Unlike regular potatoes that thrive in cool soils, sweet potatoes thrive in hot areas. However, sweet potatoes can be grown comfortably in tropical, sub-tropical and cool climates. They are liked by many people because they are a perfect substitute for regular potatoes, are less susceptible to diseases, are nutritious and require little water and fertilizer to grow.
How to start and grow new sweet potatoes
There are two types of sweet potatoes; the bush and vining varieties.
Start the slips
Unlike most vegetables, sweet potatoes growth is not started from seeds. They are started from slips; shoots that are grown from mature sweet potatoes. You can buy an organic sweet potato from your nearest store and grow your slips. Before buying, confirm whether you are buying a vining or bush type.
To start slips on your sweet potatoes, wash them and cut them into halves or bigger parts. Place each section of the sweet potatoes in a jar of water and ensure that half of the potato is under water. You can use a toothpick to hold the sweet potato pieces in place. Every sweet potato can produce up to 50 sprouts. The slips need warmth. Thus, it is advisable to place them on top of radiators or window ledges. Within no time, your sweet potato pieces will be covered with leafy sprouts at the top and roots at the bottom.
Root the slips
After the potato pieces have sprouted, separate them into plantable slips. Take each sprout out by carefully twisting it off the sweet potato pieces. Lay the sprouts in a shallow bowl but ensure that the stems are submerged in water, and the leaves are hanging over the shallow bowl. In a few days, the roots will emerge from the bottom of every plant. The slips will be ready for planting once the roots get to a length of one inch. To produce healthy slips, keep the water in the bowl fresh and discard all slips that do not show signs of root production.
Prepare the soil
Sweet potatoes thrive in loose, well-drained soils. Loose soil is important than any other factor that should be considered when planting sweet potatoes. You do not want your slip roots to face resistance when trying to expand under the soil.
Planting the slips
Use a small hand trowel to dig 4 inches deep holes that should be about 3 inches wide. Place every slip in its hole and ensure that the roots are pointing down. Position the slip such that, the bottom half is covered in soil while the upper part with new leaves is above ground. Be careful not to bruise the slips when planting. When done, gently press the plant and the soil to remove any air pockets and set the plant.
Once all the slips are in place as required, water them. Give them a thorough soak until the soil surrounding the slips is wet. Water the slips daily for about two weeks’ to boost faster and healthier growth.
Sweet potatoes can withstand drought but produce less. So, ensure you water them thoroughly during hot seasons.