Sweet Potatoes - ready to harvest?

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JRinPA
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Sweet Potatoes - ready to harvest?

#1

Post: # 31793Unread post JRinPA
Sun Oct 04, 2020 9:45 am

This is my second year with sweet potatoes. Last year I planted them at the comm garden and let them go too long, they were died back completely and some rotted. Got busy and forgotten, but some were good to eat, some were eaten by critters, and some got huge and split/rotted. That was...early or mid-November.

I don't want that to happen this year. What are the keys/signs everyone uses to decide when to pick for best storage?

In the 20ft raised bed I planted through black mulch with big slots cut through, and had drip tape during they dry summer. The garden has no plastic and got water, later. Both plots went in early June or so when slips were available. I spaced them out in the already planted beds that had lettuce spinach radishes turnips carrots parsnips red beats. The sweet potatoes didn't really take off growing until later in July. We had a very slight frost a couple weeks back. I have been trying to keep the vines unrooted and cut to 6 ft or less (thanks @GoDawgs )

Here is what they look like morning of 10/4/20. I haven't dug any up yet, so looking for advice. Thanks.
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eyegrotom
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Re: Sweet Potatoes - ready to harvest?

#2

Post: # 31797Unread post eyegrotom
Sun Oct 04, 2020 11:39 am

Since this is my first year growing sweet potatoes I can't give you much advice on when to harvest. I harvested some of mine early just out of curiosity and they did pretty good average 3 lb per slip still have a lot more growing and I'm going to do a little at a time.

Based on the pictures I see of yours you should have a pretty good yield hopefully somebody with experience will chime in and help you out
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PhilaGardener
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Re: Sweet Potatoes - ready to harvest?

#3

Post: # 31827Unread post PhilaGardener
Sun Oct 04, 2020 7:08 pm

Those look good! I'm getting ready to dig mine. The deer just got in through my fencing and rimmed back a lot of the leaves for me. I like to put the roots in a box (dark) that sits in the back of my parked car in the sun for a few weeks before the season turns too cold. The warm, humid conditions in the sunny car are just right for that!

Good luck! In some years I have a great yield and in others almost nothing. Still working on understanding that!
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worth1
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Re: Sweet Potatoes - ready to harvest?

#4

Post: # 31834Unread post worth1
Sun Oct 04, 2020 8:25 pm

Let the vines die back unless you have a pet cow or goat to give a sweet potato vine treat to.
It really doesn't matter.
The things need to cure anyway in the ground or not for a month or two.
This makes them more sweet.
And yes I am considering where you live.
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Re: Sweet Potatoes - ready to harvest?

#5

Post: # 31835Unread post brownrexx
Sun Oct 04, 2020 8:35 pm

This is also my second year with Beauregard sweet potatoes and last year I allowed them to remain in the ground until just before frost because I was waiting for the vines to die back. I got huge potatoes with ugly furrows in them. They were way too big for my liking although they did taste OK.

Image20190928_135355 by Brownrexx, on Flickr

ImageGiant Sweet Potato 2019 by Brownrexx, on Flickr

I made a sweet potato pie out of the one pictured above and still had enough left to make sweet potato casserole.


ImageSweet Potato Pie with Jelly Pie by Brownrexx, on Flickr

This year I harvested at 100 days even though the vines were still green and growing and I am much happier with the harvest. Each little pile is from one plant and the darker ones in the last picture were grown in a straw bale just for fun.

ImageSweet Potatoes 2020 by Brownrexx, on Flickr

ImageSweet Potatoes 2020 by Brownrexx, on Flickr

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JRinPA
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Re: Sweet Potatoes - ready to harvest?

#6

Post: # 31839Unread post JRinPA
Sun Oct 04, 2020 10:00 pm

@eyegrotom, hey there, thanks, they do look good on top. I figure they grew well, my biggest worry is voles. Someone showed me some vole repellent, might have been the "vole scram" I just looked up, but of course I didn't actually buy any. Way back in July as I picked or thinned out the other stuff I had broadcast (seed I listed above, lettuce red beets etc) I found a "trail" about an inch wide and a half inch deep through the dirt. Maybe 2 wide and 1 inch deep. Something was making its way through there under all the jungle that was there. Now the sweet potatoes are their own jungle and I have no idea if it is crisscrossed with trails under there. There is a 1/2" hardware cloth fence around it, but not buried, just to keep out rabbits and groundhogs and springer spaniels.

@PhilaGardener car idea is good, I was told attic as well. I guess it would depend on the house.

@brownrexx, the bottom redder ones in hay were the same variety? That's interesting. Quite a copper tone to them.
100 days...all of mine were planted within few days and it had to be late May or early June. I didn't think it was hot enough yet, but some slips looked rough and I wanted to get them in the ground. The left row in the garden were overshadowed severely by turnips. But as far as I can tell only one plant was lost. 100 days from June 1 would have been Sept 10 or so. So I'm at 125 days, but again, it seemed like they idled in place for a long time.

Another difference from last year, my garden soil is pretty loamy and the raised beds are loose. Last year at the comm garden, it was just broadforked clay soil with some compost on top. Much different weather too. Digging them was very wet and sticky last year. I think they would have been great if had I picked in early October. I had a lot like your 2019 pic but figure another 3 weeks of decay past that for the ones with the X splits. And some that were just husk, eaten by voles or rotted.

@worth1 probably the fat springer girl would eat them. Maybe both. Close as I have. They graze at the cherry tomatoes and love tearing up peavine for a few peas.

Maybe I'll have to pick a few this week. It was something like 3 dozen slip all together, from two sources. There are plenty out there if it turns out I was too early. I know they should be cured, but it might be safer out of the ground.

I really couldn't tell last year how much damage was weather/cold and how much vole damage. We did have freezes before I got to around to them. I was shocked how many and how big they were, those Georgia Jet, but it was probably half or more right to the compost. And none made it through for slips this year. They molded over, and I've since learned the basement gets too cold for sweet potato storage. This year was Centennial and I guess two others that don't recall, but I'm going to try for slips next spring.

@eyegrotom
@brownrexx
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brownrexx
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Re: Sweet Potatoes - ready to harvest?

#7

Post: # 31850Unread post brownrexx
Mon Oct 05, 2020 7:19 am

@JRinPA I wonder if the ones from the straw bale had more moisture in the skins from the wet straw and that made them look more red because they all look the same now in storage.

I also planted my slips in looser soil this year compared to last year and I think that this led to nicer shaped potatoes. I think that when the potatoes grew down to the clay layer last year that they kept enlarging sideways. Possibly if I had harvested sooner, they would have been smaller and not so ugly.
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Re: Sweet Potatoes - ready to harvest?

#8

Post: # 31921Unread post GoDawgs
Tue Oct 06, 2020 6:44 am

@JRinPA , have you looked under the vines to see if any sweets are starting to push out of the ground? They don't always do that but it's one sign they're probably ready. You can also fork up one hill to see what's going on. I give mine about 120 days from planting and found it's easiest to remove all the vines before digging.

@brownrexx , those are some pretty sweets! I think I remember seeing some photos online of those pitted ones you had last year but can't remember what caused that. It looks like you hit the "sweet" spot when you dug this year. :D

@PhilaGardener , I've been curing mine in my car also after reading an article on that two years ago. The gal whose article I read puts hers single layer in peach baskets, puts them in big plastic trash bags with holes punched in there for ventilation and then puts them in her car to get those 80-90 degrees needed for curing. The bags keep the humidity level up as the heat drives off moisture from the sweets. Down here where we get some really hot late summer weather, I've started keeping one of those remote thermometers in the car and then lowering the windows just enough to keep the temp in the perfect range. It worked like a charm.

Mine are stored in peach baskets with a layer of newspaper laying on top of them. They're in a closet in the house and hold just fine there until spring.
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Re: Sweet Potatoes - ready to harvest?

#9

Post: # 31922Unread post GoDawgs
Tue Oct 06, 2020 6:51 am

There's a really great article from Sand Hill Preservation Center on growing sweet potatoes. In that article they talk about their method for determining readiness by figuring daily heat units as they like 1200 total heat units over the growing season to get the size potatoes they like. Of course, that is for their early varieties so later maturing potatoes would take more. But it's a starting point.

Excerpt from https://www.sandhillpreservation.com/sw ... nformation
"Fourth: This is the most important thing when it comes to sweet potatoes. It is the heat units that determines success, not the number of days nor plant zone, but heat units. I have been an avid weather observer for over 40 years and have files of weather data to go with files of planting data. A few years ago , thanks to the help of one of our workers, I was able to put the two sets of data together and arrive at some conclusions that I had already suspected, but had never had the time to confirm. It takes about 1200 heat units for our early varieties to reach a decent crop of usable size roots. I use the term usable size as I think for many a sweet potato the size of a nice fat bratwurst is about the best size for keeping and for baking. Bigger than that is okay, but they do not sprout as well nor keep as well because they suffer from bruising much easier. The question you must then ask yourself is: “How is 1200 heat units determined?” I offer the following examples. To get heat units you take the day’s high temperature (maximum) and the day’s low temperature (minimum) and add them together. Then divide by 2 and subtract 55 from that. That gives you the heat units.

Example 1. Daytime high (maximum) 75 deg. F, night time low (minimum) 45 deg. F. Add those together and divide by 2 you get 120/2 or 60. Subtract 55 and you get 5 heat units. If that is your typical summer, then you will need 240 frost free days to get a crop. It doesn’t take a genius to realize that if you have summertime days like that, you are probably not going to have 240 frost free days because that is 8 months.


Just for fun I set up a spreadsheet to do all the calculating as I have access to daily min and max temps for this area from a nearby UGA weather station. Good grief! Our heat units here are out the roof long before the sweets size up! But I imagine this method would work better farther north.
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brownrexx
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Re: Sweet Potatoes - ready to harvest?

#10

Post: # 31926Unread post brownrexx
Tue Oct 06, 2020 7:12 am

GoDawgs wrote:
Tue Oct 06, 2020 6:44 am
it's easiest to remove all the vines before digging.

That's how I dug mine and yes, the were pushing up out of the ground too so I guess that I got it right this year.
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Re: Sweet Potatoes - ready to harvest?

#11

Post: # 32253Unread post JRinPA
Mon Oct 12, 2020 1:02 pm

Wish I would have dug some up yesterday. Was canning meat most of the day. And picked up my pumpkins. Kind of feels like last year, Sept to Dec is busy. But at least they are staring at me through the kitchen window so they won't be totally forgotten. I personally could go for a whole lifetime of Autumn. The rest of the year, for me, is just waiting for it, or regretting it is past. Even this rain has a nice little chill to it.
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