Thursday, July 21, 2016

Growing Sweet Potatoes in a Bag- An Experiment

I think one of the most common kitchen science gardening experiments, after growing avocado pits, is growing sweet potatoes. I've done it in the past before, at least the first stage of the experiment, but never actually did what is necessary to grow sweet potatoes.

Two weeks ago, however, I was going through my vegetable bin and discovered that my sweet potatoes had sprouted, and not just little tiny sprouts, but bigger ones, which made me decide to try and see if I could grow sweet potatoes in a "container garden". 

To start growing sweet potatoes, what you need to do first is sprout your sweet potato. I didn't need to do the step this time as they did it on their own, but if your sweet potatoes need a little sprouting, what you do is chop your sweet potato into two or three parts, then stick toothpicks or skewers into it, and put it partially submerged into a jar with water, with the cut side down and at least some skin sticking out of the water. After a few days you should start seeing sprouts growing out of the skin of the sweet potato and roots growing down into the water. These sprouts are called slips, and if you just leave them to grow in your jar, they will grow more and more leaves on a vine, but won't actually grow sweet potatoes. The leaves, however, are edible. That was as far as I got to last time I did this experiment, and we ate and enjoyed the leaves.

If you want to grow actual sweet potatoes, though, you need to twist the slips until they come off the sweet potato, and then grow them in dirt.

To make it more likely to work, since I have a bit of a brown thumb, I decided to first root my slips in water before sticking them in dirt. Before we went away last week, I just partially submerged the slips in a container of water, and when we came home, I discovered that most of the slips grew leaves and large amounts of roots.

I was trying to figure out which bucket I could use to grow my sweet potatoes, as my regular window boxes wouldn't work for this, as I needed depth, then I remembered this post I read a few years ago about growing sweet potatoes in a bag, and had a somewhat ripped reusable shopping bag in my house, so decided to try that out. Since my bag isn't waterproof, and had a few holes in it anyhow, I didn't need to poke holes for water to drain out as needed, but if you want to try this with a bag that is waterproof, you will need to poke some drainage holes.

I don't like buying dirt when I have so much all around me, especially when I can make my own compost; I went to fill the bag with compost from our window box composter, but the batch wasn't ready, I think as it was a bit too dry since it was summer. Neighbors, though, have a big compost pile and I asked them if they would be cool with making a trade- I'd take some of their ready compost, enough to fill my bag, and give them a large amount of mostly finished but not all the way ready compost, and they were happy to share.

I filled the bag 5/6 of the way with compost, and then put three sprouted slips in the dirt, burying the roots and part of the stem, and then wetting it thoroughly.

I have no idea how this experiment will turn out. I'll just keep watering it and watering it (but not over-watering it or it will rot) and see what happens. I know that it is a little late in the season to start growing sweet potatoes, as they have a long growing season, but I figure:
A) We have a really long summer, and it rarely frosts here before November, and often not until December, so even if I start late there is a lot of time for it to grow.
B) Even if just a little bit of sweet potato grows, that is more than nothing.
C) This experiment cost me nothing, other than a little time, and the water for watering it.
D) If nothing grows underground, we'll still have the yummy greens to eat.

So now- the waiting game. Time will tell- will be we successful or not? Will we have our first batch of home grown sweet potatoes? We'll see.

Ever grow sweet potatoes before? Either just the slips in a jar or actual sweet potatoes in the ground? How did that work for you? How successful or not were you?
Did you know you could eat sweet potato leaves? Do you like them?

PS. If you're wondering how my container garden is doing, so do I! I brought my plants over to a friend while we were on vacation last week, and only am getting them when we come back after our next trip, so right now I have no idea how they look, but do plan on a visit to check them out sometime soon.


  1. I have potatoes growing in my compost pile. LOL

  2. thanks for sharring your idea must try it


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