Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Sweet Potatoes


When it comes to growing a veg that I love, I don't give up that easily if I run into problems.  Case in point - sweet potatoes.  I'm on my third year and have yet to have a good harvest.

This past season, with it's super hot summer, I was convinced that I would get a halfway decent haul.  I grew the potatoes in both black grow bags and large plastic tubs but neither yielded a particularly impressive harvest.

One of the sweet potato tubs,
just before tipping it over to reveal the harvest

I harvested roughly the same amount from both types of container.  However, I preferred the potatoes from the grow bags as they gave me fewer but larger potatoes (vs. the tubs which yielded a larger quantity of small potatoes).


One possible reason for the lackluster performance was that the slips took forever to develop.  Ideally they would have been transplanted in early June but they didn't end up in their summer home until one month later.

Slips were planted on July 6th - about 1 month too late

In early February of last year, I had placed the skewered sweet potatoes, half submerged in water, on my kitchen windowsill and they literally sat there for weeks with nothing happening.  In hindsight, this was not surprising - sweet potatoes love the heat and although my kitchen window was sunny, warm it was not, especially when the sun wasn't shining and temperatures outside dipped below zero.

This year, I decided to give them a much toastier start - on a heat mat in the basement.  After only 4 weeks or so, we had a nice root system happening:

Lots of lovely roots

Not long after, slips started to appear. But then there was an unfortunate accident - I bumped the top of the potato on the grow light and one of the slips fell off.  What to do?  Well, the only reasonable thing:  Plant that little 1" long slip and hope it takes root.

So far so good - at least it hasn't died yet!

So that's one of two potatoes I have on the heat mat.  The other one, which is quite a bit larger, is taking it's sweet time - only one tiny root has developed so far:


I'm not sure if the size is the determining factor or not - perhaps I placed the 2nd potato upside down in the water.  It's often hard to tell which way is up with these guys.  I've decide to leave it as is and see what happens.

At this point, I'm fairly sure that I'm ahead of where I was at this time last year.  Third time is the charm, right? :)

“Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things” ~~ Robert Brault

26 comments:

  1. I'll keep my fingers crossed for you this year. I've never tried growing sweet potatoes, though it's not something I particularly enjoy and the rest of the family don't either. It's interesting how they're grown though starting them off a little differently to other things.

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    1. They are different from most any other crop, aren't they? I've actually seen them used as ornamentals, even in public gardens, which is something I didn't notice until I started growing them.

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  2. Hi Margaret, I won't be growing any sweet potatoes her most likely as have only so much room so have to pick and choose Hard decisions! I do wish you lots of luck though on growing yours!! Nancy

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    1. Thanks Nancy :) It is hard to choose as we all want to grow everything but there is never enough room!

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  3. I don't know if you saw my first post about sweet potatoes (https://ourlittlefield.blogspot.co.uk/2017/02/growing-sweet-potatoes.html) but I'm soon to do an update post. I started mine in January. I have potted one up in the green house already and another 2 outside to see it they succumb to frost - they have some protection. I have so many slips from one potato (about 27) that I am planting one in different conditions right up to mid May when I will then stick loads of them outside.

    I think they may need a much longer growing season if the temperature isn't as high as they want. (maybe)

    My first potato grew roots first, slips second very quick. Under the same conditions my second potato grew slips first then very few roots - also a lot less slips. They came from the same place but I think they either behave different upside down or, more likely i feel, are 2 different varieties.

    Anyway, I'm determined to get a good crop, some how, and I'm becoming obsessed :)

    Apologies for the long comment...

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    1. Wow - 27 slips from one potato! I would be more than happy if mine were half as productive.

      That's interesting about the difference between your potatoes. In my case, both of the potatoes are from my crop last year which was a single variety - although I have no idea what it was (other than it was grown in Ontario) as I purchased it at the grocery store.

      We had VERY hot weather last year - over 30C for days on end - so I was sure I would have a good harvest. I'm not looking forward to another summer like that, but if I get some nice sweet potatoes in the end, at least that will be one benefit! I'm looking forward to seeing how all of your different plantings do :)

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  4. Hi Margaret, I posted a comment this morning but it seems to have gotten lost in cyber space.
    I read that sweet potatoes prefer acidic soil so I amend my container potting mix and my garden bed with peat moss and well composted cow manure and also add organic granular fertilizer. Go to my "Harvest Monday, November 16, 2015 - Growing Sweet Potatoes in Container Update" for results of 1 plant. (I wanted to send you the link but don't know how). Do keep us updated on your little 1" long slip, hope it takes root.

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    1. I didn't realize that sweet potatoes liked acidic soil - our soil is alkaline so that may very well be it. I've made a note to add peat moss to the soil mixture when I pot them up. And I will most definitely keep you updated on my tiny slip :)

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    2. I figured out, I think, how to send you the link. https://gardentowok.wordpress.com/2015/11/16/harvest-monday-november-16-2015-growing-sweet-potatoes-in-container-update/

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  5. I look forward to hearing how successful this was.

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    1. Hopefully we have more success this year than last!

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  6. That's exciting! I thought about trying potatoes (or sweet potatoes) this year, but I just don't have enough sun. I'll look forward to your results!

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    1. You may want to try your hand at potatoes if you have a partly sunny spot. They can definitely be grown in part-sun and, in fact, if you consider our super hot summer last year, they may do better as they don't like it when it's too hot.

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  7. No sweet potatoes for me this year. Last year voles got nearly all of them.

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    1. Ugh - I had my first run-in with them last year but thankfully, they didn't do much damage. I used one of those ultrasonic devices in the area where I noticed their holes although I'm not exactly sure if that was why (but I'm definitely putting it up again this year!).

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  8. Hi Margaret---I'm back ,and ready to pester you again!
    I've struggled with growing sweet potatoes as well. Last year's long season helped, but I ended up chopping up most of the taters while digging, and the "curing" process I tried rotted the other ones. But-like you--I persist, cuz dang, those taters are wonderful.
    Best of luck to you on yours. I've got starts growing as well and am trying them in BIG tubs UNDER the Agribon fabric this year.
    I'm gonna end up with a tater if it kills me..........
    Happy Spring!
    :)

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    1. Hurray! I love your pestering ;)

      I actually didn't do much this year to cure the small sweet potato harvest (bad me!), but just put them in the basement. I think they need good air circulation but also high humidity. I had a couple go bad but otherwise, they did ok.

      Using the agribon sounds like a great idea - it should make for a toastier environment. You have such good ideas...I may just "borrow" that one. This will be OUR sweet potato year, when we finally figure it out, right? :)

      I'm glad your are back and hope you had a wonderful, relaxing break :)

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  9. I'm with you, I could eat a sweet potato everyday. The best place I've unintentionally grown sweet potatoes is in out compost pile. I hope you have a better haul this year. Looks like you're off to a good start.

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    1. Thanks Karin - I hope I get enough slips to plant up at least a few grow bags this year.

      And that's so funny about the compost sweet potatoes - I've often heard of volunteer squash in the compost but never volunteer sweet potatoes - how wonderful! If I had a good pile going (I haven't really found my compost groove yet!) and some extra slips, I would totally give it a try.

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  10. I love sweet potatoes. Impressed that you can grow them in Ontario!

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    1. Well, I can say that I have grown them, but the next step is to grow them well :)

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  11. I do hope that the third time is a charm with those sweet potatoes! I have trouble telling which end is which, but usually mine start sprouting and that makes it easy. I do think the heat mat is the way to go, and that's what I used when I lived on the farm and started lots and lots of them. I've not noticed the pH making a big difference here but last year mine had too much nitrogen and they did not like that at all. This year they will get no N, since I believe they will get plenty from the organic material in my soil. In years past they did fine with no additional fertilizer of any kind, so we will see.

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    1. That's good to know - I did add manure to the growing mix and maybe I shouldn't have, although the kind I get is commercial (in a bag) and the ratios are fairly small. I've made a note to omit that from the mix this season - hopefully it makes a difference.

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  12. I have yet to try sweet potatoes, but want to some day. A few years ago, a friend gave my mom one little plant and told her to plant it. My mom is a "stick it" gardener - stick it in the ground and see what happens. She ended up with 11 pounds of sweet potatoes from that plant! Funny thing is, she's never planted them again. I hope threes a charm for your sweet potatoes.

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    1. Wow - your lucky mom! And here I am with all the coddling, etc., and end up with less than half that amount. Maybe she has the magic touch and when you decide to give it a go, you can ask her to "stick it" in your garden ;)

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