Sweet Potato Harvest 2016

127 Pounds of Sweet Potatoes

127 Pounds of Sweet Potatoes

This year’s sweet potato harvest was certainly different than most. It was the largest we’ve ever had, over 125 pounds. Our previous best was 85 pounds. We normally yield between 75 and 80 pounds, so this was “really shocking”. We also had the largest single potato we’ve ever grown, eleven pounds. The quality was definitely not the best ever as we had a lot of cracked skins, which we are attributing to unusually high rainfall.

Sweet Potato Bed

Sweet Potato Bed

Our planting routine for sweet potatoes varies little. We grow 18 plants set under black plastic in a 20 foot long raised bed. Starts go in the last week of May and we harvest around the first frosts, usually mid-October. We never feed the plants and rarely water them. Sweet potatoes require almost no maintenance during their outdoor growing period. We had two nights of near frost the day before the harvest and the bed was covered with plastic. Above, the protective plastic is removed and the bed is ready to be harvested.

Cutting Off Vines

Cutting Off Vines

The thick tangled mass of vines is removed by cutting the vines from the roots using pruning loppers. The plastic circles we put around the plants when they are babies makes this job easier.

Vines Removed

Vines Removed

The vine mass is rolled up and out of the way as it is cut away from the roots.

Plastic Removed

Plastic Removed

We knew even before the plastic was removed that this was going to be a very large harvest with some very big roots.

Big Root

Big Root

They can grow ‘em big down south, but for us this is a rare sight.

11 Pound Sweet Pototo

11 Pound Sweet Pototo

Biggest one we ever grew.

Lots of Big Plants

Lots of Big Plants

Noel shows off more big ones.

Snake

Snake

We found several of these nested in the bed. There was no insect or mammal damage to our crop. Maybe the snakes helped.

Drying the Harvest

Drying the Harvest

We knock off the excess dirt and dry the potatoes in the sun. The potatoes are trimmed and turned.

Cracked Sweet Potatoes

Cracked Sweet Potatoes

A lot of the larger potatoes had big splits. The splits weren’t deep and had already healed over, so we don’t think our losses will be great, but we won’t know for sure until we cut a few big ones open to check the quality inside and start pulling them from storage.

The 2016 sweet potato harvest was probably our most interesting. Now we have to figure out what to do with all these potatoes.

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7 Responses to “Sweet Potato Harvest 2016”

  1. Stacey Haines says:

    What a great crop & thanks for the share! Nice bounty for sure! I didn’t realize how easy it was to grow them…. Seriously! This gal loves sweet potatoes and will be adding them to my garden in 2017 for sure!

  2. Geoff Bray says:

    Hi Noel,
    Do you know what variety they were, and Where did you get the slips from?

  3. Noel says:

    Geoff, we grow Jewel (also spelled Jewell). They perform well in the north and they store better than just about any other variety. We have not purchased slips in quite a few years. We start our own slips. There are numerous references to the procedures we use on previous blog posts. Jewel is readily available as a slip from many suppliers and it is common in the stores if you wanted to buy a sweet potato root to start your own slips.

  4. Noel, have you grown sweets under plastic before? Did you have a watering system under the plastic? You’re in the Middle West, aren’t you? Love sweet potato French fries, baked then sliced across, making large coins, serve with a little orange juice. Great combination.

  5. Noel says:

    Hi Margaret, I’ve always grown under plastic. We are in southern Wisconsin and the plastic acts as a solar collector to heat up the plants early in the season. It is also a weed barrier. I don’t use any irrigation system. but I do cut a few slits in the plastic to allow some rainfall to come in from top down. I think the plants get most of their moisture from below the bed level and rainfall can easily get under the plastic along all the edges. Our rainfall here is almost always plentiful and this year it was excessive. We’re constantly coming up with new uses for sweet potatoes. It is a most excellent crop for home gardeners.

  6. Tina says:

    Always enjoy reading about your sweet potato crop. This was my second year growing from my own slips and although I harvested more potatoes this year, they were smaller and more tubelike in shape. Not full, filled out. I had a few that were nice sized.

    I too am in So. Wi. I wonder if I should have vented my plastic as you stated. Any other thoughts on why my potatoes were small? Plant in the ground earlier? Open to any suggestions.

  7. Noel says:

    I don’t think I can give you a “for sure” answer, but I doubt if vent slits in the plastic are the problem. If your foliage is vigorous and healthy, the potatoes are getting enough water. The spacing of the plant starts is important. Crowding hurts the yield. The plants should be at least 18 inches apart. More space is better.
    Usually, you don’t need any special soil amendments or fertilizer. If your garden is growing other vegetables well I don’t think nutrition is the problem.
    Variety is very important. Many varieties that do well down south don’t like Wisconsin. We’ve had good luck with Jewell and Centennial, but we like Jewell better. Make sure you pick a variety recommended for the north. Get your starts in the ground as soon as frost danger is over. We try for last week of May, but with the warming you could move that up to May 15th. The longer they are in the ground, the bigger they will get. Hope this helps.