Hello everyone, and thanks in advance especially for those experienced with sweet potatoes!
I absolutely love sweet potatoes, but I have never had any luck growing them thanks to deer and rabbits. I just finished gating/fencing off the bed where I hope to grow sweet potatoes this year.
I got the sweet potatoes through the mail, and they took about 3 days longer than expected in transit. They arrived in ok condition, there was some dried foliage but I *Think* the roots were ok. I got them planted out last Thursday (5/14/2020), and when I checked on them today (5/18/2020), I noticed no new foliage.
Now I know that sweet potatoes grow like weeds and love hot weather, with ours being quite cool and moist this spring. I am wondering if anyone out there has better experience growing sweet potatoes than I have and I am wondering if there is anything I can do to help them along. This is probably impatience on my part, I am hoping that there was still life left in those roots.
For the record, the sweet potatoes are planted in thoroughly broken down woodchips inoculated with wine caps. I fully expect the bedding is very fertile.
Again, thanks in advance, both for your input and alleviating my impatient anxiety!
Sweet potatoes are wholly tropical and they don't like cool! Even mature vines will quit growing at any temp much below 65 or 70. If your weather doesn't warm up quickly I would consider potting up the cuttings and bringing them inside. You won't lose any growing season since they won't grow out there anyway. Or you might make a bunch of covers, like gallon milk jugs with bottoms cut out, to give them some more warmth in place.
I do hear you about sweet potatoes loving the heat. I might just try the milk jug idea as I would hate to un-plant the slips, but our cool weather certainly does not help them a bit.
Typically in this area sweet potatoes are sold out by mid to late April which is really too early to put them in the ground. I assume that you think the little slips still have life left in them. I can’t imagine that they would die in such a short time, but again, I have never grown them successfully. I have gotten them started, but critters ate the greens before the potatoes got any larger than my finger.
I plant them in 9b, and when starting them from sprouting roots (not slips with leaves where you can be watching for new visible growth) they can be really pokey. They'll be all over the place before you know it, though. And you are going to have such an easy time harvesting them from nice soft wood chippy soil!!
I would imagine that 9b would be a great climate for these veggies. I the past, I have gotten some substantial vines before the bunnies showed up and stripped them bare. And yes, I am hoping that the woodchips makes them easy to harvest. I might have to post a picture, but my new fence/gate looks pretty good on the raised bed.
I have grown them from slip in Boston (New England) from slips, with no greenhouse or extra care. And I get tubers over 1lbs from Georgia Jet. The other cultivars do well too. So you should be fine, planting them out in the "cold"
So earlier this year I planted out 8 sweet potato slips. That was during the overly cool portion of this cold spring. Well the heat finally arrived with gusto! We went from rather cool to much warmer than average over about a 2 day period and it looks like the heat is here to stay.
4 of the 8 plants died. It would appear that they could not hack the cool weather that dominated for so long. But the 4 that survived look like they are loving the heat and are starting to grow nicely.
This is leaving me with a little paradox: sweet potato slips sell out before the weather is ready. I wish I could buy them later than I did, but I am afraid that if I wait much longer then the slips will be sold out.
The solution (or at least one solution) is to buy the slips and pot them up inside in a hot sunny place. They'll root into the potting soil and then you transplant them out when you want.
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Anne Miller wrote:Now that you are growing them can you make your own slips?
Hopefully you get a good harvest, you save a nice looking tater, and get it sprouting somewhere. I took a sweet potato that was too small to eat and did the old toothpick-and-glass trick to make slips. Then after I harvested, I saved a small potato that still had some roots and a stem, and put that in a glass, it is out there sprouting for me to plant next spring. Once you get started you'll be good, it is really easy to make slips. (even if you throw a sweet potato in the back of your cupboard, you should get some sprouts).
Now that the 4 are growing rapidly, you can cut about a foot off growing vine tips and plant them out. They will replace lost plants fairly quickly, just keep them watered for a week or two.
For bigger sweet potatoes, don"t fertilize very much. Low fertility caused plants to store more food in tubers for perceived coming hard times.
Mike, I am thinking that I will indeed try to start indoors next year.
Tereza, with just a little luck I will get a tater worthy of using for making my own slips. I actually wanted to try this, but I wanted to make sure I got an established variety and I wanted one that was not sprayed with anything to prevent budding, as many supermarket varieties are. Now I should have a good breeding stock for the future.
Ralph, I think once the foliage really gets established I will try cutting and transplanting a 6 inch or so section of vine in the established 4 holes. In the past, I would plant the slips and indeed, they would grow vigorously and establish quite dense growth before critters ate the foliage back. But even after being trimmed back, they grew back with a vengeance only to be eaten back again. So I know the explosive growth potential of sweet potatoes and now that they are gated in, I expect them to grow without fear of being eaten back every couple of weeks.
I think I finally got a hold on getting these guys to grow now. The cool spring definitely did not help, but at least I have 4 plants established and growing.
I really appreciate all the help. I will keep this updated as I am pretty sure that I will have questions in the future.
I'm in southern Indiana and sweet potatoes grow very well here so I imagine you will soon arrive at a system that works well for you. The issue of critters eating the vines is a problem for me too. I grow a lot in pots which keeps the vines up off the ground a little and also sometime trellis longer vines. That protects them from rabbits but of course not from deer but I can't grow much of anything without fencing against the deer. Inside the pots the roots are also protected from burrowing critters and makes them easy to harvest. Some varieties work better in pots than others of course. I actually breed them from true seed, selecting, among other traits for those that adapt well to that.
I find them super easy to clone, any three or four inch of stem can be rooted into a new plant and as long as they are out by mid June or so there is plenty of time for them to mature here in IN, I would expect the same in IL. They do vary but as a rule they are also easy to clone from a saved root, I just stick them in some wet sand about mid April to make my slips.
If you have to buy your slips when it is too early to plant I would recommend just sticking them in some small pots and keeping them in a bright window till time to put out. *They seem to me to do a lot better as fresh starts so I would take new cuttings rather than setting out a root bound plant, all they need to start over is a couple little root nubs on the stem and a lot of water for first week or so.
I don't think there is a good definition of maturity in sweet potatoes. There is no point where they are ripe like with a tomato, ready like with sweet corn or dry like with a bean. They are roots not tubers, and different ones take longer to grow to size. I regard maturity just as the point where roots are big enough to make a nice serving for one or two people. I prefer a plant that makes several single serving sized roots to those that make fewer very large roots. I shoot for what I call maturity (from seed) in 100 days or less.
I'll keep an eye on your progress as I'm very interested in the experience of others in a climate similar to mine. I'm working with a seed company now in hopes of arranging to have seeds for sale next spring.
Nothing ruins a neighborhood like paved roads and water lines.
I certainly appreciate your input as you are more experienced than me and we are geographically close to each other. I you live in southern Indiana then I live a bit south of you as I live in Southern Illinois. Nice to know there is someone out there with experience in the same general location.
I just got back from the garden and the 4 sweet potatoes’ foliage is about 2-4 inches long and looked pretty healthy. Now that we have some heat I expect them to take off soon.
Thanks for the input, I will update as things develop,