They are very easy to grow starting with either a sweetpotato tuber or a slip or cutting from a vine.
Using slips it is very straight forward you collect some slips trim off all the leaves, the slip can contain the growing tip or simply be from a long vine, they need only be around 6"s long.
Be sure to keep them top side up as you prepare the slips.
Simply stand them in water in a jar or vase on the kitchen sill in a warm spot with good natural light, they will in short time grow roots, so when roots are very obvious then plant them out, they will grow in shaded positions so long as light levels are good or in full sun they do like to be kept watered. You can of course take slips and plant them direct into the growing area when the soil temp' is right, that being around 20+c. Sweetpotato's do like to be well mulched.
Using a tuber or tubers, if you are going to be relying on stock bought from the shops, you may find that most of the larger chains of supermarkets have their tubers treated so they won't sprout on the shelf, they simply won't sprout for you either. Of course should you see a tuber that is sprouting that is the one for you. We find that buying from the smaller green grocers is more productive, and from weekend or farmers markets, organic food shops, another way is to join a forum and ask member friends for planting material.
1.. Cut the tuber in about 1/2 across the middle, stand each section into a tray deep enough to hold a little water enough to keep the cut base wet, top up with water as necessary. Stand on the kitchen sill in a warm bright spot. Sprouting started in about a week closely followed by some roots.
2.. Sprouts will appear, they may appear at the top of the tuber or at the bottom, it matters not. You will likely end up with roots at the bottom of the tuber, these will come into play later depending on which end of the tuber your shoots first appear. You do not need roots in order to plant the sprouted section when that time comes.
The shoots are now growing well and need removing and planting, as they are very strong looking and the section could be divided into at least 2 to give more plants, possibly even more.
3.. When the shoots reach 4" to 6"s that section of tuber can be cut off, if the shoots are enough and spread evenly around that section, you can divide the section usually no more than by 2. If this is from the bottom then you could have some roots as well. Either way after removing those sections stand the tuber back in the water and the process will be repeated until you run out of tuber.
The roots are more developed as can be seen these will come into play when all the top has been cut down with successive shoot growths, also a couple of the next shoots appearing on either side.
That should be enough pictures now to demonstrate the process, one 1/2 of the tuber rotted, why I don't know, that has never happened before. never had just one 1/2 of the tuber being viable, an oddity?
4.. Plant the sections out, if the ground is still not yet warmed then pot them until it does.
5.. Sweetpotato's do not need to be let ramble all over the place you can train the vine back over or around itself or prune the vine (an ideal time for taking some slips), the young shoots and leaves can be eaten just like spinach or kale/silverbeet, steam them just until they wilt anymore will be too much.
6.. No need to pull the whole vine to harvest, you can ferret around under the vine looking for yams, when you find one just break the vine off the yam and stick those vine ends back into the soil. Just like normal potato's sweetpotato's will also act as soil conditioners. For us in the Sub-Tropics our vines never die off we do heavily mulch to around 12" - 20"s at the end of summer, in the rural areas where frost kills of the top of the vine this mulching kept the growing material in the ground viable until the next season when again the ground warmed enough.
The process is very simple to do, the method I use is the same as used by the farmers in our state.
1.. Twist the top off of the pineappple that you must have, to do this.
These tops will get a bit more drying as yet, might as well try and stretch the friendship we have heaps.
2.. Place the top out of doors where it can get lots of sun all day sun if need be, this is to dry out the top and put the growth pattern of the top into the condition need to try and obtain fruit within say 2 years, they can take very much longer than that in some circumstances.
The minimum time for drying out is around 4 weeks I have let them go up to around 8 weeks with no worries, so long as the bud leaves inside the crown are green it matters not if all the outside leaves range from dead to yellow(the lowest point ones to on the way to dead closer to the top).
3.. When time to plant peel the lowest and the smallest leaves off app' the 3 layers from the bottom, if you peel too many lower leaves off the growing top might become damaged. Once you peel those leaves off you will see little root nodules.
This is the time to plant the top, it can be pot planted but i would suggest a 3 gallon pot/tub. If planting into the garden it must be a high well drained position they don't like wet feet, on the farms predominately stoney dry soils with not a high nutrient level, and full all day sun.
Pictures are for demonstration purposes only.
At this stage i don't have space prepared for planting out so they are in pots for now, this is the Smooth Cayenne variety, we also have the Bethonga Gold variety.
4.. Water in as normal and initially until good growth appears water maybe once a week, then not much more than average rainfall untill the fruit appears and a little more water then, for me I generally get fruit at 2 years, it may not always be full sized fruit but as many may not be aware the farmers fruits aren't all those large marketable ones either, the farmer rejects many some to the mulch heap others to the juice factory.
It will not matter much the fruit will all be the sweetest juiciest fruit you have ever eaten, you may never want to buy another pineapple from the store again.
5.. Remember to twist the top off of your fruit for planting, in many cases there are pups or growths around near the base of the fruit on the plant, like bromeliads have we call them 'pups', these can be dislodged and also be planted following the above steps.
This fruit from our first and one and only plant just on 2 years (2008), app' 7" long, has some way to ripen as yet, and when it did all over yellow it was a sweet as!
An observation from 2009 plantings, the tops and pup's we planted out at the end of summer into autumn not sure exactly(let to dry out for up to 6 weeks), are slowly developing, whereas the tops we planted into pots in the winter(let to dry out for up to 6 weeks, some later ones doing very well now were let to dry our for 8 to 10 weeks, i don't think it harms them to go longer so long as you ahve a green shoot in the middle of the top that top will grow.) maybe mid or abit later, have realy taken off since the summer like days of spring came, these where in one gallon (imp')pots that got full sun so the medium would have been warmed as well.
We've now planted those out so maybe the head start in pots may result in slightly earlier fruit??, also the second planting(let to dry out for up to 10 weeks, but potting first seems like an added advantage, those plants are twice the size of others directly planted) of tops into pots at the end of winter very early spring are settled and growing nicely. So something to consider even for those colder climates? Might try a couple in large 3 gallon or 5 gallon pots not sure yet, we have a major issue around of keeping earth worms and ants out of the pots, they do not enhance that atmosphere.
That's as simple as it can get, even if you want to try pot cultures they may need say a 3 gallon planter tub to get good fruit, but hey it could be fun for the kids.
Remember full sun and very well drained postion.
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