me, lol) who are new to this!

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Jennifer June 15, 2013 at 3:04 pm

Is it too late to start for this year? I’m in New England & weather did drop a bit this past week.

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Cristina June 25, 2013 at 7:39 am

It’s later than ideal, but that’s no reason not to try. :) Worst case scenario, you will harvest smaller-than-normal sweet potatoes. They will still be edible (sweet potatoes don’t ripen like some veggies), just smaller.

Good luck, and happy gardening!

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Susie Pedersen June 21, 2013 at 2:13 pm

Hi Christina – I love your tutorial – its so helpful and the pictures are wonderful! My husband and I have had many spinal surgeries so digging is not an option so we bought 6 “tuff tubs” we use one for a watering tub for our mini mule :-) I know I am late but we ordered slips by mail order and the first ones came in poor shape – now we have the new ones and we put them in planters mix with rotted manure and compost. We are planning to grow them in the tubs after we drill out some drain holes -how many should we drill & how big should they be? And how many slips could we plant in each one? We have quite a few slips – our tubs are 19″ diameter & 16″ deep -we also have a couple of storage bins we could use. Thanks much – I’m excited to get them planted ASAP so they have enough time to grow. We live north of Banning, CA in the low mountains at close to 4,000ft elevation. Usually there is no frost until November. Blessings, Mark & Susie

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Cristina June 25, 2013 at 7:35 am

Hi Susie -

With containers that size, I’d drill a half-dozen or so good-sized drainage holes. Maybe half-inch in diameter? You want to be sure water can escape fairly easily since sweet potatoes do not like growing in wet or boggy soil.

As for the number of sweets… I’d think two or three slips per contain should work. Space them out a bit from one another to give their tubers space to grow large. You can always crowd them more than that, but be aware that you will probably harvest smaller tubers in that scenario.

Good luck with your sweets, and happy gardening!

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Rebecca June 24, 2013 at 1:17 pm

Hi Christina,

Thanks for the sweet potato info! They are one of my favorite things to eat, and because I currently only have room for a container garden on my upper deck, didn’t think I could grow them . I know it’s late in the season, but I will be planting them this week in a couple of old whiskey barrels. I currently grow blueberries and blackberries, tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers, all in containers. I am looking for a good bush bean for a container, and am wondering if I can grow pumpkins in one, also? I live on the Missouri side of the SW Missouri/Arkansas line, and it is hot and humid here throughout September. Thanks for your help! Rebecca

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Cristina June 25, 2013 at 7:21 am

Hi Rebecca —

I’d think just about any bush bean variety should grow fine in a container. As for pumpkins, you might have success with a smaller type of pumpkin planted in a large container, such as a whiskey barrel. Pumpkins have large root systems, so you’ll need a container that can accommodate them.

Good luck with your container garden!

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hana June 25, 2013 at 1:21 am

The sweet potatoes in the picture looks soo delicious. You did a really great job. In my country, you can also eat sweet potatoes leaves, just boil them with water for about 10 minutes or sooo, and then eat the leaves. Looking at your pictures make me want to plant sweet potatoes, I will probably go to a nearby super market, buy one, and plant one ^^.

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Zimmy July 14, 2013 at 1:39 am

A very well put together and executed article about growing sweet potatoes in a HOA restriction situation. I thoroughly enjoyed reading and loved the pictures. I just found your blog today and I am looking forward to your future posts.

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SmellyBelly July 17, 2013 at 6:58 pm

Hi Cristina, a couple of months ago I followed your method for growing sweet potatoes. The plants are looking great! I’m wondering, do the plants need to flower in order for us to get sweet potatoes? We haven’t gotten any flowers, so not sure if it’s working or not. Thanks!

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Cristina August 16, 2013 at 10:59 am

Flowers are totally not necessary. In fact, some sweet potato varieties don’t flower, or only rarely flower. The important thing is time — give your plants 100-120 days to grow (or as long as your season allows), and you should have a tasty harvest waiting for you.

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Weng July 19, 2013 at 6:03 am

Hi…Its amazing what you do with the way you started planting the sweet potato because here in the Philippines, we do it the other way around. I started planting sweet potato with a store bought “camote” tops(our name for sweet potato in the Philippines) and a bunch of it will just cost you here around Php10.00. For two (2) weeks already, it has been growing bunch of leaves so I am force to make a trellis or bamboo stairway so they can climb up instead of crawling in the ground as our female rottie (a herbivours too) eats all the leaves. She is the first one who harvested it instead of me thats the funny thing. But I will try your ways maybe it will reap me really the fruits of the potatoes as of now, all we got were the leaves but also good for the anemic me..

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Jamal Abdel Hady July 22, 2013 at 10:24 am

I am from Egypt and my heart aches for all the trouble brewing in my country. Your article on sweet potatoes has greatly sweetened my day. Thank you!

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Sam July 22, 2013 at 11:40 am

Hi Cristina,

I stumbled upon your site while looking for pictures of sweet potato plants. My wife picked up sweet potatoes for me from the organic grocer so that I could sprout them. However, she didn’t notice the variety at the store. The resulting plants that I have look JUST LIKE THE ONES ABOVE that you have growing out of the bushels – thinly lobed leaves, usually 5 points per leaf. Do you happen to know what variety these are in particular?

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Cristina August 16, 2013 at 10:57 am

Hi Sam — I wish I knew the variety! I’ve been growing this particular variety for several years now (saving a few roots over the winter to start more slips in the spring). I can tell you that they are not Beauregarde, which is one of the more popular varieties but does not have those heavily lobed leaves. I can also tell you that they are tasty! :)

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Richard Bryan July 28, 2013 at 4:03 pm

Happened upon your website while looking for an answer about sweet potatoes. I planted a few slips.
some evidently are the vine type a few are growing stalks and now are about seven feet tall. What is the difference?

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Cristina August 16, 2013 at 10:52 am

I suspect you’re growing two different varieties. Some grow in a more compact bush (like summer squash) while others ramble further (like most winter squashes).

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Toinette Hill August 1, 2013 at 5:03 pm

Hi Cristina,
On April 2, 2013 I planted four sweet potato vines in a huge container. The vines are still a vibrant green and still thriving. How long before I am able to check if I have any potatoes?

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Cristina August 16, 2013 at 10:50 am

Hi Toinette — Most sweet potatoes want to grow for about 100-120 days. For those of us in more northerly climes, this generally means we harvest right before the very first frost (this is what I do, and I’m in Zone 7a). Folks further south often don’t need to wait for the first frost (or, don’t have a frost!), and can harvest after 100-120 days of growth. Since sweets don’t “ripen” like many other crops, the roots will still taste fine if you harvest them earlier or later than ideal.

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Melonie August 7, 2013 at 5:45 pm

What is the particular variety of the SP you have pictured on your blog? I am trying to find a purple skin/dark orange flesh variety…tasted them once long ago and they were very good. Here in East Texas we have SP farms everywhere but they all seem to grow the standard orange skinned potatoes. Thanks for your help. Your blog is awesome!

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Cristina August 16, 2013 at 10:46 am

Hi Melanie — I’m honestly not sure of the exact varieties I’m growing. All of my sweets were started from store-bought roots, and aren’t identified by variety at the store. You might have some luck finding the variety you want through Sand Hill Preservation Center, which grows an incredible variety of sweet potatoes (http://www.sandhillpreservation.com/catalog/sweet_potatoes.html). Warning — I’ve heard they sell out early.

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Brenda August 15, 2013 at 11:53 am

I’m in Texas and I tried starting slips by the method you mentioned, and being impatient, also ordered some slips. The one I started in the window, sprouted and I planted it out when I planted the slips… shortly after, the one I started died. The ones from slips are going strong. Then, about a month ago I bought some sweet potatoes with the intention of eating them but left them in the plastic bag from the store and set them on a shelf under the counter. A week or so later, I decided I wanted to cook one of the taters and when I pulled it out, all 4 had sprouted and were covered with little sprouts – lots of them…I took one potato with the longest slips out to the garden and planted them right in the garden. They are growing FANTASTIC and are running and can barely tell them from the ones planted a month before. When I planted my original ones back in June, I also planted some in bags. This morning as I was checking my plants, I noticed the side of one of the bags has split open and the dirt had spilled out exposing 2 finger sized sweet potatoes.. :)

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MaryLou September 16, 2013 at 11:27 pm

Sweet potato vines are growing all over. Some have touched the soil and have rooted. Will sweet potatoes grow where the vines have rooted as well as where the slips were planted?

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Cristina September 17, 2013 at 7:11 am

Yep. Sweet potatoes can grow tubers anywhere they form roots. Some people encourage the stems to root, because they want more sweets. But, most people try to prevent the stems from rooting, because more sweet potatoes means smaller sweet potatoes. It’s entirely up to you, and depends upon what sort of harvest you want.

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MaryLou September 17, 2013 at 9:19 am

So, that makes me wonder if I “prune” back some of the vines, will I get bigger/more sweet potatoes? (Even tho they are not rooting)

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Cristina September 18, 2013 at 7:28 am

Probably not, MaryLou. The important thing to remember is that sweet potatoes (and all plants) get their energy from their leaves. Thus: more leaves = more energy to produce a harvest. That’s simplified a little, of course, but is essentially how it works. So… rather than pruning back those longer vines, you really just want to prevent them from rooting (which may cause the plant to develop more tubers, robbing the main crop of energy). The easiest way to do this is to simply gently lift the vines off the ground once a week or so, breaking their contact with the ground for a moment. Or, you can just let them be and accept the fact that you may have smaller (but more) tubers than otherwise. Honestly, that’s usually what I do — it’s hard enough to keep up with the weeding sometimes. :)

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MaryLou September 18, 2013 at 9:31 am

Thanks, Cristina. I am going to learn to plant food yet!

Dena September 27, 2013 at 3:59 pm

How on earth do you keep sweet potatoes in containers? I planted one small row and the vines have taken over three separate adjoining raised beds. They even reach across the path from one bed to another.

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Cristina September 28, 2013 at 8:34 am

Haha. That is the trouble with most varieties of sweet potatoes; when they are happy, oh boy do they sprawl! You have a couple options. First, you can simply prune your plants back. This will keep them better contained, but may rob them of a bit of energy, potentially reducing your harvest a bit. Second, you can plant them somewhere that allows them space to sprawl. At the edge of the garden, perhaps. Finally, some varieties of sweet potatoes are less space-hungry than others. ‘Bush Porto Rico’ is a popular variety that stays fairly contained, but there are others. Try searching online for “bush sweet potatoes.”

Good luck, and enjoy that harvest!

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Susie September 30, 2013 at 1:16 pm

Thank you for your great play by play on growing sweet potatoes!!!
I was wondering if you’d ever grown potatoes in a “potato cage?” if so would you consider featuring this????

thanks again,

Susie

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Cristina September 30, 2013 at 2:04 pm

Potato cages? Are those the potato towers made of wire, and stuffed with growing media? I haven’t tried one of those — I suspect they might dry out too quickly here in drought-prone Virginia. Might be a great choice for wetter climates, however!

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Patti October 3, 2013 at 3:37 pm

Appreciate all the info. Have you looked into eating the sweet potato leaves & vine tips? We’ve been enjoying them in salads & omelets & on as extra pizza toppings this year. Yum!
http://minnesotaproject.wordpress.com/2012/06/26/yes-you-can-eat-sweet-potato-leaves/

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Wanda November 2, 2013 at 4:32 pm

Question: Do you cure your sweet potatoes before cooking? I have been reading up on sweet potatoes and I have read you must cure them at one temperature for 2 weeks and then store them at another temperature for a few weeks. Do you do this process? If so, would you tell me how you do this?
Thank you.
ws

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Cristina November 3, 2013 at 7:53 am

Hi Wanda — I’ve cured my sweets some years, and skipped it other years. I do think curing makes the roots a bit sweeter, but it’s not a huge difference (at least, in my experience). If you want to give curing a try, easiest way to do it is to store your sweets in a spare closet with the light left on. A classic 60 Watt bulb will kick off enough heat to bring the temperature up in the closet. Add a shallow pan of water to introduce some humidity, and let the sweets rest there for about a week. Then, remove the water and turn of the light, and you can store them there all winter.

Good luck, and enjoy your harvest!

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Crystal November 3, 2013 at 5:23 am

How far in advance do you start your sweet potatoes before they are planted? I understand it takes 4-6 weeks to start the slips. How long can they stay in the 4 inch pots before they have to be transplanted into the garden? I am about to harvest my first crop from straw bales. I will let you know how they turned out.

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Cristina November 3, 2013 at 7:45 am

My best crop came from slips that I started in late March, potted in late April or early May, and then planted in the garden in early June. If you allow a month for the slips to start, and then another month for them to bulk up in the 4-inch pots, you should be in good shape. Plan on putting them out in your garden when nighttime temperatures are staying above 50°F (or protect them with plastic for their first few weeks in you’re in a colder zone).

Good luck with your harvest! Definitely, please let me know how it goes — you can post a photo on the Outlaw Garden Facebook page if you feel like bragging a bit. ;)

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Douglas Gray November 20, 2013 at 5:30 pm

Hi,

Great Blog, thank you so much!

What sort of soil mix do you use in your containers?

Sincerely,

Douglas

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Cristina November 21, 2013 at 8:04 am

I’ve experimented with several types of planting mixes, and have had the best luck with a blend of well-matured compost and soil from the garden.

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David December 5, 2013 at 7:53 pm

Hi Christina
David from Queensland Australian asked previously about cutting sweets up with an eye and planting direct.
Planted a heap 3 weeks ago.
I can report that about half of the pieces have hair like roots.
Am hopefuls of slips emanating in a while.
One must be patient.
Love your site.
Cheers..

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Ron January 16, 2014 at 8:38 am

Hey, how about carrots? in the ground or containers? We live on the Gulf Coast in TX.

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Cristina January 16, 2014 at 6:10 pm

Absolutely, Ron! You’ll want to make sure your containers are deep enough for carrots, but no reason it can’t work. You can honestly grow just about anything in containers, just so long as you provide enough space for the roots and proper soil / water / etc. Good luck!

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Ron January 16, 2014 at 8:33 pm

Thanks!

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Dmitriy February 2, 2014 at 10:49 am

Thanks for the information. In Russia we have little information about sweet potatoes. I was interested to read your article.

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Vijay Rajpuy February 3, 2014 at 11:56 am

So sweet information. Thanks.

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Lisa February 20, 2014 at 8:23 pm

Wondering how many slips you plant per container?

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Cristina February 27, 2014 at 7:53 am

Hi Lisa — It depends upon the container. Big containers, like halved whiskey barrels, can support three or four sweet potato plants (I’d probably do three, leaving more space for bigger roots). Smaller containers offer less space for harvest-worthy roots, and thus should be planted with less slips. I’ve found that about a cubic foot of container space per plant works pretty well. Hope that helps!

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joyfulstander February 22, 2014 at 11:04 am

Hello,
So I put my sweet potatoes in water about 20 days ago…I saw that you said it takes about 4 weeks…so should I not be worried yet?

I posted about my attempt on my blog, and you can see pictures of the two baby roots that grew after about a week and a half.

But now, more than a week later, the roots look exactly the same. Any suggestions?

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Cristina February 27, 2014 at 7:51 am

As long as the sweet potatoes aren’t rotting, you’re in good shape (some do rot — I’m guessing those are ones that had been injured in storage). Those roots are a very good sign! Sounds like your sweets just need a boost to get growing. I saw on your post that you have the sweet potatoes on a screened-in patio? My guess is that it’s a bit cool for them, which is why they’re growing slowly. Is there a warmer spot you can put them? A dose of extra heat will often kickstart slow-to-grow sweets.

Good luck and happy gardening!

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sue freeman March 14, 2014 at 7:55 am

So I am just as interested in the potato vines as I am the potato. what kind of potato do you use to grow the darker colored vines? Do you start them the same way?

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Cristina March 14, 2014 at 9:10 am

I’m with you — the pretty vines are a huge part of why I’m such a sweet potato fan. There’s a wide range of vine and leaf variation among edible sweet potatoes (not even counting those not-very-tasty ornamental varieties). Unfortunately, I don’t know what variety I’m growing because I started the original plants from some roots I bought at a local grocery store. Luckily, most sweet potato suppliers provide a bit of information about the leaves as well as the roots. For example, Southern Exposure Seed Exchange (one of my favorite sources) includes photos of the leaves with their sweet potato descriptions: http://www.southernexposure.com/sweet-potatoes-c-229.html?zenid=8nalbtoab88bphq57sltmdf477. I’m thinking I might order some ‘Ginseng’ from them this spring — such attractive leaves!

Whatever variety you choose, you’d start and grow them the same way. Good luck, and happy gardening!

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Terri March 20, 2014 at 1:33 am

How far apart in the tubs or in ground do you plant the slips?

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Cristina March 20, 2014 at 7:46 am

I generally go with a 12-18 inch spacing, both in containers and in the ground. More space (24 inches) might encourage larger tubers, but I harvest plenty of fine sized tubers from plants grown at 12-18 inches.

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Raynote March 28, 2014 at 1:20 pm

The day before yesterday I discovered your blog after googling “grow sweet potatoes”. Yesterday I went shopping for organic sweet potatoes, found some and cut up the two ends of a big long one (ate the middle part!) and put them in a plastic container with water about halfway up. The container is sitting next to a window and not far from the fireplace, so they’re getting light and warmth.
I live in western France and I eat a lot of sweet potatoes but always thought you couldn’t grow them in mild, oceanic climates. So I’m thrilled by the prospect of growing my own!
Oh, another thing, your pictures of the different stages of the growth of sweet potatoes are fantastic. Thank you!

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Cristina March 29, 2014 at 8:21 am

Wonderful! Good luck with your sweet potatoes!

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Paula April 3, 2014 at 7:42 am

Stumbled on your post looking up making my own slips. Bought some organic purple sweets & they were so fun & tasty, I saved a couple to sprout. I’m gonna sprout a “white” sweet this year, too. Little will the neighborhood know that my food garden has escaped my back yard & migrated to the front! Thanks for the tutorial, it had been since childhood that I started my own slips & wanted a little updated reminder.

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Cristina April 3, 2014 at 8:37 am

Fantastic! Good luck with those sweets, and with the migration of your garden to the front yard.

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Shawna April 4, 2014 at 10:47 pm

The stupid pin it, Facebook it, tweet it box is BLOCKING MY VIEW OF THE TEXT so I can’t read the blog…arrrgggg!! What do I do?

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Cristina April 5, 2014 at 6:04 pm

Ugh. Sorry, Shawna. Isn’t that frustrating!? I’ve found that this happens to me any time I’m logged into Facebook as my page rather than myself. Is that the case for you here? If so, just switch your Facebook back to your personal page. Annoying, I know. I’m looking for a new sharing solution that doesn’t cause this problem — must be a glitch with the code (or so I hope). If you have any suggestions, I’d love to hear them!

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Cristina September 18, 2013 at 10:18 am

I’ve got no doubt! :) Good luck, and happy gardening!

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