Korean Sweet Potatoes are ADDICTIVE!! When I first moved to South Korea I thought the Korean obsession with sweet potatoes was rather odd. But once I cleaned up my diet and freed my palate from processed sugar, I began to appreciate the natural sweetness of the Korean Sweet Potato, 고구마.
Then I moved back to America and life was not the same. The orange sweet potatoes cannot hold a candle to the Korean Sweet Potatoes. It’s not even close.
Then I found the Japanese Yam one time at a whole foods store. I was ecstatic, it was very close to the taste of the sweet potatoes I enjoyed in South Korea. But I was only able to find it at a whole foods store that was forty minutes away. So instead of eating that last Japanese Yam, I decided to use it to grow more sweet potatoes.
It was a little ambitious, since it was my first year gardening. (This was 2 years ago). But what did I have to lose, (other than my LAST Japanese Sweet Potato)?
Google became my friend, and I was surprised to discover that starting your own sweet potato slips is VERY EASY!! All you need is an organic sweet potato, water, tooth picks, a jar, and patience. I am happy to report that my first year growing sweet potatoes was a smashing success!! The sweet potatoes we harvested were not very large, but we DID have a harvest and the sweet potato plants were not very high maintenance. I highly recommend giving sweet potatoes a try in the garden, especially if you love them as much as we do!!
Here is how you do it- you will need …
An organic Sweet Potato
Small pots for transplanting, (or eggshells)
Step 1 – Buy an organic sweet potato. I only say organic because I have read that non-organic sweet potatoes are sometimes sprayed with something that prevents them from sprouting, (to extend their shelf life). This little girl;s science experiment demonstrates this.
Step 2 – Cut the sweet potato in half, put three toothpicks into the side of each sweet potato, and place it on top of a glass jar filled with water. You should switch the water out frequently to prevent the water from getting moldy. I often forget to switch it and it has been fine though.
Step 3– Wait, patiently, It can take a few weeks or a few months for the sweet potato to sprout. When you see little green leaves, it is time for step 4.
Step 4– Pull out each little sprout and place the bottom of it in water, until roots begin to form.
Step 5– Once you have roots, place the sweet potato slip into a small pot, (we used eggshells), and some dirt. We got over 9 slips from one half a sweet potato! Do not transplant until after the last chance of frost. (We transplanted a few weeks after because sweet potato plants like it HOT.
Sweet potato slips are expensive if you order them from a garden supply store. This is a project that is worth the effort if you want to grow sweet potatoes. The first year we did it we started our slips in late March. This year we started on April 17th and we finally had some spouts a few weeks ago, and I can see some leaves starting to form. So be patient!
A quick growing tip – mulch, mulch, mulch. Use it liberally. The first year we grew sweet potatoes we had mulch paper over them and we had a better harvest. Last year we got lazy and did not use mulch paper. Our harvest was much smaller than our first year. If we were serious about growing sweet potatoes in this climate, (zone 5), I would probably put together a “do it yourself” greenhouse so I could cover them. Right now our garden space is limited. Also, use a trellis. Sweet Potato plants like to climb!
The first year we experimented with growing sweet potatoes in a bushel basket. (I read an interesting blog post about this). We grew the sweet potato on our patio, which did NOT get enough sun exposure. So sadly our bushel basket grew a very pretty plant, but we did not have a harvest. (There was just not enough sunlight). If we try the bushel basket method again we would grow it in a basket or a growing bag and place it at the community garden, which has a lot of sun exposure. We DID successfully grow potatoes at the community garden last year in a growing bag, and the harvest was very easy. So something to consider …
Have you grown sweet potatoes? Any growing tips you would like to share?