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Growing Sweet Potato Slips
Sweet potato slips
Sweet potato slips are the rooted plant used to “set out” sweet potatoes for a crop. There are several ways to get these “slips”, but the most common among farmers is the method explained below.
Growing sweet potato slips is a mystery to many people, and at one time, seemed to have “well guarded secret” status. It isn’t all that complicated, and it can be very rewarding, in many ways!
Materials for starting sweet potato slips
- A growing area. You will need a raised bed 4 to 6 feet wide, and a length that you will determine by the number of plants you want to produce. A bushel will need about 10 or 12 square feet of bed space. An acre of sweet potatoes can yield up to 300 bushels if properly fertilized and irrigated, which will probably be a little more than a home gardener will want to produce. It usually takes 5 or 6 bushels to produce slips for an acre of potatoes, so you will want to scale it down according to your needs.
- Sweet potatoes 1 to 3 inches, and having no rotten or diseased areas on them.
- Enough roofing felt or black plastic to cover the bed.
- Enough sand to cover your entire bed about 2 inches deep.
Tools for starting sweet potato slips
- Whatever you want to use to cover and smooth the bed. A shovel and rake will work.
- Whatever you choose to cut the felt or plastic to the proper dimensions. A knife or scissors will do the trick.
Proper timing for starting sweet potato slips
This, I am going to leave up to the reader to discover. We live in such a vast area, that there are several zones, and each one will be slightly different. There are many good resources on the internet, and your county extension agent will be able to help you make that determination. In general, after the plants are transplanted it seems to take about three months for them to reach maturity. That will be a good place to start your calculations. Figure backward about ninety days or more from the date of your first killing frost, and add extra time for the slips to propagate, and that should give you a good starting date. A note of caution here. I have seen a field of sweet potatoes reach maturity during an unusually rainy period, never to be dug. When the winter came and passed, and spring rolled around, the field and surrounding area had the distinct odor of a pig pen for months! Please, just get them out of the ground somehow.
Method for “bedding out” sweet potatoes
- We will be laying the sweet potatoes out, keeping them separated by an inch or two.
- The felt or black plastic is for providing top heat to encourage the plants to sprout.
The process for starting sweet potato slips
- Lay the sweet potatoes out on the bed, separate from each other. space them evenly over the bed.
- Cover them with about two inches of sand or good soil.
- Water them moderately.
- Cover them with the felt or plastic.
- Anchor the plastic or felt along the edges and ends, and a few places in the center by using the sand, or you can use large grass staples if they will hold.
- Water the plant bed periodically if needed, cover can be removed after the plants start to emerge, and if weather conditions allow. If you expect severe cold, leave it in place.
- Plants should be pulled when the reach about 8 inches. By the time they reach that stage, they should have a pretty good compliment of roots. They will not all mature at the same time.
Plant them out by hand, or ride on a potato setter. If you have never done this you should give it a try for a few days at a time! (Not Really)
Digging the potatoes is the fun part, (Not) after you get them out of the ground, store them with lots of good ventilation for a while so they can “cure.” Store them in a cool, dry well ventilated place. See also: Curing And Storing Sweet Potatoes
Seed potatoes for sweet potato slips
You can save “seed potatoes” for sweet potatoes from the crop for next years planting. Choose some from several “hills” that have several high quality potatoes, and store in a well ventilated box or bag, in a dark room with moderate temperature. Do not wash before storage.
For More detailed information check into these sweet potato books: