Growing Sweet Potatoes
Unlike normal potatoes, sweet potatoes are grown from ‘slips’. These are the long shoots that have been removed from ‘chitted’ sweet potato tubers. ‘Slips’ don’t have roots, although sometimes there are signs of small roots beginning to appear. The roots will grow once the ‘slip’ has been planted.
- Put the slips in water overnight to refresh them –then the next day you can plant them up individually into small pots of compost.
- When planting sweet potato slips, it’s important to cover the whole length of the stem, so that it is covered right up to the base of the leaves.
- Sweet potato plants are not hardy so you will need to grow them on in warm, frost free conditions until they are established. Warm, humid conditions will quickly encourage the slips to produce roots.
- Transplant into situ when the plants are a good size. Best grown in a polytunnel, but they can be grown outside in a very sheltered spot – in which case you will have to harden them off first.
- Plant 45cms apart with 1mt between rows.
- Requires fertile, free draining soil – prefer acid or neutral soils.
- Tubers take four to five months to mature and are best lifted once the leaves turn yellow and die back.
- Lift carefully to avoid bruising.
- Sweet potatoes can be used soon after harvesting, but they will store well for several months if the skins are cured properly. Lay them out in the sun for a few hours immediately after harvesting and then move them to a warm, humid place for 10 days - a greenhouse is ideal. Once the skins have cured they can be stored in cooler conditions provided that they are kept dry.
- Sweet potatoes freeze well if they are blanched or boiled beforehand.