Sweet potato harvest and storage: Sweet potatoes can be harvested usually from mid-October to mid-November, depending on weather. Once the vines have frosted or are turning yellow, harvest right away. I have used a potato fork or spade to loosen the soil, but you need to be careful to avoid stabbing too many of the tubers, since damaged tubers don’t store as well. Use any damaged ones right away. To harvest, you want to get under the root and lift up gently as the soil loosens. Tubers will be right under the base of the vine. Handle the tubers gently as their skin is thin, and put them in a milk crate or on a screen to dry. If you are using them in a month or two, curing isn’t needed but they should be dried seven to 10 days at 70 to 80 degrees regardless. You can do this in an oven on the middle rack, hanging an incandescent light bulb (if you can find one these days!) in the oven, and running the cord outside the oven to an outlet. Place a thermometer in the oven to check temperature — adjust by using a different wattage and/or cracking the door open.

If you want to store the sweet potatoes over several months, cure them for five days at 90 degrees and 85 percent humidity. Again, use an oven, light bulb (if possible) and thermometer. The difference this time, besides bulb wattage is to include a pan of water in the bottom of the oven to achieve 85 percent humidity. Once sweet potatoes are cured, store them in milk crates or other containers with good air circulation at 55 to 60 degrees and 75 to 80 percent humidity. A cool basement or root cellar works well.

Lawns: For the last mowing of the season, cut the grass a little shorter than normal. Generally you want the grass to be 3 ½ -4 inches tall to help keep it healthy and to help shade out weeds. For the last mowing, cut to about 2 ½ inches to provide less food and tunnel space for voles, as well as less material that may be attacked by snow mold in spring if we have heavy snowfall in winter.

Lisa Johnson, Dane County UW-Extension horticulture educator

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