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”.

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32 comments on “Come On In

  1. What a pity I don’t have any deer to help me out.
    Have a happy day Bill.
    🙂 Mandy xo

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  2. Love to see some photos of the deer party!

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  3. BeeHappee says:

    Mixed messages for the deer.
    And does it work? Do they clear it all out in a week’s time?

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  4. valbjerke says:

    Nice to see you’ve found a compromise 🙂 We use our livestock as part of our gardening program – ducks are excellent slug control, pigs will turn up hard ground in short order, goats love carrot tops, the milk cow is partial to extra beet tops – and so on. We actually don’t have enough debris to have a compost.

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  5. shoreacres says:

    In the Texas hill country, people bring in the goats to help clear out cedar. It may take them a year, but I’ve seen the results, and they’re amazing. What’s amusing is the appearance of a hillside that’s been browsed. It looks like the people brought in a professional tree trimmer to even things out.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. bobraxton says:

    A friend at the Chesapeake Bay shoreline got a new Prius (newer than her former) and vanity plates that say “Cum EAR” (for the way she hears friends saying “come here”) – like invitation.

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  7. Laurie Graves says:

    This one made me chuckle. And I must say, I’m more than a little envious of those sweet potatoes, which I love. They don’t grow well in Maine, and so for us they are a Thanksgiving treat.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Good to hear that the deer can serve some useful purpose!

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  9. nebraskadave says:

    Bill, ha, finally something useful for the pesky deer. You made me chuckle at using wildlife to eliminate tops from sweet potatoes. Wow, those are some giant sweet potatoes. When you say that you plow them out do you actually use a plow? My Dad used a plow to dig regular potatoes one year and it worked wonderful. We used a tractor that was rated much more powerful than two plows so he could drive faster than normal plowing. He set the plow as deep as it would go and when the row of potatoes was plowed it rolled them right up on top of the soil. There were many cut potatoes but when you are harvesting about 1 1/2 acres of potatoes who cares. My Dad came up with some amazing ways to do things. I have some of those characteristics but no where close to his level. I really didn’t start stepping into those abilities until I was in my 50s. I’m sure those sweet potatoes will be a hot item at the market on Saturday.

    Have a great sweet potato day.

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    • Bill says:

      We use a “potato plow.” I’m sure it has another name but that’s what we call it. Maybe I’ll do a post about our harvest and include a picture of it. We will end up with some cut potatoes of course. Those are the ones we keep for ourselves. 🙂 But we grow too many to harvest them all with a digging fork. I’m looking forward to plenty of delicious sweet potatoes this winter. 🙂

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  10. Joanna says:

    An interesting solution. It would also give you a good place from which to hunt them I guess too – so has hunting season started yet? I would be more tempted to use my own livestock to eat down the vines though – if we could grow sweet potatoes that is! Too short a season I think, unless they ripen sooner with the longer days 😀

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    • Bill says:

      Archery season has begun, but I don’t bother with that. I usually just wait until the “either sex” rifle season begins.

      Sweet potatoes like hot weather, so I doubt they’d do well in Latvia. 🙂

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      • Joanna says:

        Hot weather we actually get in Latvia, but probably not enough of it. Although we are quite far north the weather is usually better where we are, due to the rain being dumped on everywhere West of us

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  11. What goes around comes around, I guess. 🙂

    Aside from fencing how do you keep the deer at bay? Do those high-pitched noise devices work?

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    • Bill says:

      Nothing works. There are lots of techniques that work for a little while. But as one farmer told me recently, we can’t grow anything here now unless we grow it indoors. But right now what’s working best for us is double fencing.

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      • smcasson says:

        Mind to talk about fencing a little bit? The fencing I’ve seen pics of on your blog looks like electrified poly netting. Is that right? Do you use a solar fence charger? How many fences can you do with one charger? I suspect you move the fence pretty often, for weeds growing up in it. Thanks.

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      • Bill says:

        Yes we use net fencing from Premier with solar energizers. One fence per charger. I take the fence down a few times during the year to mow the perimeter to reduce weed drag. I don’t know why the fences work. Deer can easily hop over them and sometimes an enterprising deer will do that. But by and large they stay away. I think it might be the popping sound the fence makes. Some folks put peanut butter on the fence early in the year to tempt the deer to lick it and develop a fear of it. I’ve tried that but they didn’t take the bait. When I have fence to spare (it’s expensive) I run a double fence.

        Liked by 1 person

  12. Zambian Lady says:

    My mother dried some sweet potato leaves when I was in Zambia for me to bring back to Vienna. I am yet to cook them as I have only had fresh ones before. In short, what I am saying is how I wish I lived near you so that I could have enjoyed those sweet potatoes leaves that have ‘gone to waste’ to deer 🙂 It’s good that you provided food to them. It seems you will harvest some big tubers for yourself.

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    • Bill says:

      I thought of you when I was writing this post, as I know you like them. We had some earlier this year and we enjoyed them. We need to be more deliberate about incorporating them into our diet. But for now it’s late October and they’re in my way!

      Liked by 1 person

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