Recently we took delivery of some sorrowful looking little sweet potato slips. They looked more suitable for the last rites than the optimistic “cultivation instructions” that came with them. However, I’d looked around blogs and forums and the sickly appearance is not unusual and most people seem to say they usually perk up, so as I pretty much do everything the internet tells me to do, in to glasses of water they went. (You have to wonder about a household that has that many pint glasses handy, don’t you).
Time passed…not much time actually…and they did come back to life, sort of, or at least I haven’t seen any little slip-ghosts drifting through the extraction fan in the kitchen. Potting up with plentiful water has taken place and we’re keeping them warm and reading them stories at night, so we’ll see.
This isn’t our first experience with sweet potatoes – a few years ago we had a go with our own slips, from kumara bought at Sainsbury of all places, and your basic orangey sweet potato, also from a supermarket. Trying that this winter didn’t work hence the impulse purchase of some slips when we were doing some other garden shopping. As I recall those plants grew fairly enthusiastically but we didn’t have a great summer, and I think there was a fair bit of rain. I do remember that the tubers turned out thin and squiggly and I’ve briefly investigated why this might have been to try to avoid it this year; suggestions seem to be over-generous amounts of water, and too-rich (especially perhaps too-nitrogen rich) soil. This ties in with other reading from American bloggers who describe it as a very easy crop, happy in poor soils, and I vaguely recall someone on GQT once saying they would grow well for someone who was trying to populate a sunny, dry bank by a conifer hedge (I can’t prove this last statement. I make it in good faith).
So if this polar spring ever passes, we probably want to avoid mollycoddling the little chaps too much. According to Rhizowen we’re probably on a hiding to nothing and should definitely be growing mashua if we want to eat this summer…he’s probably right but out of mulishness, we will carry on this battle to the end. Watch this space (and please share any brilliant ipomesque inspiration you may have to help).