Thinking about growing sweet potatoes at home? We hear you! Who doesn’t love flavorful sweet potatoes right out of the oven or mouthwatering roasted sweet potatoes to brighten your day? You, too, can enjoy their unique flavor by growing and learning how to harvest sweet potatoes.
Sweet potatoes are a rich source of fiber and contain an array of vitamins and minerals, including iron, calcium, and selenium. They’re a good source of most of our B vitamins and vitamin C. As you can tell, sweet potatoes are widely popular not only for their delicious taste but also for their health benefits.
Sweet potatoes have become a staple of holiday dishes, but if you don’t want to wait that long, you can grow them yourself for all your sweet potato needs. Though it may sound intimidating, growing and harvesting your food is fun. That said, important steps are required to do a good job, including knowing when and how to harvest sweet potatoes.
How to Harvest Sweet Potatoes
Depending on the variety, it will take sweet potatoes between 90 and 170 days to grow. Dig tubers up, being careful not to pierce the skin, and leave them in the sun for a couple of hours to cure partially.
- Using a spading fork, you can start digging up the potatoes as soon as they are big enough for a meal.
- Harvest when the leaves and ends of the vines have started turning yellow or about 100 days from planting.
- Loosen the soil around each plant (18 inches around, 4 to 6 inches deep) to avoid injuring the tubers. Cut away some of the vines.
- Pull up the plant’s primary crown and dig up the tubers by hand. Handle the sweet potatoes carefully, as they bruise easily.
- Shake off any excess dirt; do not wash the roots.
- Complete harvesting by the first fall frost. Don’t forget you can eat sweet potato leaves! They are delicious and packed with nutrients.
How to plant sweet potatoes?
- Plant the slips on a warm, overcast day when the soil temperature has reached 60°F.
- Break off the lower leaves, leaving only the top ones.
- Set the slips deep enough to cover the roots and the stem up to the leaves (sweet potatoes will form on the nodes), 12 to 18 inches apart.
- Water with a high-phosphorus liquid fertilizer, then water generously for 7 to 10 days to ensure that the plants root well.
How to care for sweet potatoes?
- Side-dress the sweet potato plants 3 to 4 weeks after transplanting with 5-10-10 fertilizer.
- Weed the sweet potato beds regularly, starting two weeks after planting.
- Avoid deep digging with a hoe or tool that disturbs the feeder roots.
- Water regularly, especially during mid-summer.
- Do not prune sweet potato vines; they should be vigorous.
What are the types of sweet potatoes?
Recommended varieties include:
- Beauregard – also known as Bonita or Bellevue, has orange flesh and red/brown skin. The most common sweet potato variety in Australia.
- Centennial – grows fast and has a high yield. It has copper skin and dark orange flesh.
- Stokes. It offers vibrant purple color and is full of extra health benefits; it cooks well in savory dishes and mashes.
- Kestle – has pale flesh and pale skin. Perfect for roasting and mashing.
- Northern star – has reddish-purple skin.
Recommended Product: Centennial Sweet Potato Plants
Plants form well-shaped, uniform roots. Noted for dependably high yields and lasting storage quality. Centennials could be the most widely recognized sweet potato.
Carrot color inside with copper to orange outside skin. “Baby Bakers” in about 90 days. The Centennial has been used in many bake-off contests.
Place one slip in each hole with the roots pointing down. Position the slip so that the bottom half will be covered with dirt while the top half with the new leaves is above ground.
- Top-yielding sweet potatoes
How do I know when to harvest my sweet potatoes?
Sweet potatoes are usually ready to harvest just as the ends of the vines begin to turn yellow or just before frost in the North. To avoid injuring tubers, find the primary crown of the plant you want to dig, and then use a digging fork to loosen an 18-inch wide circle around the plant.
Can you eat sweet potatoes right after harvest?
Sweet potatoes are succulently eaten right after harvest, but their true flavors deepen as they cure. During the curing process, the starches in the tuber turn into sugar, intensifying the potato’s buttery sweet flavor and texture. … Harvest the potatoes in a dry period if possible.
How long can sweet potatoes stay in the ground?
You can expect sweet potatoes to retain their quality for six to 10 months, but some cultivars may begin sprouting after six months. They will taste better if you give them a minimum of three weeks in storage to allow their starch to convert to sugar before you eat them.
How many sweet potatoes do you get from one plant?
Sweet potatoes are grown from root-able cuttings, often called slips. If you’ve never grown sweet potatoes before, growing your slips from small or medium-sized sweet potatoes purchased at the market can be great fun. One sweet potato will produce between three and five slips.
How to cure sweet potatoes?
After harvest, the sweet potatoes should be cured. Curing sweet potatoes gives them that sweet taste and allows a second skin to form over scratches and bruises.
To cure, store roots in a warm place (about 80°F) at high humidity (about 90%) for 10 to 14 days. A table outside in a shady spot works well. Arrange sweet potatoes so that they are not touching.
How to store sweet potatoes?
- Once cured, store your sweet potatoes in dry boxes or bins at 55 to 60 degrees F in a humid room.
A root cellar or cool pantry is the ideal place to store sweet potatoes. Do not store them in the refrigerator because low temperatures will cause the sugars to turn to starch.
- Some gardeners store their tubers in paper bags or wrap them individually in newspapers. You can set them on shelves or place them in milk crates, allowing plenty of airflow.
They can be stored for 6 to 10 months under good conditions.
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Additional Tips on How to Harvest Sweet Potatoes
- Because they have thin skins, sweet potatoes are easily damaged during harvest, so extra care should be taken.
- Clip vines and save them for the compost pile. Use a garden fork to unearth tubers, starting at the patch’s edge and working toward vines.
- Sweet potatoes tend to grow near the surface. Dig carefully; tubers bruise easily at this point.
- Curing is what gives them hardened skin. If you damage any sweet potatoes during digging, send them straight to the kitchen; they won’t cure or store. Use them as soon as possible.