From scratch in this case means not buying the expensive sweet potato plants (slips) from the garden center. They easily sell for £3 -£4 per plant. And you need a lot to get a good crop of sweet potatoes. Last year Matt and I tried growing 2 plants. We got maybe 6 sweet potatoes from those two plants that varied in size. This year we decided we wanted more but didn’t want to spend the money buying plants. So we googled it. The whole process took about 10 months, from potato to potato!
The first thing I tried was to save and overwinter slips from last years plants. These sort of look like the strawberry runners you get around this time of year. But I went home to Canada for a month in December and they died. You have to pot them up and keep them somewhere cool where they won’t freeze and water them occasionally.
So we googled it again. The second thing I did was to buy 3 organic sweet potatoes from Waitrose (the local grocery store). I stuck some tooth picks in their sides and sat the whole thing in a mason jar full of water and waited. This was back in January.
About a month later, there was the smallest sign of progress! Roots started sprouting out the sides of the potatoes. A month after that (around mid-March) I had some leafy sprouting stuff going on at the top!
The next step was to root the slips (the leafy sprouty things). You just snap off the slip at it’s base, as close to the potato as possible, and then stick the slip in another jar of water. Check up on them periodically and once you have some nice new roots you can pot them up. If the ground is warm and there’s no chance of frost you can also plant them right in the ground at this stage. It was only late March – April when we had rooted slips ready to plant, so we potted them up and moved them into the greenhouse to grow on.
And finally in early June, we planted them out. To prepare the bed, Matt rotovated it twice. This was to make sure the earth was really loose and airy so the sweet potatoes had lots of space to grow! I watered almost daily because of the weird dry UK summer we had, and I fed about once a week with liquid seaweed.
Last week (the last week of September) we had our first frost and the leaves started turning black on the sweet potato vines, so I figured it was time to dig ’em up.
They need to cure in the sun for about a week I think, then they will be good and sweet and ready for Thanksgiving dinner!