Look what’s happened to me again. I say again because exactly the same thing happened last year. A long forgotten sweet potato decided to shoot while abandoned in the back of my cupboard. Cool huh? Like last year I plan to turn this happy accident into a growing opportunity.
My plan is to leave this one in the back of the cupboard until July/August then separate each of the four shoots from the tuber and place them into a glass of water until they form roots. This worked really well last year. Roots formed within a week or two at which point I planted then into 10cm pots filled with potting mix. I can’t think of any reason why you couldn’t skip the rooting in water stage but I do quite like rooting plants in water occasionally so the kids can see what’s happening. I kept the seedlings inside the house until the weather warmed up in October and I could see roots creeping out the bottom of the pot. I then planted them in the garden.
Of course relying on lost potatoes in the back of your cupboard for shoots is probably not the best planning in the world. If you haven’t forgotten to eat a sweet potato but still want to grow them Garden to Wok shows you how to get them to shoot by putting the tubers into glasses of water. Mine grew from normal supermarket bought sweet potatoes. I think the variety that are generally sold in Australia are Beauregard so I presume that is what I have been growing.
The other propagation alternative is to grow them from cuttings. Sweet potatoes strike incredibly easily, in fact mine layered (when the stem puts down roots upon contact with the soil) themselves in many places - where ever they had come into contact with the ground. At the points that they layered themselves they also began to form tubers – although these weren’t nearly as developed as those at the initial planting site. Sweet potatoes are pretty vigorous, mine grew pretty much anywhere I let them. Next year I think I will trail the vine up and over something (hopefully a chicken house if we ever finish it) rather than just letting it run rampant over the ground and up the fence. Although the below picture doesn’t really show the extent of its spread you can see it both attempting to engulf my lemongrass and heading skyward up the fence.
My sweet potatoes were planted out at the very end of October so they had about 6 months growing time. They didn’t have anything like full sun but what sun they had was warm afternoon sun, and the place I planted them is pretty sheltered. Before planting I prepared the ground with cow manure and then mulched thickly after planting.
My understanding is that its best to avoid feeding them with too much chook manure as its high in nitrogen and they will put on leaves at the expense of tuber growth. From each plant – I only planted 2 – I have probably harvested about a kg of tubers. Not a sensational return but still pretty exciting.
I have harvested one plant completely but left some of its layered stems in place. The other plant I have left in after bandicooting a couple of large tubers from it. Sweet potatoes are perennial but it will be interesting to see how it deals with a Melbourne winter. My feeling is that; if any remaining tubers don’t rot over winter then there’s no reason why they shouldn’t send up new shoots in Spring.
Normally on Thursday’s I post a recipe but I’m struggling to find the time during the day to both cook and photograph a dish. Hopefully I will get a chance this weekend and will be back to recipes this time next week.