Growth is a double edged sword. Unchecked, growth can be cancerous and destructive. It is this type of ceaseless expansion that has put our society into the precarious environmental and financial positions in which we currently find ourselves. On the other hand, growth can be regenerative and life-giving. Following a forest fire or a bitter winter, the first green shoots to emerge from the earth bear witness to the earth's ability to restore life in the wake of disaster.

My goal for this blog is pretty simple and open-ended: I want to document and share with family and friends my efforts to incorporate an ever increasing degree of self sufficiency, voluntary simplicity, and environmentally-conscious design into my life as a would be urban homesteader.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Sweet Potatoes

It has been a few years since I grew sweet potatoes in the garden, and since all 3 of the kids love them, I decided to give it a go again. You can purchase slips at the nursery, but I thought it would be a fun project to do with the kids to sprout them ourselves. I bought 8 at the grocery store a month or so ago. The kids poked toothpicks into them and we set them into jars of water. The jars have been sitting in the seedling window in our kitchen. After a couple of weeks, some of them started to send down roots in the water. A few days later, some of the sweet potatoes started to sprout buds on their top sides. We now have a germination rate of 80%-ish. Not too bad considering that tubers sold in the grocery store are usually treated with a substance that is designed to prevent them from sprouting. Given our success, I might buy some more this weekend since they are on sale for $.49 a pound.
Sweet Potatoes are originally a tropical plant, so they like plenty of warmth. I'm going to put down black weed barrier to help warm the soil. I also recall seeing a video on youtube once where a guy was growing them under a plastic tunnel to boost temperatures. I think St.Louis gets hot enough on its own during the middle of summer, but I might try it out early on.
Darius over at "Gardening Along the Creek" recently posted about trying to start sweet potato slips in potting soil instead of water. She's putting them on top of a heat pad to boost temperatures and promote sprouting. That's an idea I might try in the future. It would be interesting to see how the germination rates/speed varied with and without additional heat. Even if I don't try that, I'm curious to see how many pounds of tubers I get back from a $4.50 investment.


  1. You bastard. I tried that two years ago and got nothing. Ok, maybe I just tossed them in the dirt without getting them to sprout first. Oh well.
    And where are you getting sweet potatoes for 49 cents a pound?

  2. The last time I did this, we started too late (June-ish) and the tubers we got were pretty small. I'm hoping to have these in the ground by early May. As for the cheap spuds, the Sav-a-lot up the street has GIANT ones on sale for that price right now. These things are big enough that I'm not sure what sort of jar they'd fit in. I might get couple and see if they sprout when you split them in half.