Potatoes and Sweet potatoes


How can I encourage an organic potato and sweet potato to grow shoots, so that I can plant it in a pot?



Thank you for your question.

The organic potato needs to be ‘chitted’ before planting. This involves cutting the potato in pieces, such that each piece has at least one eye. Put the pieces on a plate, not touching one another, in a sunny window and eventually green shoots will grow from the eyes. The ideal sprout length at planting is about 1 inch, but this is not critical. Normally potatoes are grown from seed potatoes. These are the same as regular potatoes for the table, but they have not been treated to inhibit sprouting. Potatoes destined for the table have usually been treated to inhibit sprouting because that will make them keep longer. Apparently the shoots reduce airflow when potatoes are in storage and that can lead to disease. You say your potato is organic so it may not have been treated. That said, I have had regular potatoes sprout in the fridge, so the inhibitor is not 100% effective.

Sweet potatoes are grown in a similar way but more indoor preparation is required. Sweet potatoes are grown from slips which are pieces of sweet potato that have grown roots and shoots with leaves. You should get started on creating your slips now as sweet potatoes are a tropical crop and require about 4 months to mature once planted outside.  I have attached 2 links that show you how to grow the slips. One way suspends chunks of sweet potato in water with toothpicks such that 1/2 the potato piece is submerged. The other link describes making the slips by cutting the potato in half length-wise and placing the pieces a few inches deep in potting soil. Keep damp and eventually you will see leaves sprouting above the soil. I have never grown sweet potatoes so I don’t have an opinion which method works best. If you are doing this project with children, the water method would allow you to watch for growth more easily.