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sweet potato propagation and harvest!!!

 
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Curiosity got the best if me, and I decided to dig out just one or two vines from the edge of the row.  And I found absolutely NO tubers.  Not even a tiny immature one.  I guess that'll teach me.... Be patient and let time take time.  And if by bad luck I don't get many potatoes... The goats and the rabbits will enjoy the vines. 😣
 
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Maureen Atsali wrote:Curiosity got the best if me, and I decided to dig out just one or two vines from the edge of the row.  And I found absolutely NO tubers.  Not even a tiny immature one.  I guess that'll teach me.... Be patient and let time take time.  And if by bad luck I don't get many potatoes... The goats and the rabbits will enjoy the vines. 😣



awwww...maybe they will still produce.  Sometimes just another month will make all the difference but then if I wait too long to dig I end up with more vole damage.

I've had some plants in the past that just never made potatoes though and I never figured out why.....I always wondered if the earlier slips from the potato were better or worse.  This year my big crop was from the last slips from the potato and planted a month later than all the rest...still haven't figured that one out....

Your 'season' is year round I guess?
 
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Question: to slip a sweet potato, I see people cutting them horizontally and  putting them in a cup, and laying them whole in a pan of water. I have some huge ones I want to slip (coconut sized +) would it work to cut them vertically and lay the cut side in water? I'm thinking that increases the up sides where the slips come from the most.
 
Judith Browning
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Pearl Sutton wrote:Question: to slip a sweet potato, I see people cutting them horizontally and  putting them in a cup, and laying them whole in a pan of water. I have some huge ones I want to slip (coconut sized +) would it work to cut them vertically and lay the cut side in water? I'm thinking that increases the up sides where the slips come from the most.



I tried cutting once and it worked OK, I think I might have let the cut edge dry out for a day or two also?...the potato sent out roots along the skin of the cut edge and did make slips.  I'm not organized enough to tell you if they produced better or less well than the others once the slips were in the ground though?

Usually I go for smallish tubers and set them two or three at once holding each other up in a deep bowl of water.  I've also tried toothpicks holding the potato vertically in a wide mouth quart and that works.

This year I have some in water, some laid horizontally on a bed of sand and well watered and three early sprouting ones in soil in a pot.  Those last ones have had slips long enough to pop off and for the moment I've set them in their own pot of soil to root.  I ordinarily root the slips in water though.

I've never tried to root huge sweet potatoes although sometimes they start to sprout on their own.  I'm not sure that cutting one up would produce more slips than just setting it in water halfway up whole?

...haha...in the end I think I've given you a 'non-answer' Pearl
 
Pearl Sutton
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Judith: hm.. yep, that you did! :D
Anyone else know? Cut lengthwise, cut side down in water or dirt. I think it'll make a bunch of slips off the top part. Cutting those big ones lengthwise will give me a LOT of surface for slips to come off of.

 
Pearl Sutton
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Those big ones have not sprouted at all. It COULD be too cold for them, OR they could have been treated, I did buy them at a store.
If they were treated, is there any way to clean it off?
I want those puppies to grow, they are the size of coconuts!
 
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The 'treatment' typically used to prevent regrowth is irradiation, so not likely, because it's at the cellular level.
 
Judith Browning
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Pearl Sutton wrote:Those big ones have not sprouted at all. It COULD be too cold for them, OR they could have been treated, I did buy them at a store.
If they were treated, is there any way to clean it off?
I want those puppies to grow, they are the size of coconuts!



If they're not treated they should show signs of sprouts by now.
A warmer area is more important than light early on...once they've kicked in more light helps.

As long as you are experimenting, try wrapping one in a wet towel or rags for a few days...I've heard this suggested for sweet potatoes that have been well cured for storage to rehydrate their skin.

Are they tasty or just big? Someone gave us some huge ones from texas once that had no flavor at all but they were quite large.
 
Pearl Sutton
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Judith Browning wrote:

If they're not treated they should show signs of sprouts by now.
A warmer area is more important than light early on...once they've kicked in more light helps.

The place they are has a grow  light, but is drafty, and it's been colder than expected.



As long as you are experimenting, try wrapping one in a wet towel or rags for a few days...I've heard this suggested for sweet potatoes that have been well cured for storage to rehydrate their skin.


thank you, will try it!

Are they tasty or just big? Someone gave us some huge ones from texas once that had no flavor at all but they were quite large.

On a 1-10 scale I'd give them a 7.5 or 8. Not the best I have ever had, but definitely good.
 
Pearl Sutton
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WHOO! Buds on the big ones! I put them out in the sun, it warmed up enough to do so. YAY!! Buds on my small ones too. Yay!!
 
Judith Browning
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Pearl Sutton wrote:WHOO! Buds on the big ones! I put them out in the sun, it warmed up enough to do so. YAY!! Buds on my small ones too. Yay!!



you're on the way now! once they begin the slips grow fast...are they sending out some roots also?
 
Pearl Sutton
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Yeah they are rooting :)
I have slipped sweets before, which is why I was frustrated by these. That corner of the house really is drafty.
 
Judith Browning
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Pearl Sutton wrote:Yeah they are rooting :)
I have slipped sweets before, which is why I was frustrated by these. That corner of the house really is drafty.



I've been wondering if you ended up cutting them as you first mentioned? and they are in water?

 
Pearl Sutton
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Judith Browning wrote:
I've been wondering if you ended up cutting them as you first mentioned? and they are in water?


I did a mix. At the moment:
One is laying on it's side, half covered in dirt (no sprouts on him last I looked)
3 were cut in half, hanging in water, so 6 pots of them (oldest one of those is the one I see sprouts starting on)
1 was not cut, hanging in water.
The small ones were mostly not cut, I think I cut a few of them. They also are hanging in water. Several have sprouts starting.
They all went outside a couple of days ago. It was while moving them that I saw the sprouts just beginning.
Since they are sprouting, I'll be adding more soon. Hoping to smother the back yard in them. I don't want to mow this year.
 
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I hope it's ok to post my question here... I put my sweet potatoes in water in the window, and they've put out roots and top growth, which I assume are the slips(?). Am I doing it correctly by pulling off the biggest growths, and putting them in water to root (the ones in the small bowl)? Currently, the ones I pulled look like they're getting little root nubs, so I'm relieved they didn't just shrivel up & die, but didn't know if they'd have any energy yet to form an actual root system. Does it look like I removed them too early, and should I be leaving them on the potatoes longer to let them get more energy from the tuber? Sorry if these are considered dumb questions! This is my first time ever trying to grow sweet potatoes as a food crop (I've only grown the ornamental type that doesn't make tubers). I appreciate any help with this and, staff, please feel free to delete it I'm "hijacking" the post too much.
IMG_20200503_142946.jpg
Sweet Potatoes in poor lighting
Sweet Potatoes in poor lighting
 
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@KC I would put those slips off the potatoes into some pots or trays of damp soil, covered with plastic or something like that, so that the new roots form in soil rather than water.  Many roots do not transition well from one medium to another and the cutting ends up having to grow new ones anyway when you plant it out.  And it's less of a shock.  In humid climates these slips are often stuck directly in the ground, provided it's warm enough, whether or not they have roots at all.  Just pull off most of the leaves and keep them well watered and possibly shaded with something for the first few days.
 
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I both agree with Alder Burns, and think that if water is what you can do right now, yes, that works well. Depends on how soon you can plant, if not yet, then either pot them up or water them, whichever you can. I know your scheduling is weird, so either one works. Dirt is better, but water is a close second.

:D
 
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In my experience sweet potatoes are extremely easy to propagate. A shoot say four or five inches long does not even need roots. You can just stick it in the ground and keep it watered good for a few days. Only qualifier for that is that it should be above 50 F at night. It seems they actually take off growing better and ultimately make a better harvest if they are planted with very few established roots. When I plant mine if there area a lot of roots on a shoot I generally cut that end off. leaving few if any stringy roots. Just the little bumps is better for establishing a new plant. It's very common during the season for discarded trimmings to root down and start growing.

An established root system as you might get from potting a slip up before planting out is actually counterproductive to a good harvest of sweet potatoes. In can however be a very good way of propagating more slips. For example if you have slips well before it is warm enough to put out you can pot them up and pinch out the tips which will cause them to branch out. Then you can clip each branch to make new plants. You can also pot a longer one horizontally and new slips will form at each leaf joint.

 
Kc Simmons
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Thanks, everyone, for the great advice! I potted up some of the ones that had little root nubs, and will probably stick some straight in the soil as I find spots for them.
Although I do hope to get at least a small yield from them, I also read where they make a good living mulch/ground cover in the heat of summer. My hope is that I can plant them around the more "wild" borders of the gardens, and they'll help keep the cursed bermuda grass from invading during the heat of summer, which is when the bermuda tends to spread worse since the rest of it's competition dies out or goes dormant because of the heat and dry soil. If they're able to cover & shade the ground enough, it'll definitely be a game changer for my maintenance work!

I'm Z8 a/b, so I don't know if the sweet potatoes will serve as perennials since the ground never freezes, but some nights get below freezing. We usually keep the ornamental ones in the greenhouse, in pots, over winter; where they tend to go dormant and resume growth in spring. Considering the number of slips I'm getting from the tubers, plus clipping/rooting the longest ones, I should have enough material to play around with all test out for observations.

Thanks, again, for explaining the propagation process to me!!
 
Judith Browning
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Mark Reed wrote:In my experience sweet potatoes are extremely easy to propagate. A shoot say four or five inches long does not even need roots. You can just stick it in the ground and keep it watered good for a few days. Only qualifier for that is that it should be above 50 F at night. It seems they actually take off growing better and ultimately make a better harvest if they are planted with very few established roots. When I plant mine if there area a lot of roots on a shoot I generally cut that end off. leaving few if any stringy roots. Just the little bumps is better for establishing a new plant. It's very common during the season for discarded trimmings to root down and start growing.

An established root system as you might get from potting a slip up before planting out is actually counterproductive to a good harvest of sweet potatoes. In can however be a very good way of propagating more slips. For example if you have slips well before it is warm enough to put out you can pot them up and pinch out the tips which will cause them to branch out. Then you can clip each branch to make new plants. You can also pot a longer one horizontally and new slips will form at each leaf joint.



Mark, I'm going to experiment with this this season.  I always end up with slips ready too early to set in the ground so I either root them in water or lately I've been potting them up until we're past cold weather as it seems like the cold sets them back a lot.  
I have some that have plenty of length to clip off and plant unrooted.

I do remember buying bundles of slips years ago and that they had either no roots or barely emerged ones.

We get a fairly good crop but I' would love to get more root per hill...less digging in the fall would be a bonus.


KC....your potatoes look great!
 
Kc Simmons
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After planting some slips outside (with & without roots) I think I will probably need to plant them in containers, first, until they can develop enough roots to keep from drying out in the sun/heat. Of the 10 slips I planted directly outside last week, I think I only had 2 of them still alive when I was checking the garden this evening. I suspect it's because we've already had temps in the low-mid 90s, and the sun has been quite strong, with no cloud cover.
I'll probably put some in starter pots on the porch where they'll get some afternoon shade (and I'll remember to water them since they'll be in sight). Once they get some root growth, they should do okay planted in the ground and mulched around them. I'll also plant more directly in the ground right before the next forecasted rainy day.
Now that I've learned how easy it is to use a slip to make more slips, I have been trying different methods to get them going to see what does and doesn't work in my environment. I've already been cutting the tips (3-4 nodes) off the longer slips and putting them in soil or water to root, so I should have plenty of "subjects" to test the different variables.
 
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I have been putting the tuber in water until the sprout is about 6 inches. Then I pop them off the tube and I put them in a slice of a pool noodle,they float in the fish tank till I get enough for a bed. The fish like swimming in the root tangle and keep them tidy for me. I can't see this working on a large scale but it does work.
 
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With the focus this week being on the perennial vegetables forum, I was browsing topics and looking for some I might join in on. I was happy to find this one on sweet potatoes! I only recently learned sweet potatoes can be perennial in the right climate. Unfortunately, mine isn't one of them, but for the past couple of years I've been able to perpetuate my own crop for more sweets.

I've made several observations, which I've tucked away in my (hopefully) growing sweet potato knowledge base. One, is that they like sun. I read somewhere that they make good companions to okra, but discovered that the okra shaded them out. So companions or no, I won't be doing that again.

I've also observed that they seem to have minds of their own when it comes to sprouting for slips. Last year, I had sprouts galore in April, this year, I didn't get any until late May and June. The ones I rooted and planted in the garden have been very slow to grow.



Granted, we've had a very long hot, dry spell from which the entire garden has suffered, so that would probably account for slow growth, even though I've tried to keep them watered. With recent rains, they are finally putting on some growth.

But compare those to the ones I planted later in my African keyhole garden.



I'm very happy with that! Hopefully, we'll continue to get some rain, and the garden sweets will catch up.

So how are everyone else's sweet potatoes doing so far this summer?
 
                      
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I’m not sure if anyone has mentioned this (as this is a very long thread) but I learned a secret that decreased my propagation time by at least half and gave me a ton of slips! I had been using the water method of putting the sweet potato in a cup to sprout, but it often took months for it to do anything and often they would just mold.
Then I read that to get slips bury the potatoes lengthwise half way in a tray (so lay it lengthwise and soil should come up half of the potato) and place it on a heat mat. Sprouts start coming up in about two weeks. 80 degrees for the heat mat seems to be the sweet spot. Water them so they don’t dry out. I did also use an LED grow light setup because I was starting all my other seeds at the same time. I ended up with a ton of slips and all of them took when planted out.
 
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Last year & the first year I tried growing sweet potatoes, I just planted 3 that had started to sprout. They produced about half a milk crate worth of sweet potatoes that were much longer than wide. Part of the reason they didn't produce all that much is because that end of the raised bed has been invaded by tree roots, and it also is partly shaded.

This year, I read some about creating slips; looked over the 5 or 6 sweet potatoes that were left; cut off the ends that showed growth (very approximately a pointed 1 inch cube); stuck the cut side down in a wide, clear glass vase, and poured water about half way up the potato pieces. I kept the water topped up for about 3 weeks and planted out the 5 (all I had room for in the fenced garden) best looking slips in a different part of the raised bed. Haven't dug them yet, but hoping they're going to produce better.

The slips I have left, I'm going to try planting into spaces that have just opened up. Can't imagine they'll have time to make any potatoes, but I'll try my chickens and goose on some of the vine.

I was going to post a pic of the leftover slips, but it doesn't want to upload.
 
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Last year was the first year I tried growing sweet potatoes.  I bought the little box at home depot that had two little shriveled sweet potato seeds in it and grew slips out.  I got a pretty decent harvest from the four slips I planted (probably 10lbs? give or take a little.  I think the variety was Covington.  The vines never got really long, maybe four feet, they didn't get a lot of water, and they were planted in heavy clay covered with wood chips.  The first picture is the harvest from those four plants.  

I tried propagating the leftover small potatoes I saves specifically for the task, but I started too late, and didn't end up with but a few sprouts an inch or so long by the time May hit.  I instead bought twenty slips (0.50 cents a piece) at the local nursery.  There are four different varieties, and of course I can't remember what they were.  Some had roots, most were just a couple of leaves on a stem.  I planted all of them in the first week of May.
Here we are in the middle of August, and the vines are going crazy.  I planted some in my tall raised beds over concrete, some in my low raised beds over the clay, and a four exactly where I had them last year.  Unfortunately I had the valve turned off on my drip irrigation (duh) for the first couple of months on the last set of four, so they're set back a bunch.  They are actually doing about the same as last year's in that spot, but two of them died from lack of water I'm guessing.

I have no idea what to expect as far as the harvest will go.  I have high hopes, but I know the first year I grew beets, I had the biggest leafiest tops ever! and slivers of inedible fibrous beet shoots.  

I'll update when I harvest these probably around November.

Just as a side note, it's been 107f - 115f the last two weeks, and the plants look like they're loving it.  Very low humidity, teens at best.
IMG_20191013_164129806.jpg
Last years harvest of four plants. The vines were only about 4' long. Covington variety.
Last years harvest of four plants. The vines were only about 4' long. Covington variety.
IMG_20200818_161728882_HDR.jpg
This year as of August 18. Same spot as where last year's harvest came from. Stunted early from lack of water.
This year as of August 18. Same spot as where last year's harvest came from. Stunted early from lack of water.
IMG_20200818_161722725_HDR.jpg
These are actually in clay covered with wood chips also. Two plants doing well, lots of afternoon shade.
These are actually in clay covered with wood chips also. Two plants doing well, lots of afternoon shade.
IMG_20200818_161655588_HDR.jpg
In ground beds over clay. Doing great, sun all day. Probably eight plants? Mixed with squash, and asparagus.
In ground beds over clay. Doing great, sun all day. Probably eight plants? Mixed with squash, and asparagus.
IMG_20200818_161739950_HDR.jpg
Opposite view of the last picture. Lot's of squash plants mixed in, and basil, and sunflower, and????????
Opposite view of the last picture. Lot's of squash plants mixed in, and basil, and sunflower, and????????
IMG_20200818_161635649_HDR.jpg
Here's the tall 3' in ground bed with a bunch of them planted in with peppers, and some tired looking broccoli.
Here's the tall 3' in ground bed with a bunch of them planted in with peppers, and some tired looking broccoli.
IMG_20200818_161622690_HDR.jpg
The other side of the raised bed with them climbing a cattle panel.
The other side of the raised bed with them climbing a cattle panel.
IMG_20200818_161558166_HDR.jpg
Here's a couple more that are actually under 40% shade cloth in the tall raised beds.
Here's a couple more that are actually under 40% shade cloth in the tall raised beds.
 
            
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Mark Reed wrote:In my experience sweet potatoes are extremely easy to propagate. A shoot say four or five inches long does not even need roots. You can just stick it in the ground and keep it watered good for a few days. Only qualifier for that is that it should be above 50 F at night.



Maybe I'm alone but each time I try making my own slips I just get a rotting mess, if anything. Now I have a bunch of sweet potatoes with several vine slips going and I am about 8 months out of sync with when I should have the slips. Here is where I throw caution to the wind - I'll pull the slips and try to keep them as a vine house plant for the winter and set slips out around June 1 next year. A bundle of slips were stupid expensive around here when I was looking, over a dollar a slip at the local garden center.

My ignorance of growing these. Can I plant these as a vine ground cover under trellised tomatoes? Are the vines badly damaged if stepped on during the season?
 
Mark Reed
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I find them easy to keep as houseplants. I have south facing windows and just take cuttings in the fall and stick them in small pots or plastic drinking cups. They get a lot of abuse as the windows are drafty and I heat with a wood stove so sometimes on a sunny day it's very hot and on a cold windy night it's pretty cold but they hang on. As long as there is even a little life left in them come spring they start growing again. I don't  transplant them from the pots, instead when they resume growth I take new cuttings. I have had spider mites infest them when inside as house plants. I just hold them under the kitchen faucet and wash them off.

I think there are lots of ways to make slips from saved roots (sweet potatoes are roots not tubers) but I do it in damp sand in those same windows. I just fill shallow trays with sand and set the saved roots about 1/2 way buried in in it and keep it moist. Actually this past spring I experimented with doing it outside in an unheated cold frame and it worked well.

I don't know that it would be good to grow them as ground cover under other plants. For one thing especially on those that have long trailing vines is they will root down anywhere those long vines contact the ground. That causes them to start making storage roots at all those places and ends up with lots of little storage roots spread out all over the place. If the vines can be prevented from doing that by trellising or even trimming you get a better harvest of larger roots closer to the main stem. I grow a lot in  pots but on those in the ground I go along and lift up the longer vines and point them back and drop them  on top of the rest of the pant. On especially unruly ones I might cut them off and if it's early enough in the season plant the trimmings.  



 
 
She said she got a brazillian. I think owning people is wrong. That is how I learned ... tiny ad:
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https://permies.com/t/148912/permaculture-projects/week-Garden-Master-poor-man
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