Growing Sweet Potatoes in a Sink

Growing sweet potatoes in a sink

I'm a big fan of container gardening. Containers help to expand your garden space, or you can magically make a garden where you don't even have dirt by using containers. I'm also a fan of using whatever you have as containers.

You'll remember a recent post where I talked about an armadillo eating my potatoes one year; containers also help keep your plants safe from garden marauders.

That's one of the reasons I'm growing sweet potatoes in this metal sink. We have gophers and moles, and if an armadillo wanted my Yukon Golds, I'm guessing it might also like to dig up my sweet potatoes.

I'm not sure of this metal item's original purpose. About ten years ago a friend brought it to us to use as a horse feeder. After serving in that capacity for several years, it sat in a corner of the yard holding discarded baling wire for awhile.

We assume that it was a sink. It has a home-welded frame with two half-barrel-like stainless steel sink cavities. Each side has a drain hole, which makes it perfect as a plant container.

Growing sweet potatoes in containers

This spring I cleaned out the baling wire it was holding, and moved the sink to the garden. We have plans to continue to enlarge our garden by moving the fence and building even more raised beds, but for now I've expanded my planting space (do we ever have enough planting space?) by using some containers: big feed tubs, a trash can, and now this metal sink.

I set the sink so that the drain holes are on the low end so excess water will run right out.

Sweet potatoes are grown from "slips" which you can buy from a garden center, or you can grow your own like I did.

I know that many garden websites will tell you not to grow potatoes or sweet potatoes from grocery store tubers, that they are often treated with something to keep them from sprouting. Seriously? I don't think I've ever had a potato NOT sprout in my cupboard. How about you?

Sweet potatoes are grown from "slips".

So, just choose a potato or several. I had one left. Stick 3 or 4 toothpicks in the middle to hold the potato in a glass or a jar. The pointy end should face up; the roots will grow from the rounded end so put that end in the jar and add enough water to keep the bottom of the potato submerged.

Sweet potato slips grow roots in a glass of water in just a few days.

After a week or so (or maybe a little longer) you'll have some little plants growing from the top of the potato.

When they're a couple of inches tall, you can carefully twist them from the potato and put them in another glass of water to root. They root very quickly; it only takes a couple of days.

Place the rounded end of the sweet potato in water. When you plant the slips, you can plant the potato too.

The potato will continue to grow "babies" where you removed the first slips, so leave it in the jar of water and grow a few more.

In fact, the potato will grow roots from the round end and when you're ready to plant everything, you can plant the rooted potato too.

Sweet potatoes will grow roots in a glass of water in just a few days.

Wait until there's no chance of frost before planting your sweet potato slips; they like warm soil and can't tolerate frost. Plant your slips deep in the soil, with just the top leaves above the soil level.

From that one potato, I planted eleven slips plus the potato itself, so I have twelve sweet potato plants growing in the metal sink.

Sweet potatoes are often grown as an ornamental plant, so it will be a pretty addition to my garden too.

Mulch sweet potatoes to keep the soil moist.

I mulched with old hay to help retain moisture in the soil.

Sweet potatoes can be harvested when the leaves and the ends of the vines begin to turn yellow, or you can leave them in the ground until right before the first frost.

UPDATED: Visit this post for the results of my sweet potato harvest.

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Don't let a lack of garden space keep you from growing sweet potatoes. They are often grown as ornamental plants in containers, so put your landscaping to work for you! Here's what you need to know to grow sweet potatoes in containers.

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  1. We had a sink like that in our milking barn for washing milkers. Just finished planting sweet potatoes this week.

    1. Aha! That might be the answer, Suzie. Half a century ago there were many dairies in our area.

  2. That's a good use for that "sink." I grew some sweet potatoes years ago, and although my harvest wasn't huge, they were good. I don't think it's too late to think about doing that.

    1. Sweet potatoes need warm weather, so this is probably the perfect time to plant some. :-)

  3. Your idea made me laugh! My Mom used to say, "This [sink] is so dirty you could grow potatoes in it!" when something was in desperate need of cleaning. Lovely idea : )

    1. That's funny, Anna! I laughed when I emptied this old sink AND WASHED IT THOROUGHLY so I could fill it with dirt and grow potatoes in it.

  4. What a great idea! I've always grown our potatoes in those nasty pop up plastic tub things, which are not ideal! This is much better #WasteLessWednesday

    1. Thanks, Gina. I think it's a perfect container for planting in.

  5. Oh Kathi I luuuuv that sink! I would be doing laundry in it๐Ÿ˜ It's amazing the things we find in piles filled with wire etc.

    1. A laundry sink would be a great use for it too! Yes, we've found some gems in the junk piles we "inherited" when we moved here.

  6. That is a great idea... I love container gardening... and yours is especially nice since it is at a great height for working. :)

    1. It IS at a perfect height for weeding and working! I've discovered that I really like that perk. ;-)

  7. What a great use for the sink! I didn't know the potato would keep sprouting. I'll have to try this sometime. Thanks for sharing on the #wastelesswednesday blog hop.

  8. Anonymous8:47 AM

    Got a question here....never grown sweet potatoes and fairly new to gardening so please forgive me if this is a dumb question. Do you have to take the slips and harden them off before planting in their final resting place? Also, it looks from the picture like you spaced them about a foot apart?

    1. There is no such thing as a dumb question! No, you could just plant your rooted potato in the ground with the shoots poking above the ground. But by removing those little plants (slips) and letting them root before you plant them, you'll have more plants to produce more sweet potatoes. And yes, I did plant them about a foot apart. I had 11 slips plus the potato itself, so I just spread them out over my planting area and it turned out to be about a foot apart. They could have been a little closer together, now that I've harvested them and know how much room each plant needed, so if I have a couple more slips this coming spring I will plant them a bit closer together.

    2. Anonymous10:36 AM

      awesome! Thanks for your quick reply!


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