Each year we all have different stories to share from our gardening endeavors as the seasons come and go. Now that we're in the midst of winter gardening, we wanted to reminisce about one of our most exciting experiences from this past summer. With winter weather about to bear down upon us, we hope this story of warm weather will warm your gardener's heart and get you hopeful for the spring and summer to come...
Last year a friend gave me half a dozen large, lovely, and delicious sweet potatoes. And they were grown locally. So this spring I started thinking, “I can grow sweet potatoes!” I looked into ordering slips, but it was too early in the year. Most places ship slips in May or June. So I shelved the idea and got busy with everything else in my life and suddenly it was late June. I looked online again and many farms were sold-out of slips. But in early July, while I was at a farmer’s market, I saw some organic sweet potatoes for sale and started talking to the seller. I told him I wanted to try growing my own. He gave me a potato and said, “Stick this in some dirt and start watering it.” Really?! That’s it? Seemed so simple!
Into a small pot of dirt went that sweet potato and I watered it faithfully. And waited. And watered. And waited. Now, call me impatient, or blame it on anticipation, but after about a month of staring at dirt in that pot I dug in. The potato was sitting stoically in the dirt. I picked it up and happily noticed the start of a slip on the underneath side. A slip is basically a sprout that grows from the eyes of the potato. It’s like a root/stem combo with small leaves on it. So I nestled that potato back into the dirt and covered it up again. A few weeks later I had two slips emerging from the dirt
I snapped the slips off of the potato and stuck them into one of our raised bed gardens that had some space. I wish I had taken some pictures at this point but I was rather skeptical of anything happening considering it was now August. But August in Texas means at least two more months of hot weather so I was still just a little hopeful. Well not much of anything happened. The slip grew a few more inches and the leaves unfurled and I had a two small sweet potato plants. And I mean small. They were each the size of my hand. And that’s how they stayed. Once again I started to lose hope. In September we had several consecutive days of steady rain and after that: GROWTH! It was like they had gone on steroids. The stems grew, the leaves multiplied, the height and width and length of the plants expanded by leaps and bounds. Woohoo! They’re finally growing! Or so I hoped. You never really know what’s happening underground.
I waited about a month and in the meantime planted other seeds in the garden for the fall. Those seeds sprouted and those plants grew and some of them needed more space. So, reluctantly, I pulled up one of the plants. And, lo and behold, dangling from the large verdant vines were three small potatoes. Fingerling potatoes. Literally. The size of my fingers. I kicked myself for pulling them up early, but there was no going back now. I decided to leave the other plant in longer. About four weeks later I pulled up the remaining plant and, voila! To my great pleasure and surprise I had a large, beautiful sweet potato! Here’s my son with the vine draped around his shoulders and our single prize potato in his hands, as well as my fingerlings:
It was a fun experiment and I’ll definitely try again next year. I hope you enjoyed the saga and will try to grow some of your own sweet potatoes, too! Here’s some tips from what I learned: