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Designed by David Frary

Logo photographed by and copyright Rogan Macdonald

Unusual Vegetables. Sweet potato.

Be daring. Try something different.

Sweet potatoes

Before we go any further let me tell you this is a borderline crop requiring cover or a very good summer for outside growing. There is a good risk that the crop will be poor or non-existant but it can be done.

Growing method.

Chitting potato in water.

Unlike most vegetables that are grown from seed or tubers, sweet potatoes are grown from cuttings called slips. Slips can be cut from a growing plant or struck from a tuber. In tropical climates the farmers simply take their cuttings for a new crop from another growing crop while it is in the field but here we have to work for our slips.

Slips can be bought from various seed companies but all of them are exploiting the market and are overcharging for cutting material that is frequently unfit for sale. The other alternative is to grow your own from a shop bought tuber.

Fresh slips removed from tuber.

This is the method I use. Select a good sweet potato and place it in a suitable pot or jar containing some water. Just enough water to keep the tuber at 100% humidity and placed somewhere cosy and warm. Now the really hard bit. You have to wait. And wait. And sometimes wait even longer. Some tubers will sprout within a week while others can take several months, it's a matter of patience. For this reason I like to start them off about the middle of February to ensure a long growing time.

Eventually lots of roots will appear followed by strong shoots. Keep tuber warm but place it in good sunlight during the daytime from now on. Once the shoots have grown to about 10cm and have say 3 leaves the shoot can be gently rubbed away from the tuber and that is a slip. (About £1.25 worth each.)

Slips potted and being watered.

Once removed, the slips should be potted individually into small pots, given a good watering and kept in good light but free from any chill. The warmer they are, the quicker they will root and grow on. As the weather warms up, plants that are nicely rooted can be placed outside on sunny days or taken to the cold greenhouse or polytunnel if available. Before long the plant will outgrow the small pot and will require potting on to a bigger size.

Plants growing in 2 litre pots. May 08

The original tuber will continue to produce slips for several months until it is exhausted. Just take them off as soon as they are a decent size and pot up.

 

 

Sources.

 


Summer care

Page unfinished. To be continued.

Plants growing in ground. Aug 07 Plants growing in ground. Oct 07 Image showing developing tubers Plants growing in deep buckets. June 08 Plants taking over polytunnel. September 08

I am trying several different growing methods this year including both outdoor cultivation and under cover. This year most plants are growing in deep buckets to ensure a good growing medium with a few planted direct into the ground for comparison.

Sweet potatoes growing in polytunnel. July. Sweet potatoes growing outside in buckets. July. Sweet potato flower. Sweet potatoes in polytunnel. JSeptember.

 

 

 

Harvest.

 

Yield.

 

 

Kitchen qualities.