Can I use a store-bought sweet potato?

kvbchMarch 13, 2008

Like most of us gardeners, I enjoy doing things with as little cost as possible - within reason of course.

I'm planning on growing some sweet potatoes in my garden this year and my question is: Can I just go to the store, buy some sweet potatoes, cut them in half and plant them in my garden??

Will this work?

Kevin

Zone 6

Deep Southern Illinois

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denninmi(8a)

You can use store-bought sweet potatoes for to grow starts. There are a couple of things to watch out for, though.

1) They are often treated with a sprout inhibitor. It's best to try to find some which already have sprouts on them if at all possible. Generally, if you hunt through a pile of them, you can usually find a few starting to grow.

If you can't, buy the freshest, nicest, least-blemished or bruised ones you can, and put them in a paper sack in a warm, dry place for three or four weeks. This will often start them sprouting. Alternatively, just plant in moist potting soil and see what happens.

2) Cutting in half isn't really an appropriate way to do this. I suppose it could be done, but I've never really heard of the pracice, and I think they would most likely just rot. Unlike "Irish" potatoes, sweet potatoes only have meristematic tissue capable of growing shoots on one end, in my experience, and the other end (generally the more pointy end) grows root tissue. So, if you do try cutting them, you need to cut them in half vertically (lengthwise) so that each half has some tissue from each end.

3) The usual method of starting sweet potatoes is from "slips" -- rooted cuttings. Generally, you can plant a sweet potatoe in potting soil, and it will send out several to many shoots. These will grow rapidly, and can then be cut into about 4 to 6 inch lengths, rooted in water, and then planted out in the garden (be sure to acclimate them to outdoor conditions first).

You CAN grow them by planting whole tubers, I've done it, and it works fine, but it's more expensive than just buying one tuber and growing slips -- you can get many, many slips from one tuber.

Hope this gives you some guidance. I'll be interested to see if anyone knows about cutting them in half.

    Bookmark   March 13, 2008 at 2:50PM
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gardenlen(s/e qld aust)

g'day kevin,

ues most of the larger stores have their sweet potato's treated so they won't sprout on the shelf.

buy a tuber from an organic store or look for tubers showing signs of sprouting.

the easiest way, when you find a tuber to get it sprouting is cut in in 1/2 through the middle and stand each cut end in a little water, keep the water up to them. the tubers will start to sprout generally from the top bit first, as the sprouts get to about 4"s long cut off that section and plant it if there are lots of sprouts evenly spread you could divide it as well?

you don't need roots just keep well watered until they take and settle. after removing that section stand the tuber back in the water and it will keep sprouting, so you can keep doing this until the last section sprouts then plant it as well.

you don't need roots, but the tuber will generally form roots in the water, this then becomes the added bonus for the final planting.

you may even ask at some smaller vege' stores to see if they are throwing any old sprouting tubers out.

len

Here is a link that might be useful: len's garden page

    Bookmark   March 13, 2008 at 3:08PM
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bcomplx(z6VA)

Great tips here. I often grow my sweets from tubers bought at stores, organic preferred. Just want to add that you probably want a variety with smallish roots as opposed to those big bohunkers. A couple of years back I grew some little red-skinned cuties I bought at Greenlife, and they did great.

Sweetpotatoes make a great goundcover, you know. The vines need help, but if you tie them you can run them up a trellis, too. I think they're a great edible ornamental.

Here is a link that might be useful: my website

    Bookmark   March 14, 2008 at 9:08AM
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gardenlen(s/e qld aust)

also the vines don't need to be allowed to grow rampantly they can be kept pruned to a tidy form, also will grow well in shaded well lit areas.

and the young tip ends and leaves are edible as well often eaten in place of spinach/silverbeet but only steam them until they wilt.

len

    Bookmark   March 14, 2008 at 3:01PM
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tamrootbeer(Z9CocoaCentFl)

I love my accidental sweet potato vines. I had one that rolled to a hiding spot in the pantry. By the time I found it, it was all shriveled up. I thought...hmmm...the new garden ground cover rage is sweet potato vines...why not. I took it out to the bare area next to our front walk and buried it. For the past 4 or 5 years, it has spread happily in this area, filling it with beautiful vines each year. I don't eat them as they are tiny, reedy, and possibly contaminated with termite treatment. They don't give up at all. And they grow new pretty vines each year too. What a neat accidental discovery!

    Bookmark   March 15, 2008 at 5:54PM
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peanuttree

tamrootbeer (and everybody), you can eat the leaves. I had read about this but figured that they would just taste OK or even bad, but my filipino maid says they're tasty, so I'm going to grow some sweet potato vines this year.

My question is, when making slips by keeping a sweet potato half-submerged in water, would it help to add water-soluble fertilizer? I know it's not necessary and I wouldn't normally do it, but my father just bought me some for my aerogarden, so it's sitting right there next to the jar with the sweet potato. Would it hurt? Also, the sweet potato isn't sprouting, and it's been almost a week. Will it not sprout? Do I need to try another one?

    Bookmark   March 17, 2008 at 7:46PM
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macmex

Peanuttree,

It may take a while to start sprouting. Make sure that it is warm. If it is not warm, as in over 70 F. it will just sit there until it does warm up. Actually, 70 F is probably just a little on the cool side. Mine sprout best if I start them while we are still using our wood burning stove to heat the house. Then the planter is in an area at about 80 F. The sweet potatoes really go to town under those conditions. A couple of times I started them when we were no longer using the wood stove. Though we were comfortable, the sweet potatoes were very slow to start sprouting.

I doubt that the soluble fertilizer would make it sprout sooner, but have no idea about whether it would be beneficial or not once the root starts making vines. If no one can give you advise based on experience I'd recommend caution. I do know that they will sprout very well without any fertilizer. Personally I prefer to sprout mine, on their sides, in good potting soil. But that's just preference.

George
Tahlequah, OK

    Bookmark   March 18, 2008 at 11:26AM
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