Sweet Potato Cultivation


I don’t really worry about how much sweet potatoes vine out, because I’m mostly planting multiple rows, and it’s fine if they grow into and over each other. I plant my rows 3-1/2 to 4’ apart. Some varieties probably grow twice that far in each direction, maybe even more. But the Porto Ricos just barely close the aisles, I would say.

Anne, I don’t know about that quote. Sweet potatoes are incredibly tough, though. I’ve put tiny pieces of vine in the ground with no roots and so long as they get halfway decent moisture to get started they mostly make it. Although I’ve used slips without roots, they’ve always been fresh from my own bedded potatoes. I’ve never bought slips without roots.


If I were to experiment with just a couple plants up here near Minneapolis, would Porto Rico be a good one to try? Can one buy just a couple slips? I like to experiment, but many of my experiments haven’t panned out.


Minnesota would be so different, I really wouldn’t know, but my first thought would be to grow a variety that’s supposed to mature early. I’ve seen Porto Rico listed as mid-season (and Nancy Hall as late). A variety I’ve only read about that you might want to look into is Allgold. I think it’s supposed to be early and similar in taste and type to Porto Rico.


Thanks, cousinfloyd.


My mom is growing her sweet potato again for 2017. New year new sweet potato I guess and so far this looks like a great year for slips. This is one of the sweet potatoes she over wintered in the basement.


I grow Garnet SP here in KY and they do great. I started about six years ago with a Garnet from the grocery that I sprouted. It’s a dark purpleish red, with great flavor. It has attractive vines and a relatively tidy habit. I’ve even grown it in large containers as an ornamental. I grow more than I can eat, so my parents take home buckets every fall! Organic Garnet are $3-4 a pound where they live.


Thanks, I’ll keep that in mind for next year. We’ve already planted our regular and sweet potatoes for the year. Put them in the ground about 2 weeks ago. The SP were Beauregard’s that we got from Walmart or Lowe’s. We’ve had lots of rain since then, so hope the seed taters aren’t rotting in the ground. Haven’t even checked to see if they’ve sprouted yet.


I have planted SP in the past but this year I planted just a few out a little ways from my blueberries with the intent of them forming an intense ground cover for my berry plants. The ones I planted are Beauregard.


Are these regular potatoes? Had they not sprouted before you planted them? In our abundantly wet springs I find potatoes will more likely rot if not sufficiently sprouted. If well sprouted, no need to worry about lotsa rain or rotting.


Well, when I cut them up, I made sure there were a couple “eyes” on them before planting. Some had very small sprouts, others didn’t.

I haven’t been able to get out into the patch to see if any have broken thru the soil yet. Too wet still, but it ought to be better in a couple days, we’re not supposed to have any rain until the weekend. So, I have a lot of planting to do this week.


They did real well for us last year, we got maybe 40lb out of our Beauregards. We planted 14 slips, I believe.

That was the first year we’ve been able to harvest any SP, previous years the deer kept eating them to the ground. But last year I used my fishing line perimeter around them and they left them alone.


Please excuse me that I don’t know this. What is a slip of sweet potatoes? How does it come and can you plant straight in the ground from a slip? Thanks. I want to plant sweet potatoes…


A slip is the vegetative growth from the sweet potato when it ‘sprouts’ which is placed, usually in water, to produce roots. Don’t know how they got the name ‘slips’. So unlike regular potatoes which are planted when they sprout - tuber and all, only the vegetative growth from a sweet potato (the slip) is planted.
So when you want to grow regular potatoes, you purchase the tubers, when you want to grow sweet potatoes, you purchase slips.


Id guess they got their name because the sprouts come off the potato easily. They “slip” off. But that is just a guess.


Just in case it wasn’t clear to Dutchs, you do not need to purchase slips. You can purchase a normal sweet potato, put it in soil and it will grow sprouts (slips). If you leave it in the soil under the right growing conditions, you will have sweet potatoes in 4 months or so.


Just found this thread and enjoyed reading it. I grew up in a little community called Golden, Texas which was known for growing watermelons and sweet potatoes. A lot of them. Golden totaled a post office, a small store, and a set of truck scales. The land around Golden ranged from sandy loam to fertile loam and the farmers harvested watermelons in the summer and sweet potatoes in the fall. They had a few steady workers but a lot of the labor was the community children and teenagers. We had no child labor laws in this area but all us kiddos worked because we enjoyed it and made some money. Farmers would pick us up at school and we would work until dark. We worked on Saturdays from dawn to dusk. We did what was needed for that crop at that time of year.

In late winter the farmer would prepare his (sweet potato) slip bed by cultivating and digging out an area to plant last years potatoes saved for seed. These would be covered with soil and then covered with black plastic to draw warmth. The plastic was removed as the sprouts broke ground and by “setting time” in April/May the slip bed would be a solid mass of sweet potato growth. Select people would start at dawn and “pull slips” stacking them in a “tater crate”…a square slatted box that held a bushel volume. The slips were packed in the crate root down and in a good year they were about as long as the crate was high. These crates were taken to the field for planting. This is where the kids came in. I don’t know how old you had to be to work the fields but I know some were probably as young as 9-10 with others being teenagers. We worked in pairs with usually a younger child and a teenager. Some of you may be as old as I am and remember setting slips before the tractor pulled a “setter”. The actual planting was quite interesting.

The row was freshly plowed and mounded up in a high row. A tractor with a dredge would prepare the row. The dredge consisted of box that flattened a row followed by a wheel that had two projections on it that marked the row about every 18 inches or so. The team of “setters” consisted of a “dropper” and a “puncher”. The dropper’s job was to place a slip in the center of the row with the end of the root on one of the marks. The puncher carried an aluminum stick that was flattened on one end and had a wide blunt smooth tip. A puncher would place this blunt flattened end on the tip of the tough root and push the plant into the soft plowed ground bringing the slip upright. Then the puncher would bring his foot up stepping next to the slip to firm up the soil around it. Drop. Punch. Step. Acres and acres.

As I got older the farmers were having tractors pull equipment that dredged the row and two people rode in seats alternately laying the slips into a belt driven area that took the plant down and set it into the soil. Usually the older boys got to ride the setter and they were paid 10 cents an hour more to ride–and deride–the rest of us.

Just a little trip down memory lane…good times…


We have 500 Georgia Jet sweet potato slips coming in next week. They were less then $70.00
We grew this variety a few years ago, and they did very well here.

We like them baked, steamed, raw, and of course candied.

I love reading about kids growing up doing real work. We are raising old fashioned country boys and girls, and they help in the garden and with the livestock. That sort of productive living is what life is made of!


In theory this should work but I’ve never tried it so I was reluctant to recommend it. Have you done this? I’d be curious how the sweet potatoes turned out. I mean there is a reason these are usually grown from slips and not grown like regular potatoes, just never tried it.


Yes I have done this and it works great. The sweet potatoes are not any different than what you’d expect. My point was if you want slips you can grow many yourself off one sweet potato. If you don’t harvest the slips, they will naturally grow into sweet potatoes given proper conditions.


I just found this thread too. I am growing sweet potatoes this year also. I have read and watched a lot of videos on propagation. I read that you want to plant the slip and not the potato. The roots from the slips will grow the potatoes. Of course the potato will grow slips and those will root and grow potatoes. They also say for northern growers to put clear plastic over your ground before planting to get the soil to warm up. They stressed clear and not black. They say the clear allows the sun to get through and get trapped better. I also read that short season varieties like the Georgia Jet do well in the north. Some say it can’t be done in the north without a greenhouse. I’m trying a white plastic barrel with a trellis above it. I purchased red, white, and copper colored potatoes. They don’t sell Georgia Jet around here unless I were to order from the online stores. That just doesn’t seem feasible after shipping. I put them in a bucket with shredded leaf mold barley covering them in my hot boiler room with a door wall. 85 degrees grew them in two weeks! It was to cold out to plant yet so I put my barrel in there and planted 2/3 of it. I just put it out last week but the temps are still getting down to 50. They don’t want to grow yet but we have warmer weather coming next week. I didn’t protect them till last night. I saw a turkey pulling a slip out of the side of the barrel. Luckily she only ate one. I put chicken wire up but it needs to be pined down and braced yet. It will be interesting to see if they grow. Most of the slips lost their leaves that were growing in the boiler room, but new growth has come out where the leaves were with dark vines and green leaves starting. This is my first year growing regular potatoes too. I can’t wait to dump my pots. The regular ones are starting to flower. They are mostly in 55 gal drums cut in half. I have 11 containers growing very well.