Sweet potatoes are one of my best performing crops in the garden, and also one of my favorite foods to eat. This year I am starting four varieties myself (Beauregard, Bonita, Korean Purple and Purple) and I am ordering slips of several new-to-me varieties (Carolina Ruby, Garnet, Ginseng, Murasaki, O’Henry and Red Japanese) from three sources (Duck Creek Farms, Southern Exposure Seed Exchange and Territorial Seed). Starting slips yourself is really easy, and I did a post on the subject back in 2015 (Starting Sweet Potatoes) so I won’t go into those details here. This year I am taking the added step of encouraging the seed potatoes to form sprouts.
A couple of the varieties I am starting myself have been slow to sprout in storage, which is a good thing for eating purposes but not so good for making slips. So I have selected the roots I want to use for sprouting and brought them upstairs from the basement storage area into a warm spot to sprout. We have a closet we use for general storage that stays quite warm in winter due to a heat outlet in there, and I figured that would be an ideal place to get the roots sprouting. The best roots for sprouting aren’t necessarily the biggest and best for eating, so I select smaller ones and definitely any that are already showing signs of sprouting. Also, since I will be putting these in water to form slips I want roots that will fit in a wide-mouth pint jar. You can see in the below photo a Korean Purple root that is starting to show the first signs of sprouting.
The process for sprouting sweet potatoes is similar to chitting potatoes, but also different in that you put the roots in a warm, dark place instead of a cool, light location like you do for the potato tubers. I will put the roots in water in early April, which should give me big, healthy rooted slips for planting out sometime in late May or early June.
Sweet potatoes are an easy and productive crop to grow in the home garden if you have a long, warm summer growing season. And while store bought sweet potatoes might be delicious and relatively inexpensive, there is so much variety of colors and textures to be had if you grow your own. Sweet potatoes can be expected to yield about 2 pounds of roots per hill, but in a good year here they can yield even more. 2017 was a bumper year for sweet potatoes and we averaged 3.33 pounds per hill, with the best variety Beauregard averaging over 5 pounds per hill.
For more information: