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A sweet harvest

  • Blog Post by: Mary Jane Smetanka
  • September 18, 2012 - 10:02 AM

This weekend, for the first time ever, I harvested sweet potatoes. In Minnesota, of all places!
They were my big garden experiment this year. Last winter, I ordered “Georgia Jet” slips — the little sprouts that you plant — from a company in Tennessee. When they arrived late in May, they were looked pathetic, but I planted them in my raised bed with high hopes.
The bed had been covered in black plastic to keep the soil warm, but the cover didn’t deter the chipmunks from digging up the precious, fragile plants that were growing through slits in the plastic. Soon my struggling little shoots were surrounded by rocks and pot shards in an attempt to keep them safe from the critters.
This is what they looked like in June:

And then they took off, and this is what they looked like early in August:

I was excited when they began flowering early this month. The quarter-sized flowers were lavender with a darker throat, just like the flowers on my ornamental sweet potato vine. Some Master Gardeners told me flowering meant that it was time to harvest, while others said to wait until the vines begin to yellow. That started a couple of weeks ago.

When it turned cooler this weekend, I had to check on my crop. I tore the black plastic back from a corner of the raised bed and scraped some of the dirt away. To my surprise, the base of my once-fragile plant was as thick as finger. The potatoes were right below the surface of the soil, pointing down.
When I grasped the base of the vine and pulled, they came up cleanly like a fat bunch of carrots.A couple of the sweet potatoes from this plant are about six inches long, while the others are smaller. I’m going to leave the other plants in the bed as long as I can before I pull them.

Now my sweet potatoes have to sit and cure for awhile to bring out the sweetness in the tuber. Growing these was really fun, and I think I’m going to try them again next year. A Master Gardener who has grown sweet potatoes for years swears by the variety “Vardamon,” so I may try those next year.
What new thing did you try this year? Did it work out?
 

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