Sweet Potato Slips

Gardeners once treated growing sweet potato slips as a closely held secret, but we prefer to share knowledge and spread the wealth.

| May/June 1985

When I first started raising bedding plants for sale, I was able to gain some expertise from reading and picked up a few tips from my friendly competitors, as well. But the forcing of sweet potato "slips," a specialty practiced by only a few growers, was a secret that no one seemed to wish to share. Eventually, however, a man who was about to retire agreed to teach me his methods.

This grower started his slips in a hotbed. He dug out an area about 1' deep, laid down 2" of straw (sometimes, he said, he used corncobs or even small broken twigs), and covered the coarse layer with 4" of fresh horse manure topped by about 3" of loose and leveled sandy soil.

Sound tubers from the previous year's crop were laid on this bed, topped with another 3" to 4" of very sandy soil, and watered. The entire seedbed was then covered with panes of glass raised upon a frame, and burlap bags were placed over the panes to retain the warmth generated below. A few days later, the manure had begun to decompose, and the sand felt warm to the touch.

After about two weeks, my instructor removed the burlap insulation to allow the shoots to soak up some sunlight. (The first green beauties were just peeking through the sand.) He also opened the glass a bit to provide ventilation on sunny days. When the plants were about 5" tall he removed the cover.

The "opening of the tater bed" was an event that had been eagerly awaited by our area's impatient gardeners, and they flocked to the event like chickens to a pail of cracked corn. The grower dug gently into the sand and snapped the plants from the tubers with a slightly twisting, tugging motion, bundled them as ordered, and passed the young sprouts to waiting hands.

By nightfall, the bed looked like a disaster area, but the grower watered it thoroughly with lukewarm water, and the surface once again appeared smooth and level. He assured me that more shoots would emerge to supply the gardeners who hadn't been able to come on "opening day."

mother earth news fair 2018 schedule


Next: August 4-5, 2018
Albany, OR

Whether you want to learn how to grow and raise your own food, build your own root cellar, or create a green dream home, come out and learn everything you need to know — and then some!


Subscribe Today - Pay Now & Save 64% Off the Cover Price

Money-Saving Tips in Every Issue!

Mother Earth NewsAt MOTHER EARTH NEWS, we are dedicated to conserving our planet's natural resources while helping you conserve your financial resources. You'll find tips for slashing heating bills, growing fresh, natural produce at home, and more. That's why we want you to save money and trees by subscribing through our earth-friendly automatic renewal savings plan. By paying with a credit card, you save an additional $5 and get 6 issues of MOTHER EARTH NEWS for only $12.95 (USA only).

You may also use the Bill Me option and pay $17.95 for 6 issues.

Canadian Subscribers - Click Here
International Subscribers - Click Here
Canadian subscriptions: 1 year (includes postage & GST).

Facebook Pinterest Instagram YouTube Twitter flipboard