I had a good looking crop of sweet potatos for my first big try last summer. But many of them (Beauregards) were long and slim, say 2 1/2 inch diameter and 8 or ten inches. And the casserole I just made had a bit of stringiness (confess I used some little scraggly ones I probably should have not used.
I read this from Aggie Hort
" 3. Q. What causes sweet potato roots to be long and stringy?
A. This condition is caused by high fertility. The edible portion of the sweet potato plant is a storage root. Luxurious growing conditions cause vigorous vine growth and result in poorly-developed stringy roots. Maturity and variety also affect the texture of sweet potatoes. "
I grew my SP in a bed made from half finished leaf compost on top of turf, blocked with newspaper. (Brown leaves, barely helped with anything else) Does this qualify as too rich? I had a hot dry summer, I rarely or never added any fertilizer or extra water. THe vines from nine slips covered an area about twelve by fifteen by end of summer, after flipping the ends back in at times..
With the turf and grass roots rotting underneath plus the leaf compost, you could have had quite nigh nitrogen levels. If the turf underneath was previous tended as a lawn by someone, lawn aficionados tend to fertilize lawns pretty heavily and that can stick around for a while.
While you are dreaming of spring, now is a good time to send off for a soil test -- your local Extension Office or Ag college should be able to do these for free of cheap.
Too much water is another cause of poor & stringy roots. Sweet potatoes like it hot and fairly dry.
Thanks Nicole, good point. Though the turf was tended by me and barely fertilized, it was there. Could be it got a shot of early lawn fertilizer, I am not sure if DH got into it before I planted. (We economize by barely fertlizing in general)
Good suggestion on the soil test.
From our experience (we grow 2000 sweet potatoes a year), stringyness is mostly genetic, but is increased by keeping the soil constantly wet. Hard, wet soil makes for skinny potatoes also.
Rotting compost and grass use nitrogen, not add it back. Nitrogen is easily leached from soil by rainwater and irrigation and yes, a soil test at the beginning of every planting season is a great idea.
steadycam3 wrote:Calla, Im going to plant sweet potatoes for the first time this year. Can you give us a primer on how to start?
I'm also going to try SPs this year for the first time. I bought a case of delicious Beauregards that were locally grown & thought I'd use one of those for my starts. Si I'd also be interested in any tips.
THe site I read, says Beauregards are NOT stringy. Most of mine are fine. I cooked them ,then cut them up for casserole. I'll be sure to avoid any parts that seem stringy, in the future, like near some skinny ends.
I have purchased slips and also started my own slips from store bought sweet potatoes. My favorite is a variety from Whole Foods, dark red inside and out but I don't know the variety. We also grow Centennial, Georgia Jets, Triumph White and Japanese Purple (which is yellow inside and one of the most delicious and versatile potatoes I've ever grown). Georgia Jets are never stringy, are more round than long but crack at the slightest variation in soil moisture. Triumph White did not do well, never gets very large for me and is very prone to disease. Centennial can be stringy if left in the ground too long, the vines are very long but the potatoes never crack even with wild fluctuations in soil moisture. The potato I bought from WF is sweet and dry and makes a wonderful pie and can be used in all kinds of recipes (my favorite is sliced potatoes, sliced apple, dried tart cherries, a drizzle of maple syrup sauteed with a little butter or sunflower oil for about 15 minutes).
To start slips from a store bought potato either 1) place sweetie in a glass of water about halfway up the potato and set in a bright window. When it starts to sprout break the sprouts off when they are about 4-6 inches long, root in water or vermiculite, harden off before planting in the garden or 2) place the whole potato in a container of peat/vermiculite, keep warm and moist and it will grow slips for you. Break the slips off and stick directly where you want them to grow. No need to root them first, just keep them moist while they root in situ.
Our sweet potato beds are raised, 4 ft wide, 34 ft long, built directly into the garden (no sides). We add sand (we have heavy delta muck for normal soil), our own compost (we don't use manure) and organic amendments like kelp, alfalfa and cottonseed meals, greensand, gypsum and a little bit of sulphur (not much, sweeties like alkaline soil). We use the sulphur to remove sodium from our soil, so most people who don't have sodium sodic soil can skip this step. Gypsum adds a bit of calcium but we add it to condition our soil. We have mini tunnels over some of our beds, especially the ones we keep going in the winter for stock plants.
If my vines get too long I clip them off. I try to keep them pulled from the isles, but sometimes they root there. If this happens I just pull them out of the isles and clip them or put them back in the potato bed. Our climate is a bit different from most areas, we grow all year round. The potatoes are perennial here. Every bed I've ever had sweeties in still has them. I go around in the spring and pull hundreds of slips (I can tell most of the varieties apart) and stick them where I want. We continue planting slips until July. After the slips are rooted and growing well, we side dress with organic fertilizer. I've also used Daniel's liquid feed to give any defficient ones a boost.
This year I'm going to use red and green plastic mulch as an experiment. I know I can tell a difference with the other crops when using the colored plastic mulch.
Any tips for growing in a Rubbermade tub? I experimented last season with a couple of Sweetie slips a neighbor pulled from his garden. They were just rooted sections from his vine. I guess I did ok, but I'm looking to do better.
I got quite a few undeveloped potatoes, skinnies, and was told it was because I shouldn't have let the vine run out of the tub and down my fence line, because it robbed energy from the sweeties growing inside the tub. This made some sense, but your pics have vines everywhere. Please comment on this.