Spalding Guardian Gardening 25 May 2013
Last year, about this time, I got the urge to grow sweet potatoes. It has taken me a long time to like this vegetable, but now Iíve got the taste, it makes sense to grow some at home.
I sent off an order to a well-known plant and seed company, who forgot to send it. However, they did remember this spring, and quite unexpectedly last week, I received a small bundle of Ďslipsí (forced cuttings from the roots) in the post.
OK, I thought, I wasnít planning on growing them this season, but they will come in useful for helping to fill up the greenhouse at the Patch (often referred to as the summer greenhouse as it is only used during the summer months), along with various other half-hardy vegetables. There were 10 slips in all, the bases wrapped in damp, absorbent paper, and looked rather sad. The instructions suggested they should be put in a glass of water for a few hours to revive them; I did this and they all promptly collapsed.
Quite bizarrely, after 24 hours of looking as though their next home would be the compost heap, they suddenly perked up. Roots started forming at the submerged leaf joints, so I will plant them up in toilet roll tubes of multipurpose compost until they have a root system big enough to pot them on.
Sweet potatoes are closely related to bindweed and morning glories. They are tropical plants, and although newer varieties allow them to be grown outdoors in favourable spots, I shall not risk it and they will be planted up in big pots and raised under glass throughout the season. Like many other glasshouse vegetable crops, they will need a high potash feed about once a week (liquid tomato fertiliser is ideal), and, all being well, the tubers will be ready for harvesting from the end of August.
One thing I didnít realise until I read the instructions, though; the leaves and tips of the young shoots can be cooked as a substitute for spinach. Looking at what is sitting on my window ledge in a tumbler of water at the moment, though, this could be some time in the future!
This piece originally appeared in the Spalding Guardian