Sunday, 3 May 2015

The Sweet Potato Queen

This is a bit of a tongue in cheek title I have acquired on twitter as a few friends have followed my attempts to grow my own slips from sweet potatoes. 

Whilst they are called potatoes, sweet potatoes are from a different plant family than your regular spud; the ipomoea family. They have a vine like quality that spreads over the ground while the roots form long tubers below the surface. And as they are from a different family, you don't grow them from a seed potato but rather from slips. Slips are new plants that are grown from a tuber

However, experiments with friends have shown you can't use just any old tuber as many commercial tubers have been treated with a chemical called budnip which prevents any growth from sprouting on them. 

I grew sweet potatoes last year from some slips I bought from Marshalls Seeds and had a reasonable harvest from five plants; and they were delicious! Mellow, smooth and sweet to the taste. 

Having watched some videos on YouTube, at the end of January I placed a couple of my homegrown tubers into two jars of water 

A couple of weeks later the first few signs of growth sprouting 

And gradually more and more growth, mainly shots but also a few roots 

When the growth is ideally about 6" long you simply break off the slip 

Placing the slip in water again encourages root growth 

The slips then need to be potted up before being planted out after the risk of frost has passed

It will be interesting to see what kind of harvest I get from these homegrown slips. It's certainly been satisfying growing my own as they are expensive to buy online at approx £10 for five slips. I probably grew about 18 slips from those two tubers but what was noticeable was the slips were gradually smaller and less strong, so maybe a note to myself in the future to take a maximum of four or five slips per tuber. 

I'll hopefully be planting my slips out on the allotment in the next couple of weeks and will post an update later in the year.