Harvest - Sweet Potatoes!

Eatonton, GA(Zone 8a)

This is the first time I grew sweet potatoes - they were planted in May in a 4x4 plot in my raised beds. I had 8 slips that I bought from the local feed store - I cannot find the tag that identifies the variety, but I think it was Beauregard. I knew I was probably planting them too close together, but I didn't have a lot of space and figured I'd see what happened. We built a trellis out of two leftover pieces of cattle panel - about 4' long and 50 inches wide. Tied them together at the top with heavy plastic twist ties (from soaker hose packages). Here's the photo of the fully covered trellis as DH was helping me take it apart this morning. I hacked back vines periodically through the summer as they escaped and tried to colonize the aisles, the next garden bed, etc.

Thumbnail by Cindy_GA
Eatonton, GA(Zone 8a)

This is what it looked like after pulling out the vines - I had two wheel barrows full of vines that are now in the compost. Talk about excellent greens!

Thumbnail by Cindy_GA
Eatonton, GA(Zone 8a)

This is what we finally dug from the 4x4 square. A few of the potatoes formed outside of the square - under a melon trellis (maybe this is why the melons didn't go so well?) But I'm amazed... Have to weigh them still.

Thumbnail by Cindy_GA
Eatonton, GA(Zone 8a)

And last - this is DH's hand for comparison of size. There were a few small ones that had grown in the aisles too not photo'd. I don't know if they will taste good being this large - but I'm looking forward to finding out!

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So.App.Mtns., United States(Zone 5b)

Cindy, that's amazing. I've my first planting of SP's still in the ground, have no clue what to expect.

Why did you choose a trellis? just curious because SP's root along the vines to produce 'taters.

Eatonton, GA(Zone 8a)

Hey Darius - Since I'm doing raised beds and loosely "Square Foot Gardening" the vines needed somewhere to go. I read (somewhere) that most of the vines are there for production, not necessarily rooting. One source said to prune the vines to keep them from making lots of small potatoes. Anyway, I would have been happy with 15 pounds of sweet potatoes, so a trellis seemed like a good thing for the experiment. I got all of them weighed this afternoon - I had 80.6 pounds of sweet potatoes produced in a 16 square foot garden space. I am truly amazed...

Deep East Texas, TX(Zone 8a)

Nice harvest! Can you share what you used for soil? How often did you water?

So.App.Mtns., United States(Zone 5b)

Cindy... 80 pounds from 4 feet square is a more than honorable harvest!

I have NO expectations that my first planting will have produced any sweet potatoes... but I must say the vines are prolific.

pod, I can't answer for Cindy, but I did note that many sites call for a cessation of watering for the last 30 days.

Deep East Texas, TX(Zone 8a)

That's one of the things I was wondering about. With my luck, that is when the drought would break! lol

Eatonton, GA(Zone 8a)

Hi Darius - sorry - I miscalculated - it's 4x4 feet - so a total of 16 SF. (I can be math-challenged...) So it's actually ~5 pounds per square foot of garden space.

Hi Podster - For soil - that's a mix of wheat straw (almost 3 years ago), delivered top soil, peat moss, compost, etc. I'm attaching a photo of the original garden bed under construction in Jan. 2009. You can see that the area is surrounded by pines and pine roots, so the base soil is nearly impenatrable.

I didn't do much of anything for fertilizing other than toss in some bone meal prior to planting the slips. I planted a total of 8 slips. On watering - we've had a drought most of this summer and until about the third week of Sept. I was watering with soaker hoses and sometimes overhead (which didn't penetrate the trellis of vines very well). We had about 5 inches of rain in Sept, so I haven't been watering much as it wasn't really needed. Guess I did the right thing watering purely by accident!

The soil depth is about 14 inches in my raised bed - one interesting thing to note is that the sweet potato roots had actually penetrated into the clay at the bottom of the bed. No potatoes in the clay, but it was actually "diggable". I'm wondering if I should plant sweet potatoes in all the beds over time to help break up the clay below the other beds...



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So.App.Mtns., United States(Zone 5b)

Cindy, you did it right the first time... I said "from 4 feet square" which is not the same as "4 square feet". 4 feet square is 4 feet on each side of the square, but few people measure that way anymore.

Charlotte, NC(Zone 7b)

Cindy - I never thought about growing sweet potatoes vertically - that sure is a space-saver.

Pittsburgh, PA(Zone 6a)

that is awesome. i got one large sweet potato and a couple small ones in about the same size area. I think my problem was the soil depth was only about 7 inches.

One other question, how much sun did this area get during the day? The area I had mine in only got about 5.5 hours of sun a day and now I get none back there. North facing garden behind my house ;)

Saylorsburg, PA(Zone 6a)

Wow, Cindy, that's a fantastic crop from 8 slips. I planted 15 slips (more than I wanted but that's how I had to buy them) for the first time and dug up two plants today to see if anything was there! Fortunately I seem to be getting a nice crop too but now am in a quandary about the next step.

I have been reading on how to cure and store them. It seems I have to keep them in a humid area at between 80-90 for about 7-10 days before moving them to a cooler area. The only problem is I don't have any area with those temps and humidity available. What do you all do about curing the sweet potatoes?

So.App.Mtns., United States(Zone 5b)

If that's what SP's need to cure, I'm in trouble IF there are any SP's under all my vines! The house isn't that warm, nor humid. The root cellar IS humid enough, but quite cool.

Charlotte, NC(Zone 7b)

gardadore - I store mine in wicker baskets and leave them in the garden room (which is actually a room in my house devoted to seed sprouting.) The temperature in there stays around 60F - 65F during the winter and the sweets do fine.

I do cook, slice, and freeze some as they tend to wither after a few months in storage.

Eatonton, GA(Zone 8a)

Quote from urbanveggies412 :
that is awesome. i got one large sweet potato and a couple small ones in about the same size area. I think my problem was the soil depth was only about 7 inches.

One other question, how much sun did this area get during the day? The area I had mine in only got about 5.5 hours of sun a day and now I get none back there. North facing garden behind my house ;)


This spot gets full sun from about 8-4 in the summer and then dappled sun the rest of the day. I also wonder if the trellis wound up exposing more leaves to sunshine.

Eatonton, GA(Zone 8a)

I also wasn't sure what to do about the "curing" process. Since we were going to get rain on Monday - I made a set of shelves in my garden shed out of some wire and bricks so they can be in a dry place. It's certainly humid enough this week, but temps are only in the 60s. It's supposed to warm up today and for the next 4 or 5 days. I'm hoping that helps. We did eat one small potato - I just microwaved it to see how it tasted - very mild flavor, not really sweet. I'm hoping that sitting for a bit ups the sweet factor.

Charlotte, NC(Zone 7b)

Cindy_GA - my sweets were not very sweet either. Like you, I'm hoping they will sweeten up once they have been stored awhile.

Mine are stored inside the house, so the air gets rather dry during the winter. I'm concerned that yours might mold in an outdoor setting if the air stays humid.

Eatonton, GA(Zone 8a)

Hi Honeybee - yes, I'm concerned about mold too. The "shelves" are wire racks and they're all spread out so no touching.

I planned on leaving them in the shed for a week, then they will come inside. I have no idea where inside, but I'll figure something out. I'm thinking that I may find a use for our sorry excuse for an attic yet... I haven't monitored temps or humidity up there, so not sure what to expect in winter. One thing I miss about living up north is the lack of a root cellar/basement.

Saylorsburg, PA(Zone 6a)

I have my cellar where I can store them at the right temperature (50's -60's) but it was the problem of curing them for a week the higher temps. Since others have the same problem I will just have to see what happens. I put the first harvest in the kitchen bathroom, which is very small so when I close the door and the heat is on it get nice and warm in there. Hopefully that will be enough except it doesn't have high humidity. As I understand it the SP get sweeter as they cure and are stored. It will be an adventure. They sure look great at the moment!

Pittsburgh, PA(Zone 6a)

instead of curing them just pass them out to friends :)

Charlotte, NC(Zone 7b)

urbanveggies412 - we do share the harvest with our neighbors. But if I gave them all away, we wouldn't have enough for ourselves. We don't eat white potatoes, so sweet potatoes are a staple in our home.

Saylorsburg, PA(Zone 6a)

I'm happy to share and will probably give a number away but I want them to taste good and I understand the fresh ones are not as sweet until cured. Will have to see who might have a warm, humid place available as well!!

Alba, TX(Zone 8a)

Cindy_GA, what great results! And what a haul! I tried sweet potatoes for the first time this year, too. Unfortunately, just as the above ground sprouts were taking off, some night time varmit ate them off. I covered them with some frost cloth, but the @#$% varmit ripped it apart about two nights later and ate all greenery again. Usually we don't get that type of varmit thing going on my my garden. Too many dogs, coyotes, hawks and owls for any smart bunny or other to stay alive. Oh, well! I'll try again next year. I like the trellis and thanks for the tip about pruning.

I love the photo of your DH pruning the vines. You should save that for the next Dave's Garden Country Fair veg garden section. (Just voted so that is at the front of my mind!) I found myself drawn to the photos that tell a story!

So.App.Mtns., United States(Zone 5b)

If all goes well, I will pull my SP vines late tomorrow or more likely Sunday afternoon. I'm real curious to see what (if anything) grew!

Alexandria, IN(Zone 6a)

I had two rows of sweetpotatoes. One was in a highly amended area and the other was in good regular soil. There was no difference in the production. It is always that way as sweetpotatoes do well in soil that is not extra rich. Any soil that is not deeply loose should be ridged up high.

Eatonton, GA(Zone 8a)

Hey Terri! Thank you! I'm so sorry to hear you had varmints. I wonder what it was? Better luck next year. That's a great idea for the photo of John - I took it to illustrate size of the vines!

Darius - I'm looking forward to hear how yours did!

Charlotte, NC(Zone 7b)

We were pulling sweet potatoes yesterday when a rabbit jumped up and ran under the fence! Yikes! I've always thought our garden was rabbit proof! Hubby immediately got busy boarding up the spot.

Now I'm worried about the broccoli...

Alba, TX(Zone 8a)

I was thinking it might be a deer. Oddly, it left everything else alone!

So.App.Mtns., United States(Zone 5b)

Well, I dug my SP bed. All Hat, No Cattle.

That's not totally accurate, I have 3-4 pounds of extra-small fingerlings, several pounds of larger-than-softball size but damaged by voles, and maybe 1 or 2 sp's that I could eat.

The damage (which I think is voles, but I put it in pest ID forum anyway) is incredible! If it IS voles, several families of them are well fed now!

Thumbnail by darius
So.App.Mtns., United States(Zone 5b)

Close up of typical damage

Thumbnail by darius
So.App.Mtns., United States(Zone 5b)

This is the pile of vines the next morning... about half the size from when I piled them up. There was some slight frost damage to the leaves when I took this photo, so if the SP's had been okay, it would have been good I dug them when I did.

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Alba, TX(Zone 8a)

Bummer darius =~/. And voles are hard to deal with.....

Alexandria, IN(Zone 6a)

I had a vole or voles on one end of a row. They ate some medium holes and then moved on to eat some more holes. Uh, I smacked one with the shovel.


Darius, It looks like you may have some scurf on some of your tators. Scurf is a gray/blackish color on the skin. You can peel the skin off, but affected roots will not keep long. To help prevent scurf, hill the dirt into a high ridge before planting and do not over-water. Plastic mulch can keep the soil dryer...water a bit through the planting hole if droughty weather.

This message was edited Oct 17, 2011 10:59 PM

So.App.Mtns., United States(Zone 5b)

Thanks Indy... I didn't come across scurf in my searches. That bed was newly created (high ridges) with topsoil I brought in to raise the planting area, but it sits atop clay that doesn't drain well. I'm starting to build a decent planting area higher up the slight slope from the creek, but it will not be useful for root crops for at least a couple of years (or more).

I may try today to peel the scurfy-looking ones; maybe they can be cubed and pressure-canned.

Charlotte, NC(Zone 7b)

I had a problem with voles last year, but not so much this year. I hear owls early in the morning, and am hoping they are keeping the vole population in check. I have also seen coyotes on our street, and they eat small critters.

Alba, TX(Zone 8a)

HoneybeeNC, those coyotes will do wonders with the small critter population. But also small dogs, cats, and they also really love watermelons. Any melon really. I try to live and let live when I can, but fence up anything you don't want eaten by the coyotes. Especially a toy poodle or a watermelon! =)

Saylorsburg, PA(Zone 6a)

Finally dug up all the SP last night because we will be going away for a week and I worried about possible frost. Seems like that may have been premature after all but I don't think I could handle any more than I harvested! Wow they do produce, don't they?!! For a first time effort I am very pleased.

Even though I knew they might not be as sweet I couldn't resist cooking some up last night. I boiled, skinned, then mashed them and added butter and a little brown sugar. Delicious! Hubby and his 88 year old aunt raved about them. I did have to wash them gently to get off all the dirt since we have had so much rain so there is no such thing here as dry ground to harvest from.

Tomorrow they should be dry enough to put in the kitchen lav which is warmer than the other rooms and will have to do for "curing". There's always brown or maple sugar if they still haven't sweetened better. These certainly beat planting regular potatoes in terms of return. Because it was so wet this summer I lost half the Red Romanza potatoes to rotting in the soil. I am a convert to growing my own Sweet Potatoes!! Will be curious to see how well they store.

Charlotte, NC(Zone 7b)

terri_emory - since seeing Coyotes in our neighbor's front yard, I've had to keep our little dog on a leash when she goes outside just before bedtime. She weighs 7lbs and would be a nice snack for a Coyote! Even during the day, I don't let her out into our fenced yard unless I'm with her. This is a new experience for me and the neighbors. There have never been Coyotes in the area before.

Photo of Chloe Dec-25-2010

Thumbnail by HoneybeeNC

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