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sweet potato propagation and harvest!!!

 
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Curiosity got the best if me, and I decided to dig out just one or two vines from the edge of the row.  And I found absolutely NO tubers.  Not even a tiny immature one.  I guess that'll teach me.... Be patient and let time take time.  And if by bad luck I don't get many potatoes... The goats and the rabbits will enjoy the vines. 😣
 
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Maureen Atsali wrote:Curiosity got the best if me, and I decided to dig out just one or two vines from the edge of the row.  And I found absolutely NO tubers.  Not even a tiny immature one.  I guess that'll teach me.... Be patient and let time take time.  And if by bad luck I don't get many potatoes... The goats and the rabbits will enjoy the vines. 😣



awwww...maybe they will still produce.  Sometimes just another month will make all the difference but then if I wait too long to dig I end up with more vole damage.

I've had some plants in the past that just never made potatoes though and I never figured out why.....I always wondered if the earlier slips from the potato were better or worse.  This year my big crop was from the last slips from the potato and planted a month later than all the rest...still haven't figured that one out....

Your 'season' is year round I guess?
 
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Question: to slip a sweet potato, I see people cutting them horizontally and  putting them in a cup, and laying them whole in a pan of water. I have some huge ones I want to slip (coconut sized +) would it work to cut them vertically and lay the cut side in water? I'm thinking that increases the up sides where the slips come from the most.
 
Judith Browning
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Pearl Sutton wrote:Question: to slip a sweet potato, I see people cutting them horizontally and  putting them in a cup, and laying them whole in a pan of water. I have some huge ones I want to slip (coconut sized +) would it work to cut them vertically and lay the cut side in water? I'm thinking that increases the up sides where the slips come from the most.



I tried cutting once and it worked OK, I think I might have let the cut edge dry out for a day or two also?...the potato sent out roots along the skin of the cut edge and did make slips.  I'm not organized enough to tell you if they produced better or less well than the others once the slips were in the ground though?

Usually I go for smallish tubers and set them two or three at once holding each other up in a deep bowl of water.  I've also tried toothpicks holding the potato vertically in a wide mouth quart and that works.

This year I have some in water, some laid horizontally on a bed of sand and well watered and three early sprouting ones in soil in a pot.  Those last ones have had slips long enough to pop off and for the moment I've set them in their own pot of soil to root.  I ordinarily root the slips in water though.

I've never tried to root huge sweet potatoes although sometimes they start to sprout on their own.  I'm not sure that cutting one up would produce more slips than just setting it in water halfway up whole?

...haha...in the end I think I've given you a 'non-answer' Pearl
 
Pearl Sutton
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Judith: hm.. yep, that you did! :D
Anyone else know? Cut lengthwise, cut side down in water or dirt. I think it'll make a bunch of slips off the top part. Cutting those big ones lengthwise will give me a LOT of surface for slips to come off of.

 
Pearl Sutton
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Those big ones have not sprouted at all. It COULD be too cold for them, OR they could have been treated, I did buy them at a store.
If they were treated, is there any way to clean it off?
I want those puppies to grow, they are the size of coconuts!
 
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The 'treatment' typically used to prevent regrowth is irradiation, so not likely, because it's at the cellular level.
 
Judith Browning
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Pearl Sutton wrote:Those big ones have not sprouted at all. It COULD be too cold for them, OR they could have been treated, I did buy them at a store.
If they were treated, is there any way to clean it off?
I want those puppies to grow, they are the size of coconuts!



If they're not treated they should show signs of sprouts by now.
A warmer area is more important than light early on...once they've kicked in more light helps.

As long as you are experimenting, try wrapping one in a wet towel or rags for a few days...I've heard this suggested for sweet potatoes that have been well cured for storage to rehydrate their skin.

Are they tasty or just big? Someone gave us some huge ones from texas once that had no flavor at all but they were quite large.
 
Pearl Sutton
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Judith Browning wrote:

If they're not treated they should show signs of sprouts by now.
A warmer area is more important than light early on...once they've kicked in more light helps.

The place they are has a grow  light, but is drafty, and it's been colder than expected.



As long as you are experimenting, try wrapping one in a wet towel or rags for a few days...I've heard this suggested for sweet potatoes that have been well cured for storage to rehydrate their skin.


thank you, will try it!

Are they tasty or just big? Someone gave us some huge ones from texas once that had no flavor at all but they were quite large.

On a 1-10 scale I'd give them a 7.5 or 8. Not the best I have ever had, but definitely good.
 
Pearl Sutton
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WHOO! Buds on the big ones! I put them out in the sun, it warmed up enough to do so. YAY!! Buds on my small ones too. Yay!!
 
Judith Browning
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Pearl Sutton wrote:WHOO! Buds on the big ones! I put them out in the sun, it warmed up enough to do so. YAY!! Buds on my small ones too. Yay!!



you're on the way now! once they begin the slips grow fast...are they sending out some roots also?
 
Pearl Sutton
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Yeah they are rooting :)
I have slipped sweets before, which is why I was frustrated by these. That corner of the house really is drafty.
 
Judith Browning
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Pearl Sutton wrote:Yeah they are rooting :)
I have slipped sweets before, which is why I was frustrated by these. That corner of the house really is drafty.



I've been wondering if you ended up cutting them as you first mentioned? and they are in water?

 
Pearl Sutton
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Judith Browning wrote:
I've been wondering if you ended up cutting them as you first mentioned? and they are in water?


I did a mix. At the moment:
One is laying on it's side, half covered in dirt (no sprouts on him last I looked)
3 were cut in half, hanging in water, so 6 pots of them (oldest one of those is the one I see sprouts starting on)
1 was not cut, hanging in water.
The small ones were mostly not cut, I think I cut a few of them. They also are hanging in water. Several have sprouts starting.
They all went outside a couple of days ago. It was while moving them that I saw the sprouts just beginning.
Since they are sprouting, I'll be adding more soon. Hoping to smother the back yard in them. I don't want to mow this year.
 
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I hope it's ok to post my question here... I put my sweet potatoes in water in the window, and they've put out roots and top growth, which I assume are the slips(?). Am I doing it correctly by pulling off the biggest growths, and putting them in water to root (the ones in the small bowl)? Currently, the ones I pulled look like they're getting little root nubs, so I'm relieved they didn't just shrivel up & die, but didn't know if they'd have any energy yet to form an actual root system. Does it look like I removed them too early, and should I be leaving them on the potatoes longer to let them get more energy from the tuber? Sorry if these are considered dumb questions! This is my first time ever trying to grow sweet potatoes as a food crop (I've only grown the ornamental type that doesn't make tubers). I appreciate any help with this and, staff, please feel free to delete it I'm "hijacking" the post too much.
IMG_20200503_142946.jpg
Sweet Potatoes in poor lighting
Sweet Potatoes in poor lighting
 
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@KC I would put those slips off the potatoes into some pots or trays of damp soil, covered with plastic or something like that, so that the new roots form in soil rather than water.  Many roots do not transition well from one medium to another and the cutting ends up having to grow new ones anyway when you plant it out.  And it's less of a shock.  In humid climates these slips are often stuck directly in the ground, provided it's warm enough, whether or not they have roots at all.  Just pull off most of the leaves and keep them well watered and possibly shaded with something for the first few days.
 
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I both agree with Alder Burns, and think that if water is what you can do right now, yes, that works well. Depends on how soon you can plant, if not yet, then either pot them up or water them, whichever you can. I know your scheduling is weird, so either one works. Dirt is better, but water is a close second.

:D
 
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In my experience sweet potatoes are extremely easy to propagate. A shoot say four or five inches long does not even need roots. You can just stick it in the ground and keep it watered good for a few days. Only qualifier for that is that it should be above 50 F at night. It seems they actually take off growing better and ultimately make a better harvest if they are planted with very few established roots. When I plant mine if there area a lot of roots on a shoot I generally cut that end off. leaving few if any stringy roots. Just the little bumps is better for establishing a new plant. It's very common during the season for discarded trimmings to root down and start growing.

An established root system as you might get from potting a slip up before planting out is actually counterproductive to a good harvest of sweet potatoes. In can however be a very good way of propagating more slips. For example if you have slips well before it is warm enough to put out you can pot them up and pinch out the tips which will cause them to branch out. Then you can clip each branch to make new plants. You can also pot a longer one horizontally and new slips will form at each leaf joint.

 
Kc Simmons
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Thanks, everyone, for the great advice! I potted up some of the ones that had little root nubs, and will probably stick some straight in the soil as I find spots for them.
Although I do hope to get at least a small yield from them, I also read where they make a good living mulch/ground cover in the heat of summer. My hope is that I can plant them around the more "wild" borders of the gardens, and they'll help keep the cursed bermuda grass from invading during the heat of summer, which is when the bermuda tends to spread worse since the rest of it's competition dies out or goes dormant because of the heat and dry soil. If they're able to cover & shade the ground enough, it'll definitely be a game changer for my maintenance work!

I'm Z8 a/b, so I don't know if the sweet potatoes will serve as perennials since the ground never freezes, but some nights get below freezing. We usually keep the ornamental ones in the greenhouse, in pots, over winter; where they tend to go dormant and resume growth in spring. Considering the number of slips I'm getting from the tubers, plus clipping/rooting the longest ones, I should have enough material to play around with all test out for observations.

Thanks, again, for explaining the propagation process to me!!
 
Judith Browning
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Mark Reed wrote:In my experience sweet potatoes are extremely easy to propagate. A shoot say four or five inches long does not even need roots. You can just stick it in the ground and keep it watered good for a few days. Only qualifier for that is that it should be above 50 F at night. It seems they actually take off growing better and ultimately make a better harvest if they are planted with very few established roots. When I plant mine if there area a lot of roots on a shoot I generally cut that end off. leaving few if any stringy roots. Just the little bumps is better for establishing a new plant. It's very common during the season for discarded trimmings to root down and start growing.

An established root system as you might get from potting a slip up before planting out is actually counterproductive to a good harvest of sweet potatoes. In can however be a very good way of propagating more slips. For example if you have slips well before it is warm enough to put out you can pot them up and pinch out the tips which will cause them to branch out. Then you can clip each branch to make new plants. You can also pot a longer one horizontally and new slips will form at each leaf joint.



Mark, I'm going to experiment with this this season.  I always end up with slips ready too early to set in the ground so I either root them in water or lately I've been potting them up until we're past cold weather as it seems like the cold sets them back a lot.  
I have some that have plenty of length to clip off and plant unrooted.

I do remember buying bundles of slips years ago and that they had either no roots or barely emerged ones.

We get a fairly good crop but I' would love to get more root per hill...less digging in the fall would be a bonus.


KC....your potatoes look great!
 
Kc Simmons
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After planting some slips outside (with & without roots) I think I will probably need to plant them in containers, first, until they can develop enough roots to keep from drying out in the sun/heat. Of the 10 slips I planted directly outside last week, I think I only had 2 of them still alive when I was checking the garden this evening. I suspect it's because we've already had temps in the low-mid 90s, and the sun has been quite strong, with no cloud cover.
I'll probably put some in starter pots on the porch where they'll get some afternoon shade (and I'll remember to water them since they'll be in sight). Once they get some root growth, they should do okay planted in the ground and mulched around them. I'll also plant more directly in the ground right before the next forecasted rainy day.
Now that I've learned how easy it is to use a slip to make more slips, I have been trying different methods to get them going to see what does and doesn't work in my environment. I've already been cutting the tips (3-4 nodes) off the longer slips and putting them in soil or water to root, so I should have plenty of "subjects" to test the different variables.
 
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I have been putting the tuber in water until the sprout is about 6 inches. Then I pop them off the tube and I put them in a slice of a pool noodle,they float in the fish tank till I get enough for a bed. The fish like swimming in the root tangle and keep them tidy for me. I can't see this working on a large scale but it does work.
 
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With the focus this week being on the perennial vegetables forum, I was browsing topics and looking for some I might join in on. I was happy to find this one on sweet potatoes! I only recently learned sweet potatoes can be perennial in the right climate. Unfortunately, mine isn't one of them, but for the past couple of years I've been able to perpetuate my own crop for more sweets.

I've made several observations, which I've tucked away in my (hopefully) growing sweet potato knowledge base. One, is that they like sun. I read somewhere that they make good companions to okra, but discovered that the okra shaded them out. So companions or no, I won't be doing that again.

I've also observed that they seem to have minds of their own when it comes to sprouting for slips. Last year, I had sprouts galore in April, this year, I didn't get any until late May and June. The ones I rooted and planted in the garden have been very slow to grow.



Granted, we've had a very long hot, dry spell from which the entire garden has suffered, so that would probably account for slow growth, even though I've tried to keep them watered. With recent rains, they are finally putting on some growth.

But compare those to the ones I planted later in my African keyhole garden.



I'm very happy with that! Hopefully, we'll continue to get some rain, and the garden sweets will catch up.

So how are everyone else's sweet potatoes doing so far this summer?
 
                      
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I’m not sure if anyone has mentioned this (as this is a very long thread) but I learned a secret that decreased my propagation time by at least half and gave me a ton of slips! I had been using the water method of putting the sweet potato in a cup to sprout, but it often took months for it to do anything and often they would just mold.
Then I read that to get slips bury the potatoes lengthwise half way in a tray (so lay it lengthwise and soil should come up half of the potato) and place it on a heat mat. Sprouts start coming up in about two weeks. 80 degrees for the heat mat seems to be the sweet spot. Water them so they don’t dry out. I did also use an LED grow light setup because I was starting all my other seeds at the same time. I ended up with a ton of slips and all of them took when planted out.
 
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Last year & the first year I tried growing sweet potatoes, I just planted 3 that had started to sprout. They produced about half a milk crate worth of sweet potatoes that were much longer than wide. Part of the reason they didn't produce all that much is because that end of the raised bed has been invaded by tree roots, and it also is partly shaded.

This year, I read some about creating slips; looked over the 5 or 6 sweet potatoes that were left; cut off the ends that showed growth (very approximately a pointed 1 inch cube); stuck the cut side down in a wide, clear glass vase, and poured water about half way up the potato pieces. I kept the water topped up for about 3 weeks and planted out the 5 (all I had room for in the fenced garden) best looking slips in a different part of the raised bed. Haven't dug them yet, but hoping they're going to produce better.

The slips I have left, I'm going to try planting into spaces that have just opened up. Can't imagine they'll have time to make any potatoes, but I'll try my chickens and goose on some of the vine.

I was going to post a pic of the leftover slips, but it doesn't want to upload.
 
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Last year was the first year I tried growing sweet potatoes.  I bought the little box at home depot that had two little shriveled sweet potato seeds in it and grew slips out.  I got a pretty decent harvest from the four slips I planted (probably 10lbs? give or take a little.  I think the variety was Covington.  The vines never got really long, maybe four feet, they didn't get a lot of water, and they were planted in heavy clay covered with wood chips.  The first picture is the harvest from those four plants.  

I tried propagating the leftover small potatoes I saves specifically for the task, but I started too late, and didn't end up with but a few sprouts an inch or so long by the time May hit.  I instead bought twenty slips (0.50 cents a piece) at the local nursery.  There are four different varieties, and of course I can't remember what they were.  Some had roots, most were just a couple of leaves on a stem.  I planted all of them in the first week of May.
Here we are in the middle of August, and the vines are going crazy.  I planted some in my tall raised beds over concrete, some in my low raised beds over the clay, and a four exactly where I had them last year.  Unfortunately I had the valve turned off on my drip irrigation (duh) for the first couple of months on the last set of four, so they're set back a bunch.  They are actually doing about the same as last year's in that spot, but two of them died from lack of water I'm guessing.

I have no idea what to expect as far as the harvest will go.  I have high hopes, but I know the first year I grew beets, I had the biggest leafiest tops ever! and slivers of inedible fibrous beet shoots.  

I'll update when I harvest these probably around November.

Just as a side note, it's been 107f - 115f the last two weeks, and the plants look like they're loving it.  Very low humidity, teens at best.
IMG_20191013_164129806.jpg
Last years harvest of four plants. The vines were only about 4' long. Covington variety.
Last years harvest of four plants. The vines were only about 4' long. Covington variety.
IMG_20200818_161728882_HDR.jpg
This year as of August 18. Same spot as where last year's harvest came from. Stunted early from lack of water.
This year as of August 18. Same spot as where last year's harvest came from. Stunted early from lack of water.
IMG_20200818_161722725_HDR.jpg
These are actually in clay covered with wood chips also. Two plants doing well, lots of afternoon shade.
These are actually in clay covered with wood chips also. Two plants doing well, lots of afternoon shade.
IMG_20200818_161655588_HDR.jpg
In ground beds over clay. Doing great, sun all day. Probably eight plants? Mixed with squash, and asparagus.
In ground beds over clay. Doing great, sun all day. Probably eight plants? Mixed with squash, and asparagus.
IMG_20200818_161739950_HDR.jpg
Opposite view of the last picture. Lot's of squash plants mixed in, and basil, and sunflower, and????????
Opposite view of the last picture. Lot's of squash plants mixed in, and basil, and sunflower, and????????
IMG_20200818_161635649_HDR.jpg
Here's the tall 3' in ground bed with a bunch of them planted in with peppers, and some tired looking broccoli.
Here's the tall 3' in ground bed with a bunch of them planted in with peppers, and some tired looking broccoli.
IMG_20200818_161622690_HDR.jpg
The other side of the raised bed with them climbing a cattle panel.
The other side of the raised bed with them climbing a cattle panel.
IMG_20200818_161558166_HDR.jpg
Here's a couple more that are actually under 40% shade cloth in the tall raised beds.
Here's a couple more that are actually under 40% shade cloth in the tall raised beds.
 
            
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Mark Reed wrote:In my experience sweet potatoes are extremely easy to propagate. A shoot say four or five inches long does not even need roots. You can just stick it in the ground and keep it watered good for a few days. Only qualifier for that is that it should be above 50 F at night.



Maybe I'm alone but each time I try making my own slips I just get a rotting mess, if anything. Now I have a bunch of sweet potatoes with several vine slips going and I am about 8 months out of sync with when I should have the slips. Here is where I throw caution to the wind - I'll pull the slips and try to keep them as a vine house plant for the winter and set slips out around June 1 next year. A bundle of slips were stupid expensive around here when I was looking, over a dollar a slip at the local garden center.

My ignorance of growing these. Can I plant these as a vine ground cover under trellised tomatoes? Are the vines badly damaged if stepped on during the season?
 
Mark Reed
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I find them easy to keep as houseplants. I have south facing windows and just take cuttings in the fall and stick them in small pots or plastic drinking cups. They get a lot of abuse as the windows are drafty and I heat with a wood stove so sometimes on a sunny day it's very hot and on a cold windy night it's pretty cold but they hang on. As long as there is even a little life left in them come spring they start growing again. I don't  transplant them from the pots, instead when they resume growth I take new cuttings. I have had spider mites infest them when inside as house plants. I just hold them under the kitchen faucet and wash them off.

I think there are lots of ways to make slips from saved roots (sweet potatoes are roots not tubers) but I do it in damp sand in those same windows. I just fill shallow trays with sand and set the saved roots about 1/2 way buried in in it and keep it moist. Actually this past spring I experimented with doing it outside in an unheated cold frame and it worked well.

I don't know that it would be good to grow them as ground cover under other plants. For one thing especially on those that have long trailing vines is they will root down anywhere those long vines contact the ground. That causes them to start making storage roots at all those places and ends up with lots of little storage roots spread out all over the place. If the vines can be prevented from doing that by trellising or even trimming you get a better harvest of larger roots closer to the main stem. I grow a lot in  pots but on those in the ground I go along and lift up the longer vines and point them back and drop them  on top of the rest of the pant. On especially unruly ones I might cut them off and if it's early enough in the season plant the trimmings.  



 
 
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We are just starting to dig this years sweet potatoes...they have just a little frost damage and more expected this week although it was a balmy 70 here this morning at dawn.

We've kept this cut leaf variety going for a long time now and only last year noticed that in this new garden we are getting some scurf...still fine potatoes to keep and eat but I don't share anymore.

These in the pictures are some of the later slips that I always stick in where ever there's a little room, usually in the beds out front among the bermuda grass and blueberries, roses, iris, figs and peaches, etc.  Last year one of them produced twenty pounds of potatoes, one plant! This year the best one had eight pounds...still better than the garden ones.  I think next year I'll use the garden space for something else and plant more out front....the vines spread out over the bermuda and creeping charlie nicely.
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digging with the hori hori knife
digging with the hori hori knife
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more digging
more digging
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a double
a double
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all we could find under that plant
all we could find under that plant
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eight pounds from one plant
eight pounds from one plant
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a little vole damage on this one
a little vole damage on this one and a split from drought to big rain
 
Joshua Bertram
Posts: 412
Location: St. George, UT. Zone 8a Dry/arid. 8" of rain in a good year.
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Wow!  I just harvested half my sweet potatoes and there's good and bad.

The first four plants came out of the clay here covered with wood chips for a few years.  They were planted in the same place as where I showed the picture in the previous post I made.  Mediocre results, fifteen or so potatoes the size of Idaho potatoes at best.  Lots of long tubers the size of a sharpie pen.

Then I got to my raised beds over the clay with lots of compost from my chicken run.  I don't have a scale to weigh them but it's quite a bit for five plants.  I damaged a few digging them out, but sadly most of the damage I think is from splitting and potato bugs.  Bummer.  Not sure if they can be saved or not.

I still have ten or so in my newly made raised beds to harvest, but I dug around a little bit a month ago, and didn't see anything too inspiring.  Hopefully I'm wrong.

Lot's of pictures, and if anyone has a suggestion on what to do with the my damaged ones I'd be grateful to hear from them.  I read Judith's post from above (nice harvest by the way), and saw she mentioned the vole damage, but didn't mention if they're salvageable.  Should I just throw them in the compost heap and not bother?    
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I wear a size thirteen boot for reference.
I wear a size thirteen boot for reference.
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This group came off one huge plant. The longest ones were about 14 inches long.
This group came off one huge plant. The longest ones were about 14 inches long.
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This is where all of them came from.
This is where all of them came from.
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Here are two side by side. I was surprised how far out they were growing from the main vines.
Here are two side by side. I was surprised how far out they were growing from the main vines.
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Here are the last two. I felt like I was on an archaeological dig.
Here are the last two. I felt like I was on an archaeological dig.
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Top set is from one plant, the lower two rows came from two plants side by side. Total of five plants
Top set is from one plant, the lower two rows came from two plants side by side. Total of five plants
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Total harvest from the five plants, plus two small spaghetti squash hiding in the vines.
Total harvest from the five plants, plus two small spaghetti squash hiding in the vines.
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Probably half the weight of the harvest has damage like this.
Probably half the weight of the harvest has damage like this.
 
Judith Browning
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Location: Ozarks zone 7 alluvial,black,deep clay/loam with few rocks, wonderful creek bottom!
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That looks like a great harvest Joshua!

We try to gently wipe off as much soil as possible and sort the splits and ones damaged while digging to eat first but generally they cure out OK also....just get them somewhere warm and spread out where the skins and cuts can toughen up.

Our last potatoes are coming out after a lot of rain so I'm washing them and then running a fan to dry them back out.  
We've had more bug damage this year and then some vole damage.  The chewed areas will heal over if not too deep and the bug damage we have doesn't seem to prevent them from keeping.  I do a lot of sorting and make sure I've got some really nice perfect ones put back for slips next year and then we eat the tiny ones first and the badly damaged ones....rarely is one bad enough to compost.

Most importantly they need to dry and cure out at some warm temperatures....that's hard here this time of year so ours are on the floor in front of our gas heater and will live in a box in the warm room of the house once cured. This is when I'm missing the wood heat.
 
Joshua Bertram
Posts: 412
Location: St. George, UT. Zone 8a Dry/arid. 8" of rain in a good year.
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Thank you Judith!  Music to my ears that they should heal up.  I have most of them in the garage "curing" now.  It's still pretty warm here, so hopefully they sweeten up and toughen up over the next couple of weeks.  We had a crazy cold couple of nights this last week and it killed off a lot of stuff really early here, so I figured I'd harvest today.

I thought about it after I posted and figured I could probably cook up the worst of them and feed them to the dogs if it came down to it.  

I harvested one more raised bed after that first set of pictures, and was pleasantly surprised (minus the bug damage/splits).  The bed this next set of pictures came from is less than a year old so I wasn't expecting anything special. but I was hoping for less bug damage.  I was wrong on both.  I think the fire ants burrowed small holes in the potatoes?  Or maybe capitalized on the pill bugs chompings and then went deeper?.  I saw a lot of fire ants in the holes as I was harvesting.  I don't know, but it was a different kind of damage from the first set of beds.  One of them was 17" long, and pretty heavy.  I think there were seven plants in this raised bed.  

I'll be planting sweet potatoes every year now.  Dang, they were the best producing crop of anything I've grown so far.

I even cooked a couple up really quick and had them with burgers tonight.  Just diced and baked for a while.  
Not too sweet, but still really good.  

Thanks again for the info. Judith!

Josh








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Harvest from 8' X 4' raised bed on concrete 30" tall. I think seven plants.
Harvest from 8' X 4' raised bed on concrete 30" tall. I think seven plants.
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Trying them out. Sloppy dice job. Cooked at 420f for about a half an hour.
Trying them out. Sloppy dice job. Cooked at 420f for about a half an hour.
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Burgers, beer, beef, onion, peppers, and sweet potato.
Burgers, beer, beef, onion, peppers, and sweet potato.
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First group of sweets harvested today. I wasn't expecting the big one's after seeing these small ones.
First group of sweets harvested today. I wasn't expecting the big one's after seeing these small ones.
 
Leigh Tate
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A couple months ago I shared photos of my two sweet potato plots, one was in the main veg garden, and the other in my African keyhole garden. Yesterday, I dug them due to frost. I didn't have many plants, so I didn't get a huge harvest, but the difference was amazing. All of them were grown from slips I grew from last year's harvest.

Vardamans and Nancy Halls from slips planted April 5 and 6 in my main garden.

Vardamans from slips planted June 9 in the keyhold garden.

What a difference! I admit that the bed I chose in the garden is not one of my improved beds. I've been gradually converting them all to swale huglekulture-type beds, and the sweet potatoes grown in that one didn't get the benefit of the swale beds. It is also located at the top of my gently sloping garden, and so dries out quickest when our hot dry spells arrive. I did water them, but well, you can see they didn't do as well as the keyhole sweets.

I'm glad I tried this experiment. I learned a lot!
 
Joshua Bertram
Posts: 412
Location: St. George, UT. Zone 8a Dry/arid. 8" of rain in a good year.
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Here's my attempt at curing.  It's really dry where I live with very low humidity in the teens.  I put all the potatoes on a big rack, tarped the rack with a cheap sheet of painting plastic sheet (the really thin kind), then put some old sheets over that to insulate it a little bit.  I then put my slow cooker/crock pot filled with water with the lid off on the bottom floor below everything.  When I'm home I turn it on the low or high setting (trying to get up to 85f degrees inside the tent) which it has only gotten up to about 83f.  When I'm gone it goes on the keep warm setting (just for the sake of safety).  It stays around 80f at that setting.  I have to fill the water back up every day and a half or so.   I don't have a humidity gauge, but it's really humid inside the tented area.  

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Entire harvest on the racks. I used a soft brush to dust off most of the dirt before placing them on it.
Entire harvest on the racks. I used a soft brush to dust off most of the dirt before placing them on it.
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Rack tarped with plastic and sheets.
Rack tarped with plastic and sheets.
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How it looks when it's "curing".
How it looks when it's "curing".
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Crock pot on the very bottom.
Crock pot on the very bottom.
 
Joshua Bertram
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Location: St. George, UT. Zone 8a Dry/arid. 8" of rain in a good year.
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and crap!

Most of my harvest got white surface mold.  Here's a new thread asking about it.  https://permies.com/t/151613/kitchen/Bummed-sweet-potatoes-mold-curing

:(
 
Judith Browning
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Location: Ozarks zone 7 alluvial,black,deep clay/loam with few rocks, wonderful creek bottom!
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Joshua...I wish I had not missed your post from November 7 as I would have said 'don't do it!' they do not need all of that humidity...so sorry.

I would try washing, drying and trying again to air dry them as maybe the mold is only just begun and not deep into the potato.

 
Judith Browning
Posts: 7700
Location: Ozarks zone 7 alluvial,black,deep clay/loam with few rocks, wonderful creek bottom!
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Joshua,  Here's a picture of one box of this seasons sweet potatoes that have been cured by air drying for a few weeks in the house laid out on rugs.  I doubt the humidity was particularly low or high as when it feels too damp in the living room we run a dehumidifier.

These were sorted as longest keepers and there are some smaller ones in there that I plan to start slips from early spring.
I think you can see that some have splits and one on the left has a healed over surface cut.
gnawed on place from vole damage.
I wonder if the humid storage is a market thing? and for keeping the skins from getting tough? Ours are sweet right out of the ground but most develop that sweetness in storage I think, without complex systems.

After long storage, ours will get a tougher thicker skin but still perfectly edible....I think closed up in cardboard or a basket will allow them to breath and also hold in some of the potatoes own moisture?

My method has worked here, in the Ozarks with our situation for decades.
I have a feeling there are as many different curing and storage methods as farmers

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[Thumbnail for IMG_5692-(2).JPG]
 
Mark Reed
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Judith Browning wrote:
I wonder if the humid storage is a market thing? and for keeping the skins from getting tough?


I suspect that is the case, especially the part about it being a market thing. Also since my source for describing "proper" curing and storage has giant warehouses full, handles them with fork lifts and  ships them in semi trucks all over the place.

Judith Browning wrote:
My method has worked here, in the Ozarks with our situation for decades.
I have a feeling there are as many different curing and storage methods as farmers


Bet your right about that too. Same with a lot of things, people get too caught up in how it's supposed to be done when in fact what ever works for you is, how its supposed to be done.

I just keep my in an old dresser in the spare room upstairs. Temps in there varies quite a bit and we heat mostly with a wood stove so humidity is probably low most of time. Still they keep fine.

Those in the picture are  separated out for slips next year. They are one each plant, except for those tied together with ribbon and are the small to mid size of what that plant made.  That little one with some writing on it is a screw up because it is one of my favorites from this season and I accidentally lost it's bigger roots in the eating bunch. And it is really small and stating to whither up a little. I'm keeping a close eye on it and may go ahead and pot it up for a house plant to make sure I don't lose it.  
SP-stored.JPG
2020 Sweet potatoes stored in dresser drawer for slips in 2021
2020 Sweet potatoes stored in dresser drawer for slips in 2021
 
Joshua Bertram
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Thanks again Judith and Mark.

Yesterday I put all the sweet potatoes in a five gallon pot with warm water and a tiny bit of dish soap, and gently scrubbed/sponged them off and then placed them back out in the sun to air dry outside (it was breezy so they dried off really quickly).  
Unfortunately during the process I noticed about a dozen more of the small to medium potatoes had gotten a little soft, so I removed them and put buried them in the compost pile.

Both of your pictures of your potatoes look to be in much, much better condition than a majority of mine.  I originally thought it was pill bugs doing a majority of the damage, but I found fire ants tunneling into some of the potatoes after I harvested, so I'm guessing they did most of it.  The splitting I'm guessing is a watering issue.

Again, I appreciate the "real life" advice, and what has worked for you for a long time.  I'm purely book/youtube schooled about all of this stuff and am learning as I go.  I should have just done what I did last year, wash the potatoes off, and throw them in a cardboard box.  The small batch I grew last year stored for a couple of months inside the house with no issues of mold or anything else.  It figures when I try to do it the "right" way, I end up screwing them up.

Hopefully I'll be able to save a majority of them.  I'll post up again in the other thread if the mold comes back or not.  It's so dry here, I rarely ever have mold issues.

I took a picture yesterday of the potatoes after washing them off.
I'll let them air dry on the rack again for a week or so minus the humidity tent this time!  Then store them in cardboard boxes if they look good.
Worst case I've already ate probably ten pounds of them, and I'm sure there's at least ten to twenty pounds that had no mold and will be fine.  Still a respectable harvest and a good learning lesson in the process.  I plan on eating the largest nastiest/damaged ones quickly.  Maybe cooking them up and freezing them might be something I try as well.

Thanks again for the tips and what's worked for you!
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The bad ones are in the bucket in the background, and a few on the top left of the rack.
The bad ones are in the bucket in the background, and a few on the top left of the rack.
 
Mark Reed
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I am lucky in that I have rarely seen damage from critters in my sweet potatoes. Most notable exception is on the solid purple ones. I've never planted a purple one but I grow from true seeds and have had a few show up. I could be just a random chance but all of the solid purple ones and none of the others have had weird little black streaks running through them. I've heard of wire worms, I don't really know what they are but just by the sound of that name and the looks of the streaks I wonder if they are the culprit.

I do have an occasional mole in my garden but grow most of my sweet potatoes in pots so they haven't been a serious problem either.  Pots don't have to be as large as you might imagine to get a nice harvest and harvest is easy peazy, just dump them out. Beats the heck out of digging and far less damaged ones too. I don't worry too much about what I fill the pots with. I use rotted wood chips (if available) and spent plants from previous year such as tomato vines, corn stalks, bean vines, what ever I have mixed about 1/2 and 1/2 with soil from the garden. I like to get the pots ready in the fall. Current years pot soil is dumbed in garden beds to grow other crops next year and the pots of new mix are sort of like little compost bins, ready to plant next spring.
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