Slippin’ Sweet Taters

12 Feb

By Renea Winchester

It’s 8:57; the snow, which was guaranteed to arrive precisely at 8 a.m, is running a bit behind schedule. I realize that predicting a fickle Mother Nature is difficult, but Billy and I had our day planned around the weather. You see today with February bearing down and the promise of spring so strong we can smell it, we were going to “slip” sweet potatoes. 

“Slipping” a sweet potato is a term used to define the sprouting process. This year my dad, who lives in Western North Carolina, has decided to “try his hand” planting sweet potatoes. He believes the entire garden must be planted by Good Friday. One look heavenward tells me he should probably bend that particular gardening tradition this year and wait until the weather patterns stabilize. Since his ground is still frozen he asked if I knew anyone “down my way” who had sweet potato slips. Of course I asked the ultimate knower of all things garden, Billy Albertson.

Billy snatched the phone off the cradle and dialed. Without saying hello he asked, “you got any sweet tater slips?” 

Unfortunately, due to significant rainfall all their “tater” slips had rotted. Not to worry, Billy had a plan. He sent me to the grocery store where I bought the biggest, fattest potatoes they had and presented them to Billy who explained the slipping process. 

“We’ll need to go to the barn and get a couple loads of manure, then throw some dirt on top of the manure, chunk the taters on top, then bed ’em down good with mulch and cover ’em with a layer of plastic. All that will cook up good and the taters will sprout.”

Sounds great, but with tiny flakes finally beginning to fall, I think we’ll have to wait another week.

Happy gardening, and remember, get those hands dirty!

Renea Winchester is the winner of the Appalachian Heritage Award. Her first book In The Garden With Billy: Lessons on Life, Love, and Tomatoes will be published in 2010. She welcomes your comments at


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