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Monday, March 10, 2008

Sweet Potatoes :: Week 1

Last night I started my sweet potatoes.

Being in southern Iowa, it is really a week before I need to start them, but I thought I would go ahead anyway for those of you who are even further south than I am. Don't worry if you think you are starting them too late if you are, because they will still work out. You just might need to baby them a bit more (water more) when they go out to the garden.

If you are further north, you can start them in a week or two, but if you start them now, it is really no big deal either. They might just have more roots tangled together when it is time to move them to the garden, so you will have to be a bit more careful when separating them.
Sorry if none of that makes since . . . it will when you get there.
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So, assuming that you have your sweet potatoes, you can get started.

The first thing you will have to do is examine the ends to see which end goes in the water and which end will stay above the water to sprout. I think of it kind of like a carrot. If you look closely, one end will look like it almost had a stem cut off, and the other will look like the pointed end of tap root. Some of the sweet potatoes will be very obvious as to which end is which. Some of them might cause you to stare awhile and wonder. If you do get the wrong end, it's not the end of the world. You can just flip it over - it will just be a tad bit behind the others.

Here is a picture of the top side of the sweet potato. It looks like it had a stem broken off.
















Here is a picture of the bottom side of the sweet potato. It looks similar to the top side since the point is starting to shrivel, but if you saw it in person you could see a bigger difference.










Here is a picture of my four sweet potatoes all lined up after being examined, according to their ends. (Next year I might do more, but four is what I decided to go with this year. In all honesty, I have two others that I started three weeks ago because they were starting to go mushy before I could bake them.)

Okay, so once you have your ends identified you can get them into water. You will need a container that will allow you to have the water level to about half the height of the sweet potatoes. The possibilities for containers are endless. I chose to cut a milk jug in half, mainly because I could throw it away when I am done. (The water gets a bit dirty in the process.)
If I would have had more sweet potatoes to start, I could have just stuffed them in so they would hold each other up.

I only have four though, so I am going to use toothpicks to stabilize them. All I did was put the sweet potatoes in the jug with the pointed ends down - you can have them touching the bottom - and join them together with toothpicks. I also stuck some toothpicks around the outside to rest on the jug. They don't wiggle much, so I know they won't fall into the water now. (Some people like to put them into mason jars, but I didn't want to clean my jars when I was done or monitor that many water levels.)

Next, I filled the container with water so about half of the sweet potato was under water. I also drew a water line on my container. It isn't necessary to keep the water level that precisely measured, but it is easy for me to glance at and be reminded that I need to add some water.
I also wrote the date I started them on the container. This will help me know if I need to adjust my starting time for next year. I will probably record it in a garden notebook for the year when I get one . . .

After all of this, I set my sweet potatoes on top of my dryer. They are by a window there, and it is a place that I frequent often so I can keep an eye on their progress.

So there you go. Week 1 of the 2008 sweet potatoes. You really won't have to do much after this week besides watch and wonder. (And maybe add some water if needed.)

3 comments:

bornfamous said...

Perfect timing -- I just decided to grow sweet potatoes on my balcony but didn't know how to start them, thank you! Can they be in direct sunlight outside while they're sprouting? I'm in San Diego, so there's no worry about frost. The outside air is in the upper 50s to low 60s at night now. Daytime is in the mid-70s.

The Beginning Farmer's Wife said...

bornfamous-Thanks for visiting! I've never tried it myself, but I think that they should be fine sprouting outside. It might even help them a bit, since some plants need some TLC when they are moved from indoors to outdoors. Sounds like you have beautiful temperatures!

bornfamous said...

Well, I spoke too soon about the temps. We were having a warm spell, apparently. Now it's dropped back into the 40s at night, 50s in the daytime--right after I put the sweet potatoes out to sprout. Guess I'll bring them inside until it warms up again.

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