How to Grow Sweet Potatoes


Actually, I don’t know how to grow Sweet Potatoes, but I’m learning this year so I thought you’d like to learn with me. Trust me, it’s absolutely nothing like growing regular potatoes.

First you need sweet potato “slips”. I’ve never seen them around here, so I ordered mine from Tennessee at a place called the Steele Plant Company. They were recommended to me by a local man who grows lots of sweet potatoes. Here’s their website.

They are very nice, answer the phone and write your order down. No “automagic” computer age system here, which I found refreshing.

I ordered 12 each of 2 varieties – Georgia Jets and Beauregards. They looked the best to me. With shipping it was less than 20 bucks. Since the lowest price I’ve seen sweet potatoes in the grocery store was .79 a pound, I figured this was a good deal.

They showed up in my mailbox at the correct planting time which, in Texas, is the second half of April.

That skinny thing is going to make a bunch of those big things?

Admittedly, they were strange looking. Barely any roots, long and just a couple of leaves per slip.  Hopefully I didn’t waste 20 bucks.

How the slips looked when they arrived

They looked about half dead and I had to keep them moist for 3 days because the instructions said to plant them late in the evening when there was no wind. In this horrible drought year, we’ve had no rain, but plenty of 25 mph winds. Finally, when I was afraid they would not last anymore, I snuck out early in the morning and planted them. The winds were down to a calm 15 mph at that point.

But before I planted my slips, I prepared the bed.

Start with dirt

I built up my beds with two long mounds of dirt. I have lousy dirt that I mixed with Turkey Compost to make a blend of decent dirt. The instructions said to plant in mounds.  Then, of course, I watered heavily before planting.

Mounded bed

The directions said to plant the sweet potato slips about 8 inches apart and at least 4 inches deep. The slips were approximately 8 inches long, so I got a pencil, measured 4 inches and made a mark around the pencil with a black Sharpie.

Making the hole

I wiggled the pencil around to make the hole big enough to get the slip in.

Look at those scrawny roots!

So I planted all of them and this is what they looked like. Note: I mulched the bed heavily with old hay for two reasons – one the drought. Mulch holds the moisture better and two – if you don’t mulch you have to pull up the vines so they won’t root. It makes the sweet potatoes much smaller if you grow more plants off the main vine. At least that’s what the directions said.

Kinda hard to see, aren’t they?

Luckily, I had help planting the sweet potatoes because it was quite a bit of work.

Chuck loves to help in the garden

So, it’s been a week and most of the sweet potato slips have made it through the winds and 95 degree temperatures. I lost a couple of Georgia Jets. The Beauregards seem to be holding up better and growing faster.

Up from one leaf to four

I guess they’re slow growers. Won’t be ready for at least 120 days. And that’s why they say gardening teaches you patience.

But look what The Funny Farm has already produced!

Squash and Zucchini!

I know, I know. A month from now I’ll be sick of these. Say, do you know why people in the Hill Country lock up their cars in the summer? Because if they don’t, they’ll find their back seat full of squash and zucchini!

Tomorrow is column day and Friday is an extra special announcement so don’t miss it!

Spreading laughter throughout the world…one chuckle at a time.

Mikie Baker

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