Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Mail Order Sweet Potato Slips and EM-1

Last May I received a long-awaited package from a company headquartered in the East. The package contained two small bundles of very small-looking sweet potato slips.

Amazingly, the slips came out of a dented package out unharmed!

In the past, I had always produced sweet potato slips myself from sweet potatoes, and knowing that the daytime temperatures were already topping above 95 degrees Fahrenheit I thought it wise to start some of my plants in pots or vases indoors before planting them out in the garden. This was a type of experiment to see what method of planting would work best. The three different methods I tried were slip to garden, slip to pot to garden, and slip to vase to garden.

How my package arrived in the mail.

The package got a little dented. I'm grateful the slips made it.

General Sweet Potato Background: Sweet potatoes like a lot of light. By a lot of light I mean full sun in very hot, sunny places. Established plants do not require shade and are able to endure brutally hot environments. What sweet potatoes do have difficulty with is a lack of light. Any kind of environment in which plants are not receiving direct sun will make the plants dither or at least grow slowly.

The plants in the pots did not fare as well as those put directly in the garden

Though I put my indoor plants directly under windows, they had difficulty growing very well because they did not receive enough full sun. Most of the slips that I put in pots had difficulty establishing themselves indoors and did worse than those put out in the garden. Slips I put in vases did exhibit more root growth, which was helpful when it came to transplanting them in the garden. The constant sterile water supply was helpful, though a lack of direct sunlight was not. Slips that were put directly in the garden exhibited significant wilting over the first 10 days but did better after about 14 days. Filtered shading from a shade cloth helped minimize wilting until the plants could establish themselves well.

Initial placement of slip in vase.

The slip grew more roots but plant suffers from a lack of light

Recommendations: Based on my experience with mail order sweet potatoes I would recommend that the gardener either allow sweet potato slips to establish themselves in a vase that receives an abundance of direct sun or put the slips in the garden with filtered shade, such as shadecloth, until the plants become established. As filtered sun could decrease plant growth, and possibly yield, I would think that any shadecloth or filtered sun provides only a temporary benefit to the sweet potato slips as they are becoming established.

Shading Slips helps them become established without extreme wilting

One additional thought: Previously I had posted about a microbial product that is supposed to increase plant growth in the garden. The name of the Product is EM-1 and it is produced by Teraganix. The initial application of EM-1 seemed to have no impact on my garden. After two weeks of application no signs of increased growth or plant vigor were noticed. However, after 6 weeks of the initial application the sweet potato slips that were growing exhibited a dramatic increase in growth. The increase in plant growth was not imagined, but is very real. Though previous sweet potato growth did not move several feet past my garden, my current sweet potato vines have grown at least 10 feet past the confines of my garden. Neighbors are probably wondering why I have what looks like ivy growing out into my alley. My experience with EM-1 has taught me that it is an incredibly effective inoculant in growing sweet potatoes. I will be sure to continue to use this product for this purpose, in the future!

My Sweet Potato vines in Early August - The bottom half are from the slips!


  1. Your sweet potatoes should do extremely well if they want a lot of sunshine. And I will look into EM-1... sounds promising!

  2. Hey Jay,

    I've grown sweet spuds a couple of times. What I do is root a bit of potato in water over winter. In early spring I transplant the rooted bit (leaves/roots) into a large pot and put it out right into the sun (couple days light shade to allow acclimation to UV). Then when the pot fills up in bright sun and is growing well, I transplant out to full sun garden when the soil is nice and warm (cool soil not a good thing). This way growth is never set back and the plants do well.

    Would like to know if using the EM-1 gave you more potatoes than just more green growth? Looking forward to harvest posts. :-D

    1. Dear Kris,

      Thanks for the information on how you put out sweet potatoes. I have very little to no partial shade and the shade I have is nearly as hot as it is in the sun.

      I will definitely do an update when after harvesting. I am a little weary of saying EM-1 is a miracle inoculant when just as much leaf growth can be obtained by adding more nitrogen to the soil - something that increases leaf growth but does nothing to promote root growth. Truly - when it comes to root crops - the proof is in the potatoes.

  3. Holy smokes that is some growth. My climate barely puts out a few sweet taters after months of growth...it just doesn't stay hot long enough.


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