How do you cut your own sweet potato slips?

cabrita(9b SoCal)May 11, 2009

I have read all sweet potato posts/threads in Garden Web, but we still have questions.

From reading previous threads on the subject it seems that water roots and soil roots are different so soil roots need to be grown separately. We found out after they were already soaking in water and held by toothpicks, with greenery overflowing, so it is too late now. We also read (from these forums) that cutting the sweet potato in pieces is not the thing to do. Now we have sweet potato starts and we were thinking about cutting a little cone around the slips and plant them. Is this right? any other advice on how to start them on the ground? We are thinking containers, in a hot and sunny spot. We seek primarily information on how to cut the slips out, and what to do with them. If this is the way I understand it the same sweet potato (mother) that was used can be reused again and again? like a bottomless source of slips? Here are some pictures, perhaps it will make it easier to answer our questions this way. They do look nice, don't they? We are pretty excited about growing them.

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grandad_2003(9A/sunset 28)

Cabrita, when I planted sweet potatoes I just clipped off the slips at about 10 to 12 inches, took off all but the very top leaves, poked a hole in the ground and stuck the slip into it, and packed the soil around the plant stem. That's all. I usually then watered the plants. It was always amazing to me how plant slips could survive the intense Louisiana heat.

    Bookmark   May 11, 2009 at 5:08PM
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Your situation looks great.
I do not know how many slips you want, but I do know that if you search the site for SWEET POTATO SLIPS, there is one guy who tells how to use hundreds of slips.

For myself, I have about ten slips going.
If I had your potato, I would cut each of those sprouts off, leaving about half an inch of purple growing part. Then I would put the potato back in the water to let it grow more. It will.
Then I would take the cuttings and stick them in cups of dirt. haha. Done.
But I am sure that there is a better way. I think that each leaf stalk will easily form roots if left in water. So by my method, I would get maybe 10 cuttings. You could get 50, I think. Do you want 50? Ten does it for me. I have never had a situation as good as yours, and I got a lot of sw potatoes last year.
Have fun. Experiment. It looks like you could handle some failure and still have a great year.

    Bookmark   May 11, 2009 at 5:12PM
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Good photos. I simply grab the potato with one hand, and grab the stem of a slip with the thumb and forefinger of the other hand and pull the slip off the potato, (That is why they are called slips) I then use a dibble or a trowel, make a hole in prepared soil that holds the slip up to the tip (leave a couple inches above ground), drop in the slip, pressed dirt around it with the dibble, pour a bout a pint on water around each plant and go home to bed. I am going to do 250 more plants today after supper. I rarely ever lose a plant and I do about 500. No need to root, they do that very nicely on thier own.

    Bookmark   May 11, 2009 at 5:17PM
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wayne_5 zone 6a Central Indiana


When starts are grown in a water jar, they usually don't have roots on them while in the jar. For the very finest starts....shave a sliver of flesh with each start and put those in 2 inches of water in a warm place. They will root beautifully in about 6 days and are very hardy when set out.

When starts are started in sand, they will root heavily right there and are ready to break off and plant. I start any early ones in water and later ones in sandy soil.

    Bookmark   May 11, 2009 at 6:30PM
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Uh yeah.
See what I mean? People are cranking out 500 at a time.
My experience is that they do die, but the conditions have to be very bad. For me, caution is starting them in a cup or poly pot.
I did what farmerdilla did and lost maybe 3 out of 20, and they went down fighting. I bought those slips. I have had better luck with my own.
You will have a good outcome. Just do it, you'll see.

    Bookmark   May 11, 2009 at 6:36PM
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cabrita(9b SoCal)

Thanks so much for all the advice and information grandad, toogreen, farmerdilla and wayne. It sounds easy indeed, now I wonder why we did not try this before. In the worst heat of the summer, only the okra looked good last year. I cannot believe that plant, flowering when it is 107 F!!!! crazy plant (I love it). This year we are adding cow peas and sweet potatoes to the hot weather vegetable clan. Why not? might as well take advantage of what grows well here and now. We cannot grow parsnips or cherries, so we might as well grow sweet potatoes.

We have several roots (tubers?) starting, I only showed one, but we have white sweet potato and red sweet potatoes. They have different types of leaves, as shown in Farmerdilla's picture. Farmerdilla, your picture is nice, thanks for posting it. We might do a bed just like that, still have a few recycled pieces of lumber to use for garden beds. I think that 500 slips is a bit much for us, we might do from 12 to 20 slips. Since each averages about 6 sweet potatoes, this should give us plenty for feeding two not too large people. Besides, we are also growing other 'starchy' root crops, regular potatoes (to be harvested soon), jerusalem artichokes, chayote (the root is edible) and some weird tropical ones (elephant ears types).

I take it that the level of development shown in the pictures I posted is just about right for taking the slips? not too large but large enough? or perhaps they could be 'harvested' as slips a little younger? We still have them in water but we will plant them in the ground, or in pots, this coming weekend.

    Bookmark   May 12, 2009 at 3:06PM
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I like for my slips to be a bout 6 inches. longer is ok, but 12 inch ones I cut in two and plant both halves. You only need one or two potatoes (they are roots not tubers like the Irish potato) to get 12-20 plants. Once you pull the slips off they will keep coming back several times.

    Bookmark   May 12, 2009 at 3:29PM
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You know, farmerdilla is the real expert. I think he has great pictures of sweet potato adventures all over this site. Just do a search. He is enthusiastic. Oh. I learned from farmerdilla, by the way... two? years ago?

My humble situation now is 10 small plants going. I have two potato halves producing slips. I guess I cut slips at 1--2 inches because they grow back faster that way, and I am rushing to be in time for the season. It is not ideal, but I have one potato that produced all those plants, so... I get points for economy. The slips start slowly, but they catch up.

Enjoy the weather. Yes Okra is wonderful. Have to warn you about the JChokes. I am a JChoke survivor. They ahem... overproduce and are persistent little devils.

    Bookmark   May 12, 2009 at 7:48PM
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What do i do if i bought sweet potato slips and i cannot plant them for 2-3 more days because it is too wet?

    Bookmark   May 14, 2009 at 10:04PM
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wayne_5 zone 6a Central Indiana

Keep the bottom ends in water in the shade.

    Bookmark   May 14, 2009 at 10:21PM
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