Posts Tagged ‘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 Garden Review

Tuesday, December 15th, 2015
Potato Blossoms

Potato Blossoms

The 2015 CobraHead Home Garden was a great success. The garden is never the same from year to year. Weather, seed and plant inputs, labor, luck, and a lot of other variables make each garden season a new experience. That’s an advantage for home gardeners. They don’t need perfection to be successful, and last year’s errors are only lessons for the future. I like to tell beginning gardeners not to worry. Plant enough different stuff and some of it will turn out great in spite of your mistakes or misfortunes.  We had some pretty miserable failures this year, but overall most plants did fine and we harvested as much as we could hope for.

Potatoes in Open Raised Bed

Potatoes in Open Raised Bed

200 Pounds of Potatoes

200 Pounds of Potatoes

We had our largest potato harvest ever.  We’re storing them in a straw bale cold storage structure I set up in the barn.

One Potato - Over Four Pounds

One Potato – Over Four Pounds

Sweet Potato Starts in Flat

Sweet Potato Starts in Flat

Sweet potatoes are a crop we are famous for, and this year’s harvest was among our best ever.  I’m continuing to start my sweet potatoes from sprouted old roots.  It’s really easy.

Peas Interplanted with Greens in Open Raised Bed

Peas Interplanted with Greens in Open Raised Bed

T-Post and Bamboo Tomato Trellis.

T-Post and Bamboo Tomato Trellis.

Squash Trellises

Squash Trellises

We continue to use T-posts as our primary trellis structure supports.  I like them because they are cheap, nearly indestructible, and they can handle huge loads.

Low Hoop Tunnels

Low Hoop Tunnels

Cabbages

Cabbages

We’re getting better at transplanting seedlings directly from indoor spouting to a low tunnel hoop house.  This eliminates time consuming “hardening off”  and gives us some really vigorous starts.

Giant Swiss Snow Pea

Giant Swiss Snow Pea

Radishes and Peas in the Pan

Radishes and Peas in the Pan

We grew a new (for us) snow pea called Giant Swiss.  It was prolific and delicious.  Here’s a frying pan with peas and radishes, the first time we’ve ever cooked radishes, which is something we should have been doing  a long time ago.

Harvest of Smaller Squash

Harvest of Smaller Squash

Boston Marrow Squash

Boston Marrow Squash

Our trellised smaller winter squash and our larger trailing vine squash were both super productive.  We are trying to figure out what to do with it all.

Mustard in the Pea Patch

Mustard in the Pea Patch

We’re getting more and more vegetables and herbs to be perennials or volunteers.  It’s our sort of stab at permaculture.  Mustard is now a weed in the garden, along with cilantro and kale, and several types of onions and garlic.

Comfrey

Comfrey

Big Yields

Big Yields

An inedible weed, but one I’m encouraging for its properties as a compost plant is comfrey.  I just have to be careful it doesn’t take over everything.  It’s too easy to grow.

Celery

Celery

One of our miserable failures this year was celery.  It’s looking great here in the picture, but I didn’t pay attention to its watering needs and ended up with a mostly unusable batch of hollow stems.

Dwarf Gray Sugar Pea

Dwarf Gray Sugar Pea

Leatherwing beetles on tansy

Leatherwing beetles on tansy

We write about our garden and show pictures on our blog, so I thought I needed a macro lens to help give us some cool photos.  I’m not into insect sex life, but the macro really gives some nice detail.

We’re still harvesting leeks, Brussels sprouts, and various greens as our unusually mild December draws to a close.  I would have to rate the 2015 garden one of the best ever.  Now we’ll see what the new year brings.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

Sweet Potatoes Planted With Black Plastic Mulch

Saturday, May 23rd, 2015
Sweet Potato Slip

Sweet Potato Slip

It’s May 23rd here near Madison, Wisconsin. This morning, I planted 17 sweet potato slips into a raised bed covered with a sheet of black polyethylene. Memorial Day weekend has always been my target planting date for sweet potatoes, and this year I’m right on time.

Sweet Potatoes Planted In Black Plastic

Sweet Potatoes Planted In Black Plastic

I used this black poly sheet last year. I’ve gotten three years from a single sheet, but usually after two seasons they get torn and brittle and have to be trashed. The white rings are cut from PVC plumbing pipe.  They help protect the transplanted slips from wind and abrasion and make it easy to water the small plants.

Sweet Potato Starts in Flat

I started my slips from sprouts  on a stored two year old root.  Here’s the flat with the first slip removed. Using a soft potting soil makes getting the roots out easy.  Growing your own starts is economical and the plants are usually more vigorous than purchased slips.

Dibble

Dibble

Sweet Potato Start with Protector Ring

Sweet Potato Start with Protector Ring

Using a dibble to make a big conical hole, I plant the slip, pack the soil, and then put the ring in place.

Protector Ring Helps Watering

Protector Ring Helps Watering

After the plants are all in I give them a good soak. The ring makes it easy to direct water exactly where it’s needed.

We have numerous posts about starting and cultivating sweet potatoes as well as numerous recipes using this delicious and nutritious vegetable.  Here are a couple on starting your own plants:

Using Sweet Potato Sprouts for Starts

Extra Early Sweet Potato Starts

 

 

 

 

 

Using Sweet Potato Sprouts for Starts

Wednesday, January 29th, 2014
Sprouts on Sweet Potatoes

Sprouts on Sweet Potatoes

Sweet potatoes store well, but they don’t keep forever.  Above are the last of our 2012 harvest.  These were dug up 15 months ago.  They will still be edible, but we need to use them up as soon as possible. They’ve begun to sprout and that’s a good thing.

Sweet Potato Sprouts

Sweet Potato Sprouts

For the last two years I’ve grown my sweet potatoes using sprouts like this, rather than starting new sprouts on a whole potato.  This method is much easier.  Vine cuttings would work nearly as well.

Sprouts Ready to Plant

Sprouts Ready to Plant

The sprouts can be broken off into small pieces, each of which becomes a plant start.

Sprout Potted Off

Sprout Potted Off

Sweet potato sprouts and vine cuttings root easily.  It takes no more than sticking them into damp soil or even a glass of water.  They will put out new root quickly.   Almost any part of a stem or piece of vine will root.  It doesn’t take much care to get it right.  Temperature is important, however.  Sweet potatoes like it warm.

Sprouts in the Flat

Sprouts in the Flat

I’ve got 42 starts in this flat.  I only plant 18 potatoes each year, so I should be in great shape for my own garden and have plenty to give away.  Once these little starts get established and start to put out some green, I’ll have to transplant them to much deeper boxes and spread them out.  They don’t like to be shallow rooted or crowded.

Sweet Potato Vine

Sweet Potato Vine

Here’s a live sweet potato plant that I started last fall.  It’s my back-up.   I can take small sections of vine and root them, if I need to.

As an aside, Geoff told me he bought some dried sweet potato stems at an Asian grocery store in Austin.  Dried sweet potato stems are used in several Korean side dishes and other Asian recipes.  I read online that fresh sweet potato stems are also used.  So we may soon be adding a whole new category of recipes to our sweet potato cookbook.

 

 

Sweet Potato Peanut Stew With Herbed Dumplings

Saturday, November 16th, 2013
Sweet Potato Peanut Dumpling Stew

Sweet Potato Peanut Dumpling Stew

Noel harvested almost 80 pounds of sweet potatoes last month – another record crop for us from 18 starts.  And guess what?  We’re still eating sweet potatoes from last year’s harvest.

I haven’t been cooking them often enough so we’re scrambling to find new ways to serve them – though you just can’t beat them simply baked and buttered.

Here’s an adaptation of a recipe I must have found online a while ago, though I don’t know who authored it.  I’ve already changed some of the vegetables to use up what I had on hand.  As long as you use the same basic liquid, spices and herbs it should turn out delicious.  The leftovers were also wonderful.

Sweet Potato Peanut Stew With Herbed Dumplings Recipe

Stew

1-2 T. extra virgin Olive Oil

1 medium onion, chopped

4 cups peeled and chopped (3/4” Cubes) sweet potatoes

1 red bell pepper, seeded and diced

2 cups chopped tomatoes

4 cups veggie broth

½ cup chopped fresh cilantro

2 T. Tamari Soy Sauce

3 T. Peanut Butter

2 tsp. curry powder

Salt to taste

1 cup peas

Sauté onions and red peppers in olive oil for a couple of minutes over medium heat.  Add sweet potatoes and continue to cook for about 5 minutes.

Add broth, tomatoes, soy sauce, cilantro, peanut butter and curry powder.  Simmer for 15 minutes, add peas and cook for an additional 5 minutes.

Dumplings

1 ¼ cups soft whole wheat pastry flour

2 T. minced chives, green onions or parsley

2 tsp. baking powder

¼ tsp. salt

2 T. cold butter

½ cup milk or soy milk

1 large egg

Combine flour, herbs, baking powder and salt in large bowl.  Cut in butter with a pastry blender or pulse in food processor until mixture resembles coarse meal.

Beat milk and egg together in a small bowl; add to flour mixture, stirring until mixture is combined.

Drop heaping tablespoons of the dumpling mixture onto the top of the bubbling stew.  Cover and simmer until dumplings are cooked through, about 10 minutes.  Test a dumpling and cook a little longer if necessary.  Enjoy!

Stew in the Bowl

Stew in the Bowl

Extra Early Sweet Potato Starts

Sunday, January 13th, 2013
Sweet Potatoes and Cuttings

Sweet Potatoes and Cuttings

I had two sweet potatoes left over from last year.  I had used them to grow cuttings for last year’s garden. They were starting to shrivel up but both had put out numerous long sprouts.  The sprouts were rather anemic and one plant had an aphid infestation, but I thought I’d give a try to saving cuttings from both to get a real head start on having lots of good rooted slips ready to go into the ground in late May.

Sweet potatoes are tenacious at hanging on to life and almost any part of a plant, if given good conditions, will root and produce a new plant.  Sprouts, especially, are very easy to get to root.  A long sprout can be cut into smaller sections and each of those sections can also root.  So I removed all the sprouts from the potatoes, cut them down to manageable lengths and potted them all into a large box.  I also planted the old sweet potatoes into potting soil just to see if they would survive and put out more sprouts.

Before I planted the sprouts I rinsed them with cold water to flush away most of the aphids.  After I potted them, I sprayed them lightly with a neem oil, soap mix, which I hope finishes off any remaining aphids.

A Simple Frame

A Simple Frame

Indoor Sweet Potato Greenhouse

Indoor Sweet Potato Greenhouse

 To construct my simple green house, I used some plant markers and lengths of PVC tubing to create a frame over which I just laid a folded large piece of thin poly.

Sweet Potato Sprout Leafing Out

Sweet Potato Sprout Leafing Out

I haven’t checked the temperature under the plastic but it’s noticeably warmer than room temperature.  Our sun room gets pretty chilly at night and sweet potatoes like it hot.  The sprouts are leafing out nicely.  The task now will be keeping the plants alive and healthy until they are ready to plant.  I only need 18 plants and I already have 21 cuttings, so my chances are good.  And I’m sure I can find some gardeners eager to take any extra slips I end up with.

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.

More on Heat Mats

Monday, January 30th, 2012

Flat of Salad Greens

Geoff posted last week about the heat mat set up he is using to start some pepper plants, here.  I use a heat mat and grow-lights as well to start peppers, tomatoes, and other vegetable seedlings that need a jump start, and I’ve also found the set up useful to give some bottom heat to my sweet potato starts well ahead of the time I need to get my peppers started.  Since I don’t need very much space for the sweet potatoes, I use the mat and lights to grow some salad greens, too.

I’ve already talked a couple of times about the heat mat/grow-light setup I use.  Here I talk about the set-up, in general, and here about using the lights for salad green production.  In this post I’ll explain an inexpensive temperature control I use to regulate the heat output of the mat.

I’m just about ready to start harvesting some greens as you can see in the top picture.  I’ve got two flats that are putting out very good growth.  I’ve got a third flat into which I seeded a lot of cilantro and basil.  They are sprouting, but I think I got the soil in that flat a little too hot and dry early into the process and most of the germination has been toward the edges of the flat. There is a little bit of new sprouting showing up, so we’ll see how it turns out.

The heat mat I have has no thermostat. That appears to be the case for many of the heat mats being sold.  If they do have a thermostat, they are factory pre-set and not controllable.   They sell temperature controlling shut off devices with soil probes to control the on/off heat of the mats.  I just saw one in a catalog for $40.00.  I invested $7.99 at my local Ace hardware for a light timer and it works quite well in lieu of a thermostat.  I’m maintaining a temperature at the bottom of the flats at between 75 and 80 degrees by using the timer shut off mechanism to turn on the heat mat for 30 minutes every two hours.

Inexpensive Light Timer

Setting the timer is very simple.  There are 48 on/off buttons – down is on, up is off. So having every fourth one down has the mat cooking one fourth of the time and idle for an hour and a half out of each two hour period.  When I first started up the system I let it get too hot and I think I fried some of the cilantro and basil seeds.  As the cilantro is a free saved seed, it’s not too a great loss.

Thermometer, Sweet Potatoes, and Salad Greens

I’ve got the heat for the system balanced out, and now it’s very stable.  In addition to the three flats, I have a couple of sweet potatoes in jars that are putting out a lot of root and just starting to put out some leaf buds.  Hopefully, I’ll get enough slips for this year’s planting

About the end of February, I’ll move any greens that are left into the sun room inside my south facing glass patio doors.  I’ll start three new flats with onions, leeks, and shallots, and when those sprout, I’ll move them into the sun room and use the heat mat and grow-lights to start peppers, tomatoes, eggplant, some of my cucurbits, and whatever else I can fit in.

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.