Last year we received our sweet potatoes in early May. The weather was very cold and most of them died because we could not plant in the garden, thus we ordered them for the end of May this year. It was exciting to get 500 last time and so we doubled our order this year. Whew, all of us were planting for several hours last evening and this evening and we finally got it done.
The Sweet potato start is just like a regular potato root except it grows up through the soil from the seed potato; sprouting small hairy roots up the stem and finally ivy shaped leafs on top. The growers ‘break off’ this root and mail it bear rooted in a little wet moss; thus the starts need to be planted ASAP so that they do not die. To plant them we use an old cane that was our pig cane back when Ben herded pigs at the fair. We sharpened the end a bit and then we taped onto the cane some stiff mainline about 5 inches up from the tip. This does double duty as it measures the depth which is 5 inches and the width between holes by using the length of the mainline. We are planting these 15 inches apart in the row, for a medium to large size potato. If you want smaller potatoes you would plant them about 12 inches apart. The rows are 3 feet apart. We also used the cane this year to punch the holes for transplanting the onion starts. The transplanting is much faster when someone goes ahead and punches all the holes in the plastic mulch.
These starts come in bunches of 25, rubber banded together and labeled. We immediately sorted out the varieties and put them in a five gallon bucket with about 2 inches of water in the bottom and taped the label on the bucket (always nice to know what variety is being planted). After separating the bundles and taking one at a time we fill the hole with water, drop a start in and tamp the mud/dirt tight around the roots. The t-tape is turned on and dripping water down the row so that it will help to water the starts in. Since there are not many roots on the potato starts we transplant these in the cool of the evening and hope for a few days of cool weather to give them a good start. The roots develop quickly under favorable conditions.
Some of the ends have to be trimmed with scissors or we just carefully break off the curly root. I try to leave the root about 5 inches long making sure some of the small hairy roots are on the stem.
This whole planted area will be covered with beautiful ivy plants growing low to the ground. I can hardly wait for Fall and the yummy taste of Sweet Potato.