Posts Tagged ‘harvesting sweet potatoes’

2017 Sweet Potato Harvest

Tuesday, October 17th, 2017
Sweet Potato Harvest. CobraHead Test Gardens. Cambridge, Wisconsin.

Sweet Potato Harvest

We harvested 89 pounds of sweet potatoes yesterday. That’s not a record, but it’s well above our normal yield, and we’re happy with the results. Our average sweet potato yield is about 80 pounds per bed.  We grow a variety named Jewel (sometimes spelled Jewell).  We’ve been growing Jewel from our own starts for over 10 years and we find it excellent for both yield and long-term storage, and they taste great, too!

Empty Bed. CobraHead Test Gardens. Cambridge, Wisconsin.

Empty Bed

The potatoes were grown in this very clayey bed.

Sweet Potato Vines. CobraHead Test Gardens. Cambridge, Wisconsin.

Sweet Potato Vines

For harvesting, we first removed all the vines and the black plastic sheet which covered the bed and acted as a solar collector to heat up the soil.

18 Harvested Sweet Potato Plants. CobraHead Test Gardens. Cambridge, Wisconsin.

18 Harvested Sweet Potato Plants

Here are the 18 harvested plants.

Vole Damage. CobraHead Test Gardens. Cambridge, Wisconsin.

Vole Damage

More Vole Damage. CobraHead Test Gardens. Cambridge, Wisconsin.

More Vole Damage

The forecast is for warm temperatures for the next ten days, but I had to harvest now because I noticed some vole damage on one of the potatoes when I checked under the plastic, two days ago. Any increase in yields we might have gotten for leaving them in the ground longer could have been easily offset by damage from these little varmints.

Fortunately the damage was limited to two plants and was not significant. I found a nest under the plastic, but no voles.

We trimmed up the roots before we weighed them and wheeled them to the house for a two week curing on the kitchen table.

After two weeks in the kitchen, we’ll wrap the larger potatoes in newspaper and store them in the basement. We will be able to enjoy our harvest all year long.


2015 Sweet Potato Harvest

Wednesday, October 28th, 2015
Over Four Pounds

Over Four Pounds

As the garden season winds down, we’re happy to report that we’ve had another great sweet potato harvest.  I like to remind people that it’s easy to grow sweet potatoes even up north, here in Wisconsin.

Sweet Potato Bed

Sweet Potato Bed

Here are the potato vines, about two weeks ago.

Frost and Beetle Damage

Frost and Beetle Damage

We already had a light frost  and the leaves were pretty moth eaten from Japanese beetles.  I decided not to wait longer to get them out of the ground.

Vines Ready to Prune

Vines Ready to Prune

I stacked all the vines up in the center of the bed so I could easily prune them off using pruning lopers.

A Pile of Vines

A Pile of Vines

Here’s the bed with all the vines trimmed off.

Harvested Plants

Harvested Plants

Of the seventeen plants, most were quite robust, but three or four were on the puny side.

A Good Sized Plant

A Good Sized Plant

This one plant weighed over seven pounds.

Drying on the Kitchen Table

Drying on the Kitchen Table

Sweet potatoes need to be cured or allowed to dry out at a relatively warm temperature before being put into storage.  Here’s most of the harvest curing on the kitchen table.

Wrapped and Stored

Wrapped and Stored

After a two week curing, we wrap the larger potatoes in newspaper and store them in our heated basement.  They’ll keep a year in storage and maybe even a little longer.  Left too long, they’ll start to sprout, which is okay, because the sprouts are a good source for sweet potato starts to plant again next season.

We grow a variety named Jewel or Jewell.  It has consistently delivered good yields.  It produces a lot of nice fat potatoes with very few stringy unusable roots.  We harvested about 74 pounds of sweet potatoes.  Not our biggest ever harvest from a single bed, but still pretty good.



Best Sweet Potato Harvest Ever!

Wednesday, October 3rd, 2012

Six Pounds From One Plant

With frost forecast for later this week and knowing that I would be out of town, I decided to harvest my sweet potatoes.  Sweet potatoes cannot tolerate frost, so I did not want to take a chance on losing any of my crop.

Sweet Potatoes Ready to Harvest

I had previously put a clear plastic cover over the bed as we had some nippy temperatures a week ago.  The leaves under the plastic were already showing black from the previous frost and wilting badly, so I didn’t think I would lose anything by pulling the plants out, now.

Vines Cut Off Using Pruning Loppers

I figured out several seasons ago that the easiest approach to harvesting is to remove all the vines at once.  I cut them off using pruning loppers.  It’s then very easy to lift off the protective black plastic and start harvesting.

A Plastic Ring Protects the Vines

I knew a good harvest was in store when I saw several big spuds protruding from the soil.  The plastic ring in the picture is placed around the sweet potato start when it is first planted in late May.  The ring protects the start from wind and insect damage and also keeps the black plastic cover from accidentally covering up or damaging the start.  It also makes it very easy to water the small plants.  I think it’s a great aid to getting the plants established without problems.

Using the CobraHead to Help Harvest

Sweet Potatoes are exceptionally delicate when they are first harvested.  It’s easy to snap them in half and even easier to accidentally  scar their skin with digging tools.  I use a garden fork to loosen up the soil around them, but the final dig out is accomplished with the CobraHead.  These potatoes are growing in really hard clay and even though I’ve worked in a lot of straw and compost to soften it up, it still packs tight.  The CobraHead lets me dig around and under the plants to get them loose with a minimal amount of damage.

A Bountiful Harvest That Will Last A Year

Here is most of the harvest.  The yield was over 82 pounds of good, usable sweet potatoes.  That’s over a 4.5 pound per plant average yield.  I had one plant that weighed over seven pounds.  I read online that the agricultural average is 2.5 pounds per plant on the high side, so we did okay.

I’ve since moved all these potatoes onto the kitchen floor where they are laid out on newspapers to dry.  After two weeks of drying, we’ll wrap each larger and medium sized spud in newspaper and store it in the basement.  We use the little ones up first.  We’ve easily gotten sweet potatoes to last a year in storage.  Sweet potatoes are one of the most nutritious plants one can eat.  Growing a crop that lasts a year in easy storage conditions, is good to eat, and is good for you makes a lot of sense for the home grower.

Sweet Potato Harvest

Saturday, October 15th, 2011

With several nights of frost  predicted for this coming week, it was time to harvest the sweet potatoes.  They will not tolerate frost.  Here’s the bed of potatoes, thick with foliage.  The plants are grown through a cover of black plastic which heats the bed up quickly in the spring and pretty much eliminates any weeds.

Harvesting is much easier if all the foliage is cut away and removed first.  This is the second year I used this sheet of plastic and it looks like it will be in good enough shape to use one more time.  I’m not a fan of using polyethylene, but I bought a roll of the material years ago and I get multiple uses out of each sheet which assuages my guilt, slightly.  We are researching other more ecologically benign fabrics for future use.

Sweet potatoes are very delicate when they are first dug.  They snap easily and it’s hard to keep from stabbing them with your digging tools.  This year’s harvest set no records for weight or size.  I attribute that to the particularly clayey nature of this bed.   The softer the soil the better.  I took a chance and so I can only blame myself for a less than spectacular yield.  The plants were very healthy, but the tubers did not fill out as well as most of my previous harvests.  A lesson learned.  I’ll work a lot more compost into next year’s bed.

Nevertheless, we’ll still have lots of sweet potatoes to store.  We let the tubers air dry in the kitchen for two weeks, then  we wrap them in newspaper and store them in the basement.  It’s important to use up the smaller and stringy tubers first, as they do not store well.  Larger tubers, however, can last up to a year in storage.