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.
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.
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!
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...
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...
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.
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 80-90º 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?
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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! =)
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.
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.
So sorry Darius - that's got to hurt. It hurts me looking at the photos!
HB - Chloe is so cute! We watched a young red tail hawk earlier this summer that was very brave (or very dumb depending on how you look at it) that was interested in taking a neighbor's chihuahuas. The neighbor was throwing stones at the hawk to scare it and until she actually hit it with a stone, the hawk stood its ground about 8 feet off the ground in a tree... He hung out on the ground under my bird feeder for a morning too. Amazing.
Cindy_GA - We almost lost our Chloe to a young red tailed hawk when she was a puppy. If she hadn't been lying really close to the fence, she would have been a gonner! Fortunately, the hawk pulled up at the last minute. After that incident, we put a dog-coat on Chloe to make her look bigger.
HoneybeeNC, cute doggie! Coyotes don't like lights at night. So leave one on.
We had a really bad problem with field rats when we first built this house. They would come right up on the back porch in broad daylight! Yuck! I do not like rats around the house. Our pasture was owned by an out of state person and he let anyone hunt on the property. I finally caught up with everyone and told them we bought the acreage and would they please stop hunting and shooting there. Well, shortly after that one lone coyote showed up. I made all kinds of noise and DH put up good fencing to keep him out of the yard. No more field rats. Mr Coyote is big and fat now and has a nice shiny coat. He gets that we don't want him anywhere near the house and in return he can have all the field rats he can catch. We also have a sheppard and a Catahoula curr who consider themselves the eternal guardians of my two Corgis. So far Mr Coyote has not even looked twice at my dogs. The few times I have seen him when we are out in the yard he just slinks away. The Catahoula in particular can really give you the "IRS stare" when she thinks you've invaded the territory.
Okay, just harvested my SPs. We ordered two carefully selected varieties but didn't realize we had to plant them as soon as they arrived, so they rotted and we had to go buy more slips from our local farm market. These were Maple Leaf sweets. We had one 45-foot row and another 25-foot row and we have about five grape crates full. I don't know where to put them to cure, since it's chilly here now; I've got them in the greenhouse to dry and then we'll brush the dirt off, sort them, and put them down the basement. We had vole damage too, but those can go for deer bait. And I may end up having to cook and freeze some because a friend said that they don't store as well if they're left in the ground after it gets cold, and we have had some hard freezes already. But we are very pleased with our harvest; it's a lot better than the white potatoes, for sure! I'm going to cook some tonight just to see what they're like, and hope that the flavor deepens and sweetens with storage as you all have said.
Where did you cure yours, or did you harvest yours earlier when the temperatures were higher?
The ones we cooked for dinner were already really sweet; my granddaughter thought I had put sugar on them, but I just baked them whole and we put a little butter on them at the table. I was very pleasantly surprised! If they get much sweeter they're going to be like candy!
I'd go with the greenhouse, g-gal. Lots of folks around here field cure their S-potatoes, i.e., digging then leaving them in the sun IF the weather is still warm days and nights. I'm sure your g-house will be warm enough to heat them up, turning the starch into sugar. Once they've been cures/sweetened then you would want to keep them at a cooler temp, preferably around 50 or so for winter storage.
Congrats on a bumper harvest! I'm impressed!
Cindy, you go girl! Ya'lls harvest from 16 sq feet is fantastic! Ya done good! Way to go!
Okay, thanks! One less chore for tomorrow! We're expecting rain again tomorrow, though, so the greenhouse won't get up past ambient temperature, which might not be enough to sweeten them, but they're already pretty sweet as it is.
We were really pleased with our crop! I guess the thing to do is to eat up the damaged ones first - there were some that had been gnawed but there was still most of the potato left, and those I didn't put in the deer pile. I figured I'd trim them before I cooked them.
Thanks, HB. I just wanted to make less of a mess when I brought them into the basement. I guess once I can brush them off a little they'll be as well off down there, where it's usually in the low to mid sixties, as they'd be in the greenhouse.
I did break the rules above and washed the dirt off mine. I rinsed them in a bucket and then gently brushed off the remaining dirt, rinsing again. I couldn't see what difference it would make as it has done nothing but rain here all fall - they couldn't get any wetter! But I guess the brushing is the problem so I was careful. I also couldn't find a day to dig them up when the ground wasn't wet so they had more dirt than if the ground had been dry. They seem to have done fine. I put them in my heated kitchen lav for 10 days and now they are in the cooler cellar. We have already eaten a lot of them. My husband loves them cut up and fried after I cook them in boiling salt water for maybe 15 minutes to get somewhat soft. We have been away for two weeks so I am curious if the cellar ones will be any sweeter than before we left. This is be a great Thanksgiving treat!
Gardadore, glad to hear about your experiment. I actually thought there'd be less chance of their getting moldy if they were clean and didn't have dirt clinging to them. But we have a lot so I will probably just brush them off with a very soft brush before bringing them in. Unfortunately we don't have any place to cure them that's warmer than about 65 at this time of year - even the greenhouse isn't warming up because we've had no sun for days - so I'll have to go with what we've got.
Actually that's how I cook my green beans when they're a bit on the large side. I use a little pork fat or onions or peppers or anything else I have handy, and cook them low and slow, letting them burn just a little. They're really good that way!
We had baked sweet potatoes again last night with leftover ribs; we are just so pleased with them!
Well there's always a glitch in any new thing one tries! After getting past the drying and curing part I thought the storage would be easy. Unfortunately while I was away mice got into my baskets and did quite a job on the SP. I had stored them in my lettuce spinners because they have holes for aeration and put them in mesh bags for a 5 gallon bucket down in the cool cellar. But mice chewed through the mesh. Fortunately I was able to cut away the chewed parts and salvage a lot of the unchewed parts but I still had to throw away a lot as well. So now I must solve the storage problem. Obviously some kind of wire mesh is necessary.
I did cook up a bunch for my annual Thanksgiving sweet potato casserole and it was delicious!! Any suggestions you all might have on storage would be appreciated!
I haven't had mice in storage, but had a vole in some hills in the patch. My suggestion sounds very simplistic, but would likely work fairly well. Every fall have a couple mouse traps with peanut butter in them.
I do have mouse traps in the kitchen all the time but didn't think about the cellar! Duh, that should help. I will have to surround the stored potatoes with them and hope I don't have an army lurking that can break through the trap line! I think I will also search the shed for some wire mesh!
gardadore, when I started making cheese and aging it in my root cellar, I built a simple wood-framed box covered with 1/8" hardware cloth to keep filed mice out. (1/4" hardware cloth doesn't always work for the tiny field mice.) They munched a few of the apples, but that's all.
Thanks for all the ideas!! For future storage I like the idea of covering a wooden box with the 1/8" hardware cloth. For the few sweet potatoes I have left I think I can use my present container with a piece of hardware cloth on the top or make something out of the hardware cloth I have. By the time I get anything constructed we should have eaten them up! I will be taking the rest with me to Arizona in 10 days when I visit my son and family. Pets are out - we are away too much. We have some stray cats around but the mice seem to escape them and find refuge in our house!