I’ve decided to create a new category for the blog – ‘Fun Projects’ – where I’ll be adding all the posts written about various fun growing/composting projects that people might want to try at home. A fair number of these will likely relate to growing various types of interesting plants since this is something I like to do for fun, but I have little doubt that there will be plenty of composting projects as well.
Our first ‘project’ was inspired by the book I recently reviewed – The Vegetable Gardener’s Bible. In all honesty, I had never heard of a ‘sweet potato slip’ before, and when I came across the little how-to tab in the book I decided it would be fun to try it out. Basically, a sweet potato slip is a sprout that is grown from a sweet potato tuber – typically, many slips will grow from a single sweet potato, as you can see in my picture above.
In some ways I really wish I had known about this earlier in the season, since it would have been fun to try growing sweet potatoes in the garden this year. But alas, here we are near the end of July and I just don’t think there are going to be enough warm days left to actually grow a crop of these tasty tubers (since they need to be harvested before first frost, and require at least a few months of growing time). Nevertheless, as I’ve discovered, the sweet potato plant is actually quite attractive so I think I will try to make a houseplant out of it and see what happens from there (perhaps I’ll still be able to use it for next year’s garden).
As I’ve discovered firsthand, growing sweet potato slips is very simple. I managed to grow a bunch (again, each little shoot is referred to as a slip) using one end of a very old (and semi-moldy) sweet potato that was hiding out at the bottom of a crisper drawer in my fridge. I suspect that had I used a recently purchased sweet potato, the growth of the shoots would have been much faster.
Getting your sweet potato ready to grow slips is about as simple a project as you can imagine – this is why I think this particular project could be a lot of fun for children. It actually reminds me a lot of the way my dad taught me to grow an avacado plant (using the pit) when I was a kid – perhaps another reason I was tempted to try it out.
Essentially, all you need to do is 1) cut off a chunk of sweet potato (an end section works best), 2) position it over a jar filled with water (using several toothpicks), leaving part of the potato immersed, and 3) place the jar in a warm, brightly lit room.
That’s it! Before you know it, you’ll find little white roots growing from the sweet potato down into the water, followed by little green sprouts springing up from the zone sitting above the water-line.
According to Ed Smith (author of the aforementioned ‘bible’), if you are planning to use the slips in the garden, you will want to wait until they are 4-6 inches long – at which time you gently twist them off and immerse them in water as well. Once the roots on each slip is an inch or two they are ready to be transplanted into a loose, rich soil bed in an area that receives a lot of sun.
So there you have it! If you are looking for a fun little plant-growing project for your kids (or your own inner child), and/or you live in a region that’s warm enough to still plant sweet potatoes (within the next month or so), I highly recommend testing out this simple technique.
[tags]sweet potato, sweet potato slips, ipomoea, tubers, potatoes, avacado, fun projects, children[/tags]