Botanical Names: Ipomoea batatas
When to harvest sweet potatoes will depend on the cultivar that you purchased. When receiving your slips, it is important to read the packing. Typically, most varieties will take about three to four months to mature – about 90 to 120 days, but there are some newer varieties that take less time and bred specifically for northern climates (such as Georgia Jet, Vardaman, Centennial).
Some growers have mixes specifically for northern gardens. However, it is important to harvest your sweet potatoes prior to any frost or freeze. If you have a shorter growing season, your potatoes may be smaller in size, but will still have the same wonderful taste as larger spuds. Watch the weather report and harvest your sweet potatoes when the night time temperatures start to dip into the 40s to 30s to ensure that none of your crop is lost to frost. The longer you are able to keep the plants in the ground, the larger and more numerousyour harvest will be.
With southern gardens, try to keep your potatoes in until 120 days since typically cold nights and frost will not be a problem. With sweet potatoes, there is really no sign as to when they are ready like with “white” or “Irish” potatoes when the stems or vines start to die back. Sweet potatoes will continue to grow and produce until frost or freeze stops them.
Digging your sweet potatoes up is extremely easy, but will take some heavy lifting and back muscle. Using a shovel or a pitchfork, gently lift the soil. Be careful to do this in a gentle manner, so that the potatoes do not become damaged by bruising or piercing the skin. Since it has taken 120 days to harvest, it is important that you reap the entire yield.
If your sweet potatoes were grown in a container, simply dump your container into awheel barrow, cardboard on the ground or garbage bag this makes for easy cleanup. Then sift through with your hand to retrieve all your potatoes.
Once you have harvested all your sweet potatoes, it is time to cure them. Store your sweet potatoes in a dry and cool environment (such as a garage or basement). Letting them cure for two months is said to enhance their flavor, but it can be hard to wait that amount of time especially if you love sweet potatoes. Try to reserve some of your sweet potatoes for creating slips in your future garden. This way, you will not have to keep purchasing slips year after year, but save seed from your garden to grow for future harvest.