Thursday, October 22, 2015

If I Saw It on YouTube, It Has to Work: Sweet Potato Experiment


One day this last Spring, I saw sweet potato slips at the local greenhouse. I wanted them. I love sweet potatoes and thought it would be a great addition to my winter food supply.

However, I have planted sweet potatoes before. They looked like they did really well until I went to dig them and couldn't find them. I found a never ending system of roots, but no tubers. I wasn't a happy camper.

Then I heard about planting sweet potatoes in barrels or tubs. Hmmm...that could work for me. I have plenty of twenty-five gallon feed tubs that I had gotten for free. 

Where did I find this information that I could plant sweet potatoes in a tub? You guessed it: YouTube. I watch/listen to a lot of YouTube and that is where I go for how to do things when I need a visual (which is most of the time). 

On YouTube, I typed in "growing sweet potatoes in containers" in the search box and got several results. I watched most of them. Here is some of the more notable ones:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oLFLEsqO1lc

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4ySk3t_hbWw

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XhcbQ8X_JqY (this was not a container, but very good information!)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nNfwSaEcPw0

Knowing I could do this on a large scale, but remembering previous gardening experiments, I decided go small this year and do one tub. I washed the tub really well with water and no soap. I bought four sweet potato slips that were marked down to $1.00 each and some compost and soil. The variety I planted was Georgia Jet.

I planted the sweet potatoes towards the end of May. With a wet June, they did fairly well growing along the southern edge of the barn. In a dry July and temperate August, we had to water them quite often. 

Sweet potato plants in August. They were also spreading behind the tub.

They grew quite a bit more in August and September. I don't have a lot of pictures of this, but they covered the top of the barrel before the freeze hit last weekend. In the last two weeks before the freeze, something had started eating the leaves. The chickens weren't too interested in them so I am not sure what.

After the freeze. Poor sweet potato plants.

I understand that some people think you should dig the sweet potatoes up before the frost and some people think you should do it after the frost. I never really got a definitive answer for it. I dug my sweet potatoes up after the frost. 

Let me correct that. There was no digging. I tipped the tub over on its side after I pulled the plants. I got approximately this many sweet potatoes:


Three whole stinking pounds worth. Some of them are split too. I have them sitting out right now curing because I am not going to waste them. However, I had several feet of roots and some more potential tubers. These were in the container for 4.5 months which is plenty of time for the sweet potatoes.

Were the people on YouTube right? Yes, you can grow sweet potatoes in containers. 

Were the people on YouTube wrong? Yes and no. While I got sweet potatoes, I did not get the 20-25 pounds worth that I was told to expect. Did you see their harvests? Incredible! Did you see my harvest? Three pounds worth. Not good.

Will I try this again? Possibly. Container gardening has a lot of appeal to me when produce that normally takes up a lot of space can be grown in smaller spaces with less hassle. Container gardening also relies on the right combination of soil for good growing conditions. I will probably add sand to the barrel for a lighter soil and try again next year. 

Because I really like sweet potatoes and want to produce my own!

Thanks for reading,
Erica

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