Growing sweet potatoes is another first for me, and so I really did not know what to expect. Would the harvest be large or small? Am I harvesting at the correct time, or should I wait? Were there enough nutrients in the soil? Did they get enough water?
So, the vines grow and grow and they got everywhere! I tried to guide them to grow toward and over the white fence at the top of the picture, but I could not keep on top of them. For harvesting, I did my research and there were a few main things that influenced my decision last Friday: harvest when the leaves start to yellow, sweet potatoes are sensitive to cold, most farmers plan their harvest late September through October, harvest when the soil is dry, and you can harvest 90-120 days. The leaves weren’t really that yellow to me, and we had some more time before a frost would hit. But since this is my first year doing this, and they had been in ground over four months, I figured I would harvest, see what happens, and then adjust next year if needed.
As we were ripping out the vines, I noticed a few things.
- The sweet potato vines produce beautiful purple flowers, as you can see below!
- The second picture shows that the vines root out at growth points, and it looks like quite a few more flowers were on their way. This made me wonder if I should have waited.
- In pictures 3-4: As I was removing vines near the white fence, I pulled up some sweet potatoes! There is just dirt and mulch surrounding the raised bed, so the vines obviously rooted and produced potatoes. This also made me wonder if I should have waited.
- Since the vines root like this, I wonder how I can capitalize on that next year? It would make sense to let the vines flow into an area with good soil to get more potatoes, but that will take some planning. Maybe let them go along my fence and just till up the area first?
Now on to actual harvest! When I started digging in the actual raised bed, below is a picture of the first potatoes I unearthed! I could not believe how huge they were! I have never seen a sweet potato that big before! At this point, I knew it was OK to continue harvesting. These are all the Beauregard variety.
Purple Sweet Potatoes
This was the only disappointing thing. I had ordered my slips from Sow True Seeds, and for our Beauregards , I am very pleased with the return. They were shipped in the mail in May and were fine. For the purple, the slips were delayed and finally came about mid-June when it had gotten really hot. When I received them, over half were rotten. I got four to grow and they just seemed to lag behind in growth. When I dug them up, I only got maybe a few pounds. I am interested in whether there is a big difference in flavor, as I have read and have found some recipes. This may or may not be a keeper for next year.
My Happy Crew!
Overall, we are very happy with our harvest, and with many hands make light work. We were done in maybe a few hours! We got two full 5-gallon buckets full of sweet potatoes. I am not sure what that would be in weight, but it is probably at least 100 pounds. And this was just super easy to do. The potatoes need to dry a bit, and then they go into a burlap sack for storage. It takes about 2 weeks for the starches to convert to sugars, so it will take that long before our first home grown sweet potato pie!