This is a journal of my vegetable gardens. Skippy was my first dog and he thought the garden was his, even though I did all the work. Now Suzie and Charley follow in his footsteps. We're located near Boston (USDA zone 6A). I have a community plot, a backyard vegetable garden, fruit trees, berry bushes, chickens, and bees. I use sustainable organic methods and do my best to grow all of my family's vegetables myself.

Monday, October 29, 2012

digging sweet potatoes

freshly dug sweet potatoes 005 sweet potato bed 004 dirty hand 006 Yesterday I dug about half of my sweet potato bed. It was drizzling on the eve of Hurricane Sandy's arrival. I told myself I wouldn't get my hands dirty as I planned to shop afterwards. I often fail at this plan. My hands got really muddy. I dug a nice pile of sweets. skippy by the sweet potato bed 007 sweet potatoes 003



Anonymous Marian(LondonUK) said...

Hi, we had a drizzly old day too. I always get muddy somehow and quite often get funny looks if I stop off to get milk or something from the shops on the way home. If I check myself in the car mirror I realise I have mud on my face or something attached to my hair! Just seen the news and film on internet about the flooding in New York. Hopefully it should calm down before coming your way. May still be pretty windy and wet I guess. Take care.
Marian (LondonUK)

October 30, 2012 4:30 AM

Blogger Pam said...

Kathy -

After you harvest sweet potatoes, do you cure them? How do you store them? Do you use this year's crop to make slips for next year? Inquiring minds ...

In June, I planted about 80 sweet potato plants - 14 varieties. 10 days ago, we were forecast to get 10-12+ inches of rain from Hurricane Sandy so I had to harvest early.

Took 6+ hours/day for two days (on my knees) for two days but I got the sweets out of the ground and into the house. 167 pounds. I didn't wash the dirt off them (although they look pretty ratty). They are curing in the guest bath, with help from a portable heater and a humidifier that keep temps in the 80-90 range and high humidity. I'll cure them for about 2 weeks, then store them.

Wondered if you went through a similar process.

November 07, 2012 2:22 PM

Blogger kathy said...

Hmm. Its only my second year growing sweet potatoes. I'm winging it. This is the biggest harvest I've gotten.

I haven't done anything to cure them. My "procedure" is leave them sit in bags a few days on the front porch while I get around to washing them. Then they sit in the kitchen in a basket for a couple weeks while I admire them. Then they go down to the basement.

If they don't keep until I get them all eaten, I will have to do a better job of curing next year.

I have been meaning to look into the best way to store them - if they need humidity (like beets and carrots) or if they are fine in open baskets (with my squash and potatoes). I am thinking the latter.

I am planning to use these for next years slips. This crop is from slips from my first crop. They are 3 different supermarket varieties. One problem I had was that it took 2 years for them to sprout last year, so I didn't grow any last year. (I bought sweets I found already sprouting at the supermarket the first year, these grew great, but then that crop took two years to sprout.) I will be looking into how to get them sprouting faster this year. I think I need to get them going soon as they grow slow and look nice on the kitchen window sill all winter.

Yours sound fantastic! I would LOVE to have all those varieties. I only have room for a 5x8 ft bed.

How do you dig them?

I found they need a bit of a different method than potatoes. For potatoes I use a garden fork, loosen the soil and then mostly sift through the loose soil by hand to find the potatoes. For the sweets this year, I found it worked better to use a shovel and dug a trench next to the bed and then gradually shovel and turn the soil of the bed into the trench while removing the sweets I came across. I think because the sweets are so much bigger than potatoes and oddly shaped, this worked better for me. I did end up slicing more than I would have like with the shovel.

I'd love to hear how other dig sweets. It IS really hard work.

November 07, 2012 3:50 PM

Blogger Pam said...

Kathy - When you put your sweet potatoes in baskets in the kitchen to admire them, that's exactly what they needed. ;-)

Unlike Irish potatoes that are cool weather plants, sweet potatoes are tropical plants and don't like cold. People who have grown them for years often store them in boxes under a bed or in a closet in a warm area. Storing them in a cold cellar isn't recommended.

Curing: some people cure for a week, others for two or three weeks. Since this is my first year to grow sweets, I'm no expert. Curing helps the skin to toughen up, and starts the process of developing sugar creating enzymes. This process continues for one or two months.

Digging: When I dug them, I was on my knees with a long trowel (about 24"). I tried standing up with a digging fork and shovel but inadvertently damaged too many. Even when I used my hands to find them, I rubbed the skin off.

Digging up the different varieties was an educational experience. Varieties that grew next to each other were so different. Big v. little, many v. very few potatoes. Some grew close to the parent plant, others were big-time runners.

I don't know if there is a better way but I'm highly motivated to find out!

It was hard work and I was very sore.

November 08, 2012 11:47 AM


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