Gardening with Daphne: Experimenting with sweet potatoes

Daphne's experimenting with sweet potatoes.
Daphne's experimenting with sweet potatoes.
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Regular readers will probably remember that I’m experimenting with sweet potatoes this year.

I had slips (unrooted cuttings) from Thompson and Morgan and plug plants from Suttons in late spring; at first it seemed that plugs were the better bet, but as the summer wore on, there was little to choose between them.

Being rather sceptical about their performance outdoors, despite both companies assuring me that they were varieties suitable for outside cultivation in the UK, I potted them on into increasingly large containers inside, but by the beginning of July, growth was so rampant that it was clear they needed more space than the greenhouse would continue to give them.

Sweet potatoes are related to our native bindweed, and if you think what some of the hedgerows are looking like at the moment, you can imagine the tangle they were getting into, so apart from one in a very large tub I am keeping as a ‘control’, I decided to move them out into the raised beds as they were emptied of earlier crops.

Since then the top growth has continued to spread to fill all available space, including the gravel hardstanding on which the beds are situated, and the one left in the greenhouse is twining happily round the cucumbers and threatening to strangle the tomatoes.

Those planted outside suffered no check being moved into the fresh air, so I suppose all I can do now is wait and see.

As yet, they have not produced any of the blue convolvulus-like flowers that may have appeared, but as I’m not growing them for how pretty they could look, I’m not bothered.

There are about three plants to a 1 metre square bed, which just about allows them the space recommended by both suppliers, and apparently apart from regular watering and a liquid feed (when I remember), I can do no more until mid-autumn, when they should have produced their tubers.

Fingers crossed that when I eventually investigate the crop, they will have produced some tubers – I’ll settle for anything larger than a cocktail sausage!