In Benton, Kentucky each year, locals celebrate an age-old tradition called Tater Day. Tater Day was started in 1843 as a celebration of spring and a way for all the townspeople to get together and trade sweet potato slips. Today, the festival spans several days with games, rides, contests and a parade. You don’t have to live in Kentucky to appreciate and celebrate the sweet potato. You can grow your own easily right in your own backyard. [photo via diynetwork]
What are slips?
Sweet potatoes are grown from slips. Slips are off-shoots grown from mature sweet potatoes. You can buy them at your local nursery or make your own. Making your own slips requires about 6-8 weeks growing time prior to planting outdoors, so, at this point, it would make more sense to purchase your slips so avoid getting your crop in late.
Once you have your slips, it’s time to get them in the ground. Sweet potato slips are usually planted as soon as the ground has warmed up a little and the danger of frost is over. The soil needs to be loose and well-draining. The roots need room to expand and grow and should not encounter any resistance from clumped soil.
Prefer raised beds?
Many gardeners like to plant sweet potatoes in raised beds. This allows the soil to warm up faster and helps the soil drain better. If you live in a cooler climate, you may want to cover the soil with black plastic to help it warm faster.
When planting the sweet potato slips, you want to dig a hole that’s about four inches deep and three inches wide. Place the slip in the hole with the roots facing down. Cover the slip so that the green leafy part is above the soil level. Be very careful to handle the slips carefully. Try not to bruise the delicate plant. Gently press the plant and surrounding soil to set it in place and remove air pockets in the hole. Continue planting all your sweet potato slips in this manner, leaving at least twelve to eighteen inches between plants and three to four feet between rows
Watering is key
Once all the slips are planted water them generously, making sure the surrounding ground is wet. Water your new plants every day for the first week, and every other day the second week. Continue to reduce the number of times you water each week until you are only watering the plants once a week. Adjust your watering schedule if there is little rainfall or an overabundance of rain. Harvest your sweet potatoes in about four months. And once you do, try the recipe for Sweet Potato Pie below. [photo via allrecipes]
Sweet Potato Pie
- 1 (1 pound) sweet potato
- ½ cup softened butter
- 1 cup white sugar
- ½ cup milk
- 2 eggs
- ½ tsp. ground nutmeg
- ½ tsp. ground cinnamon
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- 1 (9 inches) unbaked pie crust
- Boil sweet potato whole in skin for 40 to 50 minutes, or until done. Run cold water over the sweet potato, and remove the skin.
- Break apart sweet potato in a bowl. Add butter, and mix well with mixer. Stir in sugar, milk, eggs, nutmeg, cinnamon, and vanilla. Beat on medium speed until the mixture is smooth. Pour filling into an unbaked piecrust.
- Bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for 55 to 60 minutes, or until knife inserted in center comes out clean. The pie will puff up like a soufflé and then will sink down as it cools.