Sprouts, Shoots and Slips
June 25, 2008
A couple of months ago I started an experiment for growing my own sweet potatoes and so far it had been a positive experience. Unfortunately, I had no idea how to get the growth off of the seed tuber and into the ground. I started reading Ken Allan’s book, Sweet Potatoes for the Home Garden, and still had no clue how to process them. I finally found an informative article here that explained what to do.
Before I go any further, for my own sanity, let’s get the terms down right. From what I understand a sweet potato seed tuber sprouts, then grows shoots that you cut off to root in water to make slips. There. Got it? It took me a while to figure it out as folks seems to use these terms interchangeably.
You can remove the shoots once they grow to a height of 8″ – 10″ tall. The shoots in this somewhat blurry picture were well over 18″ tall so I was good to go:
There were about five shoots growing on this seed tuber: three below the water line and two above. Here’s a close-up of what I was dealing with:
Lots of roots from both the shoots below the water line and the seed tuber. Holding the seed tuber firmly with my left hand, I found the base of one of the shoots with my right hand. I firmly twisted and pulled the shoot, disentangling its roots from the rest of the root system. Here’s a blurry photo of it:
You can kind of see where the shoot snapped off, leaving a yellowish patch on the seed tuber. Here’s the slips that I pulled off:
Whoo! Look at those roots! I’m actually a couple of weeks behind planting these slips out, mostly because I was too scared to wreck them. Here’s all the roots I was left with at the bottom of the seed tuber once I pulled off all the shoots that were below the water line:
The shoots that grew from below the water line already had nice root systems (see above). There were two shoots that had grown from the very top of the seed tuber and didn’t have a root system at all:
I snapped those shoots off and put them in a large tray of water to help them develop roots (apparently this takes a few days). I also put the other slips into the tray as well, ensuring that their roots were covered with water while the leaves and stem were dry:
I tossed the spent seed tubers into the trash. The next step is planting the slips in your garden. More on that later.