This week I decided it was time to dig a few of the sweet potatoes and see how they were sizing up. I grew five varieties this year, the same varieties I grew last year: Korean Purple, Purple, Beauregard, Murasaki and Bonita. Our rainfall this summer has been spotty at best, so I have used a soaker hose several times to supply supplemental water to the sweet potato bed. Hopefully that will make for a better harvest than last year’s crop which suffered from the dry summer weather. Too much rain can be a problem though, as roots can split or develop cracks. That is highly unlikely to be a problem for us this year.
I like to cut the vines off the sweet potatoes before I dig them. That lets me get them out of the way so I can see how the sweet potatoes are growing under the soil, and it makes harvesting easier.
I generally use a digging fork to do the digging, though a shovel or spade will also get the job done. I brush away some of the soil around the hill to try and see where the roots have formed, then plunge the fork into the soil several inches away and under (hopefully) the roots to lift them up and loosen them. After that I work the sweet potatoes out with my hands, wiggling them around to loosen and scooping away the soil if necessary.
The first hill I dug was the all-purple Purple variety. I’ve been growing this one for ten years now, after one was given to me by fellow gardener and blogger Norma (Garden To Wok). I set out 7 slips of this variety this year, and the first one I dug had a root sticking up out of the soil. That is usually a sign that a big one is waiting, and I was not disappointed. That one sweet potato weighed right at three pounds!
I also dug a few hills of Beauregard, which is the only orange-fleshed variety I am growing. I can usually depend on it to make big sweet potatoes here in our garden, and it looks like it has performed well this year.
After harvest, I will move all the sweet potatoes down to the basement, which is the warmest spot we have to cure them. We’ll let them sit for a couple of weeks before we eat any of them. They tend to be starchy and not very sweet right after harvesting, and curing lets the starches begin to turn to sugars.
Depending on the variety, sweet potatoes are generally ready to dig about 90 to 120 days after planting the slips. I set outs our on June 10th this year, so we are around the 130 day mark and all of them should be ready. To see how I planted them, you can read: Planting Sweet Potatoes. They definitely need to be dug before frosts or freezing weather arrives. There is no frost in our 7-day weather forecast though, so I plan to get the rest of them dug by early next week.