Sunday, April 27, 2014

How I Start Sweet Potatoes

Living in an area without freezing winters, it's easy to start new sweet potato plants year around. We don't have to grow slips from tubers. It's faster and easier just to make cuttings from my established plants. 

Today I finished two new grow boxes and want to use them for growing sweet potatoes. In truth, I want to propagate the sweet potatoes, making new plants and rooted cuttings for resale. Whatever tubers they produce will be a bonus. I have some varieties that produce their tubers right under the plant, so they are excellent candidates for the grow boxes. 

Step 1- I took cuttings from the plant. I cut a 12 inch piece off the tip of a robust vine. Then I removed all the leaves except for the 2-3 on the very end. This is what they ended up looking like......
I then scooped out a hole in the soil about 3-4" deep and placed the stem into it, like this.......
The stem lays sideways in the hole rather than straight up and down. 

I pour a cup or two of water into the hole to well moisten the soil, then fill the hole in with dirt. Only the very end tip of the cutting is above the soil, like this........
Once the entire box is planted, I'll give it a good watering, then a light covering with grass clippings so that the soil surface is shaded from the sun. 
I've planted the cuttings quite closely in the box, perhaps 12" apart. My goal isn't tuber production so the close planting won't matter. I'm looking for plants to take future cuttings from. In 6 months I will be opening these boxes, harvesting whatever tubers developed, using the compost and soil elsewhere, then reloading the boxes with fresh biomass. The cycle repeats itself. 

If you've read previous posts about my pallet grow boxes, you'll recall that only the top 6 inches is garden soil. The majority of the box is filled with assorted chopped up biomass. Not a true compost pile in the sense that it will heat up. Heat is something I don't want because it would kill the young sweet potato cuttings. So I don't include much in the way of manures, but I do inoculate the layers with some garden soil that has active micro organisms so that decomposition can take place over the coming months. 


  1. Thanks for the step-by-step! Maybe I will work on this today...

  2. I just planted some more cuttings along the roadway today. Why? Because I had extra that I couldn't find a good spot for. So they will act as a ground cover out there. I find that close to 100% of the cuttings root. I just give them a nice watering every few days the first two weeks, then they are on their own.

  3. I like this idea - do you think it would work as well for other potatoes? I learned this same technique from my Dad long ago, using it to get many more tomato plants going all season long, with some lasting until the first hard freeze. He'd pick those last green tomatoes, letting the ones with dark green shoulders ripen in the kitchen.

  4. Barry, I've never tried this method on Irish potatoes. Sweets and Irish are not related, but that doesn't mean it wouldn't work. I use this method to propagate tomato plants, and it works as long as the plant isn't too old, too mature.