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ChuckNora
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Joined: Thu Aug 22, 2013 11:55 am
Location: Central Florida

Sweet Potato Woes

This summer we decided to grow sweet potatoes. It's a new crop for us, so we're learning as we go. They are out of control. They have gotten so huge they're out growing their raised bed. The vines just don't want to quit, and my husband doesn't want to cut them. He says he's fine with them moving out of the bed.

Here's my concern...

The canopy of the leaves, it seems, is making it impossible for the soil to dry up at all. Some of the vines that sit on the ground, where the roots dig, are rotting. My only idea is from the moisture of the soil. It has been raining every night, so we haven't needed to water. But this also means it's getting wetter and wetter. I try and go out and trim the leaves down, but there are so freaking many! And I don't even know if that's the problem.

Also, with him saying don't trim them back I'm worried the vine is going to concentrate all of it's energy on making vines and not potatoes. We had a tomato plant do this a couple years ago. The vines were up to 8 ft from the ground, and it hardly produced any fruit. DH was so impressed with the size he didn't want to trim that one either.

Advice? I can go take and post pictures if you'd like them.

imafan26
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Location: hawaii, zone 12a 587 ft elev.

Re: Sweet Potato Woes

Sweet potato vines do get out of control. I cut sweet potato vines all of the time, I have to otherwise it crawls over pathways and borders and on top of other plants. Some varieties here are grown specifically for their leaves and they don't produce any tubers and other varieties make tubers and the leaves are also edible. Not all sweet potato leaves are eaten. People usually only eat certain varieties and here we have several different kinds to choose from.

It is blanched and combined with thinly sliced red onions, chopped tomatoes, fish sauce or salt, pepper, a little grated ginger, vinegar and sugar.

I learned my lesson planting tubers and I don't put them in the ground anymore. I keep them in half 55 gallon barrels. It makes it easier to harvest and that way and no tubers are left behind to cause problems.
I plant taro, araimo, ginger, and sweet potatoes this way now. I can't get as many in a container, but I don't need that much. It took me a long time to kill the sweet potato and taro patch I had in the ground. Sweet potato leaves will come back from just a couple of nodes. The thai ginger spread and starting to push out of the bed.
Happy gardening in Hawaii. Gardens are where people grow.

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ChuckNora
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Joined: Thu Aug 22, 2013 11:55 am
Location: Central Florida

Re: Sweet Potato Woes

For whatever reason, I'm not very good at container gardening. It's weird.

We don't really mind them coming back time after time, keeps us from having to buy new starters. But it would get annoying if I'm trying to grow other stuff.

I'll have to talk to DH tonight, and maybe cut the vines down this weekend. I'll have to look up what varieties have edible leaves. I know none can be fed to the rabbits, so so far they have just gone to the compost bin.

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Gary350
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Joined: Mon Mar 23, 2009 5:59 pm
Location: TN. 50 years of gardening experience.

Re: Sweet Potato Woes

I have grown sweet potatoes several times. Last time I grew sweet potatoes I planted 3 plants and they got 25 ft long in all directions it was a 50 ft circle of vines. They make great ground cover for the garden and will prevent weeds and grass from coming up. When my vines start getting onto the yard I cut they off with I lawn mower then I cut the grass. Cutting vines off does not hurt them at all.

The vines have the ability to grow roots every where they touch the soil. The vines will grow potatoes every place they grow roots. The mother plant will make the most and largest potatoes and there will be a lot of satellite potatoes too. I grew over 100 lbs of potatoes from 3 plants.

One year I kept the vines under control by turning them and making them grow back and forth over all the other vines. Vines got deep and they could not grow roots and there were no satellite potatoes. Mother plant produced less and smaller potatoes.

I think every place the vines grow roots contributes to the growth of all the potatoes on the vine. If you don't want the vines to take over the whole garden decide how long you want them to be and cut them off.

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