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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.