Come On In

Yesterday I checked under a couple of our sweet potato plants and they seem to be ready for harvest.

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Sweet potatoes are heavily vining plants, and it’s necessary to get the vines out of the way before plowing up the potatoes. I used to spend hours gathering them all up and carrying them in the compost pile. But a couple of years ago it dawned on me that I should enlist the help of some unlikely allies.

Deer love sweet potato vines. They eat them like deer candy. Because of our deer overpopulation problem, that makes it challenging to grow sweet potatoes here.

We work on keeping the deer out of the sweet potatoes all summer. I’m constantly worried that they’ll ruin our crop. Protecting the vines from the deer is a summertime priority.

But at harvest time the vines are a nuisance. I know they’re edible and prized food in some cultures, but we have a mountain of them and no market for them here. For us, they’re mainly something that gets in the way of our harvest.

A few years ago it dawned on me–why not take the fence down a week before harvest and let the deer eat the vines, thus making our job easier?

So that’s what we’ve been doing the last few years. Yesterday I took down the fence that has served us well all summer. The sweet potato garden is now unprotected. It’s a deer buffet.

Our message to the deer has changed from “Stay Out” to “Come on In”.