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sweet potato propagation and harvest!!!

 
Judith Browning
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I just dug six of our sixty sweet potato plants to check for maturity and they were ready...ours are a cut leaf variety that makes three to five pounds per plant...sometimes a single four to six pounder and are around 140 days from planting to harvest...all non stringy and edible right off....they only get better with curing. I have an iron skillet of scrubbed and chunked small ones slowly cooking with a little olive oil and the lid on right now...fifteen minutes from harvest.
Sweet potatoes aren't perennial here but the roots are so easy to store and the slips so easy to start theymight as well be. The hardest part for me is moving the matt of vines...digging is a treasure hunt.
We have to grow them behind deer and rabbit fence and until I started ridging the planting rows we had a bad problem with voles and mice following mole tunnels and eatting all but a shell of mature potatoes.
Time to go eat.
 
LaLena MaeRee
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Wooot! Did they taste amazing?
 
Jacob Nielson
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Sounds great, I am excited to harvest ours a month to so. This is the first year we've growing them, we love sweet potatoes. You are right they are super simple to grow and the slips are simple to start. We have had a mole problem in a couple areas, we don't mind sharing a little.
 
Judith Browning
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LaLena MaeRee wrote:Wooot! Did they taste amazing?


Yes...delicious..and we are just eatting the nubbins and damaged ones now...our family's favorite for a long time was a sweet potato and chutney sandwich...homeground sourdough wheat bread and sweet and sour fruit chutney....In fact chutneys made everythig taste better.


Jacob, do you know the variety you planted? We have had two days of rain since the day I started to dig...we are thankful for the rain but wish the sweet potatoes were in the house curing.
 
Jacob Nielson
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Sweet potato and chutney sandwich sounds good. No Judith, I don't know what variety they are, they were local Texas potatoes from the store. I did try several times to get some Garnet and Okinawan slips started and had no luck despite the tubers being "organic". I had the best luck with the local unknown type. I expect I'll order some slips of other varieties next year to expand our options. With our long growing season I would like to try some long season varieties like the purple Okinawan.

I recorded my effort to grow slips here Grow your own slips and Slips Simple Method. I started them a little later, succession planted them here and there. I expect we will start to harvest some in the next month through end of Nov.

Next year I plan to start a whole load of them and plant them everywhere including on a friend's Zone 5 land adjacent to our little rural lot.
 
Jacob Nielson
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My sweet potato vines have been blossoming. From what I gather this is not too common, they are really pretty, though mine are only fully open for about a day.
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Swee Potato Flower
 
Judith Browning
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I've never had mine flower. I wonder if there will be viable seed and if it will affect the size of the roots. In your picture they look iike large flowers compared to the leaves. We are still digging ours...had to let the soil dry back out some and I can only dig a few plants a day. I cut the vines back with s sickle and then dig with a potato fork. I had this idea of leaving the garden gate open over night to let the deer and bunnies eat back all of the vine but decided it was not a good idea. I also dream of Elliot Colemans harvesting broadfork. The regular broadfork is one of my favorite tools but the tines are set too far apart for sweet potatoes. Mine are making more pretty small potatoes in my leaf filled paths as they run across to the other raised bed. If it wasnt for fear of vole and mouse nibbles I would leave them longer and maybe those in the path would get some size too.
Any harvesting ideas?
 
Jacob Nielson
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I looked into whether the seed would be viable, I thought that would be easier than starting slips. Turns out the seeds would be called "True Seeds". From what I've read they are a lot like apple seeds, 1 in 100 or 1 in 1000 will be true/similar to parent and the rest may be marginal or most likely just junk. Professional propagators will make effort to force them to bloom and also plant large numbers of different types in order to maybe catch that 1 in 1000+ good cross. After hearing that I decided that I won't make any real effort to create my own cross. However it would be fun to toss any "True Seeds" that form in the ground just to see what comes up.

Judith an idea on harvesting, we have handful of these plastic trays that bread companies deliver their bread on. The trays are large about 24"x30" and are good to just dump shovelfuls into and shake out the soil or you could wash out the soil if needed, leaving the tubers. I imagine a bread company might give you some free if they had some that were damaged or worn, but still work for this type of use. I'll post a picture shortly to show you what I mean.
 
Judith Browning
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Thanks Jacob, My problem digging is my sixty two year old back...The potatoes are all grouped right at the main base of the plant so a potato fork works fine to lift them I just like the leverage of my broadfork so I am trying it again just to lift enough to loosen and then I am able to pull up the whole mass of roots at once...they are fist size and larger so no problem finding them. The smaller ones that have formed along the vine in my path might work well with your idea. We usually shovel the path onto the raised bed in the fall so sifting for more potatoes could happen then. Now that the weather here has cooled I feel like I am catching up on a whole summers work.
 
David Goodman
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Congrats on the sweet potato harvest. That's one of my favorite plants... it's like treasure hunting to harvest them.

This winter I bought a "sweet potato assortment" from the local organic market. It contained about six different colored (and very small) potatoes wrapped in plastic, ready for consumption. Totally a marketing gimmick. What I saw was: an assortment of cultivars for the garden! I got them all started in water and when spring started, I put slips everywhere. The leaves and vines are different from the standard sweet potatoes I've grown before and I have an absolute mess of them growing amongst my cassava and between my annual beds. I'm waiting until frost time to harvest, which is another two months, but we've been eating the greens regularly.

That's another bonus on sweet potatoes: the leaves are good in salads and as cooked greens.
 
Jacob Nielson
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I have attached a couple of pictures of those bread trays. These are pictures of one of my regular potato harvests. Anything under about 3/4" fall through.

Vidad, I just read the other day that they are edible, I'll have to give it a try. Thanks!
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Cleaned potatoes Red Viking, Purple Majesty & Yukon Gold
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Bread tray
 
David Goodman
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@Jacob

Those look fantastic. Great work.
 
Judith Browning
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Those are beautiful irish potatoes. I have a couple old bread trays made of metal that I might try to locate to use as you have.

I keep hearing about eatting sweet potato greens...I am going to go get some and cook them for lunch with a few of this mornings shiitakes...I tried a bite raw before and wasn't happy with the taste. I wonder if my cut leaf variety has a different flavor?



edited to add....Well, I did go cut some growing tips and cook them and I didn't like them...and I felt a mild reaction in my throat so I didn't swallow. I have tried to find what variety of sw potato I am growing and haven't had any luck...The person I got them from twelve years ago didn't know either. The shiitakes were excellent though (cooked separately)
 
Alder Burns
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A lot of people don't know that sweet potato leaves make excellent greens, bland and comparable to spinach when cooked. Harvesting the young growing tips is a good way to keep rampant vines under control in a small garden, and you can pick up to 20% of the foliage without harming the root yield. In some parts of the world, they are mostly grown for the greens. When I lived in GA, they were a major green vegetable through the hot months when there weren't many other greens to be had. The other big lesson I've learned the hard way is to store your sweet potatoes warm. Don't leave them out in an unheated space for the winter....anything below 55 or 60 and they will start to rot. I used to say that my food security was 200# of sweet potatoes under my bed.
 
Judith Browning
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Excellent year for sweet potatoes, I think.
We cure them in a single layer on newspaper on the floor all over our house...then after a few weeks sort them into baskets and store for the winter in our living room...our only room with a heat source, a wood stove. Definitely food security as you say, Alder. We learned to store them warm from a friend's mistake!
We still don't like our greens, though, and I think it must be to do with the cut leaf variety.
 
Judith Browning
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I just dug the last four sw. potato plants in our garden. They made large potatoes but several were eaten to some degree...anywhere from a one inch area to nothing left but a shell...I wish I could post pictures. For us it seem the earlier we can plant (by mid april is good) and harvest 140 to 150 days later (mid september) the less damage. Whatever is eatting them (we think voles or mice) waits for mature potatoes or maybe the cooler weather triggers their eat for winter instinct.
I also think planting in ridges made a huge difference in yield and size...we have a lot of 2 and 3 pounders.
 
Judith Browning
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I just started this years sweet potato slips...twelve nice fist sized potatoes from last years crop in filtered water in various crockery in the window in our living room (the warm room). I put two or three together in each container and they hold each other up. I change the water occasionally and top it up more frequently. Until last year I had always started them the first week in March but I have been starting them earlier now to get longer sprouts that I can cut into two or three pieces. We have been propagating this same variety for several years and they are producing better and better.
makes me feel like spring isn't so far off.
 
Judith Browning
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Sweet potato slips are filling my kitchen table...time to start clipping and rooting...we are not having our typical arkansas leap into summer...it is still too cold to plant them.
This is the first year we grew enough of this crop to find out how well they really keep...we still have about thirty pounds and ate them almost every day since harvest...I am anxious to see if one will keep over the summer.
 
Judith Browning
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I started sweet potato slips earlier again this year after learning that I could let them get really long and snip and root them to plant.
...and we are still eating last years harvest
garden.jpg
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2014 sweetpotato slips
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what is left of 2013 crop
 
Judith Browning
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anyone else rooting sweet potato slips? I started them so early this year they are a big tangle... I've had some I am cutting the length of the vine in thirds for slips. This seemed to do fine last year although I lost track of which plants were from the skinnier part of the vine.

I am still hoping someone can ID this cut leaf variety of sweet potato that we grow. It is from some one farther south in the state.

Spring is finally here
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sweet potato vine for slips
 
Leila Rich
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I've never tried growing kumara-as sweet potatoes are known here-
they're considered a subtropical crop, only grown 'up North'.
Maybe I should try, as I think they are delicious!
Your climate is wildly different to mine Judith-could you estimate the length of time from planting to harvest, and your average summer temps?
I assume it's pretty humid over your way?
 
Judith Browning
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Leila Rich wrote:I've never tried growing kumara-as sweet potatoes are known here-
they're considered a subtropical crop, only grown 'up North'.
Maybe I should try, as I think they are delicious!
Your climate is wildly different to mine Judith-could you estimate the length of time from planting to harvest, and your average summer temps?
I assume it's pretty humid over your way?



I sometimes start digging at 100 days...120 seems to be what these need though and i know somevarieties are 150 days. For most of that daytime temps maybe average upper nineties...They LOVE those up above 100 hundred days...the only thing here that does. If I plant too early and there is still coolish weather they stall out and really look pathetic...so i usually wait until end of April up to mid May. If I wait too late to dig, the voles, I think, start nibbling, but they do wait for the potatoes to get large and then they hollow them out if I am slow to get them out of the ground...lately I've done better at beating them to the crop. We have high humidity much of the year except over the summer when it quits raining and the air is very dry...they seem to like that too.
 
Peter Ellis
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Store them warm. That would explain the problem we had with our store bought SW potatoes this winter. Tried to get some slips and just got a nasty mess. Will try again with another batch that has not sat out through winter.
 
Judith Browning
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Peter Ellis wrote:Store them warm. That would explain the problem we had with our store bought SW potatoes this winter. Tried to get some slips and just got a nasty mess. Will try again with another batch that has not sat out through winter.


Sometimes some potatoes just rot. I usually start in water but this year all are in pots of soil. Had one just turn to mush.
we store in the room with our heat stove...fifties to sixties and low humidity. After that, though, it sometimes helps to wrap the ones you want to sprout in wet towels for a week or so before trying to sprout them. They tend to be really dry after storage this way.....and we learned the hard way about cold storage too.
 
Ann Torrence
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Started rooting of slips today. Our last frost is around June 1, but I may give these some space in the hoop house. What's the planting distance?
 
Judith Browning
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Ann Torrence wrote:Started rooting of slips today. Our last frost is around June 1, but I may give these some space in the hoop house. What's the planting distance?



If you do rows, 12 inches apart and at least 20 inches between rows. I am going to give them more space between plants in the row this year and see if I can get more pounds per plant.....I get really nice size but only up to five pounds per plant and some folks harvest twice that. I thought I would try to spot them in other places just to see how that living mulch would do.
June 1! Do you grow a lot in a hoop house?
 
Ann Torrence
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Judith Browning wrote:
June 1! Do you grow a lot in a hoop house?

We got it up too late last fall to really get much use out of it, because I need to plant by Sept 1 to get everything to reasonable size to hold over. I got enough grown to know it works like Eliot Coleman said it would, everything but the bok choi wintered over just fine even below zero. And that's without heat or a second row cover. Arugula and spinach are starting to bolt now.

The best part is keeping the hens in one end, really makes chores easier on all of us on snow days. And having a place out of the wind to do potting and seed starting. Right now it's above 70 in there, even though it's 45 on the porch. So I'm not sure what else we'll grow in it this summer. I have some artichokes started, but those are suspect because I started too late. And maybe earlier tomatoes! The hens have to move out on the summer range soon, as soon as their new electric fence arrives. So we are still figuring out how we will use it, but I don't regret doing it. Not to hijack the thread, but I made a time-lapse of us putting it up. The best part is the clouds in the background, it was a big monsoon season last year.

 
Judith Browning
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I love it! It is huge...it must be wonderful to hang out in winter time. I bet sweet potatoes would do great in there over the summer. Thanks for sharing
 
Judith Browning
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The end of our last years sweet potato harvest....I was trying to keep them until the first of July just to see how long they would keep but we want to eat them now
This is the longest so far that I have stored them and other than feeling a bit lighter (they actually float in water now) they are solid and still good texture and flavor when cooked. We're gonna miss them.

This may not be a good year to grow them, though. We planted late because of the cold spring so even though I did the starts earlier this year we finished planting them a good month later than we normally do. They are ready for some of that really blasting hot summer weather with less rain. Now I am just counting on enough to make to have roots for next years slips.
last of 2013.jpg
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Joshua Parke
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I didn't start slips this year. But I did purchase some, and they arrived early June. They appear to be waiting for the warm weather, because they haven't done a thing yet. I was thinking while reading through here, I'm going to put some bottomless milk jugs over a few of them and see if they begin to take off. I bet that they'll really appreciate that.
 
Judith Browning
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Joshua Parke wrote:I didn't start slips this year. But I did purchase some, and they arrived early June. They appear to be waiting for the warm weather, because they haven't done a thing yet. I was thinking while reading through here, I'm going to put some bottomless milk jugs over a few of them and see if they begin to take off. I bet that they'll really appreciate that.


hi, Joshua....Our vines are finally taking off after the weather turned HOT...into the upper eighties and low nineties every day. Let us know how the milk jugs work...I wish I had tried something earlier, this was unusual for the weather here to be cool for so much of the spring.
 
Joshua Parke
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An update per request......The milk jugs didn't make a difference. None of the sweet potato slips grew much beyond a couple feet. The largest vine had a tuber the diameter of a pencil and about 1 1/2 inch in length. I'll try again next year.
 
Lynne Smith
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Would sweet potatoes grow ok in a half wine barrel. The barrel is oak. If its ok, how many slips would I need to put in one?
I was trying to find a way to keep out the critters..
I have slips growing now. Hopefully they will grow some. This will be the first time for me. I love them!
 
Dan Boone
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I believe they might do well in the half-barrel. Last year I started some in the ground that got heavily eaten by nibblers, so I put two remaining plants (which I started from slips that grew on an old sweet potato in my kitchen window) in an old plastic beer cooler. Sadly I didn't have any good soil to use so I just shoveled up some raw country dirt with very little organic matter. The plants grew very well and I was able to train the vines upward on some strings and sticks like a makeshift trellis, so I didn't suffer any nibbler damage at all. At first frost the tubers were still just a bit larger than my thumb, but they were very long, maybe eight-plus inches? If I'd used good soft fluffy soil and gotten the plants started at the beginning of the season (instead of at least a month late) I'm confident they would have produced tubers of edible size. As it was, the dirt in my cooler hardened up like concrete and my tubers, being small and fragile, were very hard to harvest in one piece.
 
Maureen Atsali
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Hi Folks,
Here in Kenya, we don't bother with rooting our own slips - we simply cut the vines and replant the ends with newest growth. They readily take root and start all over again.

People without acreage (city-dwellers) are growing their sweet potatoes in sacks of soil, so I should think half a barrel would also work.

Too much nitrogen in the soil will make big, beautiful green leafy growth - but no tubers. For this reason I never put chicken manure on the sweet potatoes.
 
Lynne Smith
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Cool!
Thanks for the ideas and info.
I can hardly wait to try growing sweet potatoes!

By the way, does anyone happen to grow and have any tumeric? I have been looking for some for awhile.
I would love to buy some or trade.
Thanks!
 
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