Monday, July 9, 2012

Schrödinger's sweet potato

This post's title is thanks to the brilliance of my friend, Peter.

My sweet potato plants have been, by far, the happiest thing in my new garden. Well, the lemongrass is also kicking butt. But anyway, the vines are beautiful, green, uniform, disease-free, and spilling over the bed. Some bugs have chowed down but not to any alarming degree. Plus, if nothing wants to eat my stuff, why should I?

I had read something mentioning I should trim the vines if they spill out of their contained bed...but I was like...huh, why? No explanation was given, so I ignored it.

Then my boyfriend was reading about growing sweet potatoes and said that if they are overly fertile, they won't produce tubers...just leaves. The tuber is a storage structure for when it's cold or the plant isn't getting enough water, so if its conditions are too good, there may not be a need to produce a tuber. Weird, right?
Suddenly I realized that I could possibly dig up my sweet potato plants on September 1 only to find that they never actually made sweet potatoes. At least the greens are tasty, but still, how disappointing would that be?

Why are my sweet potato plants possibly too fertile? Well, the wicking bed design I used called for layers of un-decomposed matter, even fresh horse manure, which is very nitrogen rich. Nitrogen is a fertilizer. Or maybe the soil to begin with was just so fantastic (thanks Lady Bug!). I have not overwatered these guys so that's probably not it. Who knows...I'm sure I'll learn as time goes on.

I trimmed my sweet potato vines back considerably after reading that ideally, they should be 8-10 inches long and have 5-6 leaves in Garret's Texas Organic Vegetable Gardening. I was shocked...mine had probably at least 20 leaves per vine, which of course had split off several times with their own set of leaves. I'll be sautéing these babies up this week for sure!

I'll definitely have to continue cutting them back in hopes that the plant will go "aaack, must store energy!" so if you want some greens, seriously, email me at They are really nice to sauté.


  1. Sorry, I am waiting to make sweet potato fries with the fruits of your labor. Like literally sitting here with a knife and cutting board until September.

    1. YUMMM. You will totally be a recipient of some of my existent/non-existent sweet potatoes, since each plant is supposed to yield 3 pounds each. I have about 8 plants. But you need to adjust your calendar...I have to "cure" the sweet potatoes for 2 weeks after harvesting so that they taste good. Hope you're not too devastated. Put the knife down...