Starting Sweet potatoes
Roots ready to cover to produce slips in 3-4 weeks is shown above. In the early 1990's it seemed Spring was earlier and Fall was early as well and I always had the starting bed ready by April 25. Now, it is never warm enough until the first weekend in May and some years that pushes it. Last weekend I wanted to get the sweet potatoes bedded but was thankful it did not work as it was too cold. High was in the low 40's and we had snow 60 miles north of us. It also rained over 3 inches this week, was cloudy and cool and that would have resulted in a lot of rotten roots. I learned sometime ago haste makes waste with sweet potatoes. Lots of false information exists as well as many myths about where they can be grown. It is one of our goals here at Sandhill Preservation Center to educate and dispel as many myths as we can. First, don't rush to plant the slips. We have done years of research and have found that early planted slips in cool soil results in many problems. The faster they grow the fewer problems you will have. We will address many of the myths and false teachings as the season progresses. Today the goal is to focus on how to produce slips.
Last Fall we had record rain, 25 inches in the final six weeks of the growing season and even though we have sand it was waterlogged and it was hard on the roots. The longer they spent in the rain soaked ground the poorer they kept. In a typical year we lose about 1-5% of the roots we store over winter( from October digging to early May planting). This year we had about a 15-20 % loss overall. Some varieties had no lost roots as they were dug sooner, but the longer we left them in the cold wet soil the more damage. We will address harvesting in a September entry. Our starting process involves making long beds using landscape edging to hold the sides, dig down 4 -6 inches between the 3 foot wide edging strips, place the roots, put the soil back in on top of them and then top dress with sphagnum peat moss to help acidify conditions and this reduces the conditions for any fungi to grow on the slips. Then we water down the area and if it is going to be cold lay plastic over the top for a few days. In about 3 weeks the first slips will appear. If it is cool then it will take 4 weeks. Remember we have very sandy soil so this works well for us. You would need to modify this in heavy soil and use more peat moss. On a micro scale you can do this in plastic dish pans. Layer the bottom with soil, place the roots then cover with a mixture of sand and peat. As the slips emerge we will do some follow up photos. The above photo is just the first 2 of many rows.