You have done all the hard work and waited patiently for your potato plants to grow.
Now the time has finally come to pull your produce out of the ground and enjoy it!
But, it isn’t as simple as that. You cannot just haul your potatoes out from under the soil.
You need to harvest them carefully.
So, what is the proper way to harvest potatoes?
Well, that depends on the kind of potato you are harvesting.
But this is the home run now. You are not far away from being able to sit back and enjoy your efforts of planting and caring for your potatoes.
So, stay tuned and continue reading below to know more about the proper way of harvesting potatoes.
How to harvest potatoes?
To harvest New potatoes, all you need to do is carefully lift the whole potato plant out of its soil. This can be done by hand or with a garden tool. Take as many New potatoes as you want to have. Then, replant the potato plant in its original spot. To harvest Maincrop potatoes, you will need a garden spade or a spading fork. With your garden tool, lift and turn the soil a few inches away from the potato plant’s stem. Caution must be taken so the potatoes are not harmed. This will bring your potato crop to the surface.
How to Harvest New Potatoes
When the time comes to harvest new potatoes, the plants are not harvested all at once.
New potatoes are only harvested as they are needed. This is because they do not keep for more than a few days.
The way to harvest New potatoes is best done by gently lifting a potato plant out of its soil. You can lift your plant either with your hands or by using a garden tool.
Garden tools that are suitable for doing this are either a handheld multi-pronged garden fork or a garden trowel.
The soil and mulch surrounding your potato plant should fall away as you lift it.
Remove as many of the potatoes from the plant as you need.
If there are still New potatoes left on the plant after you have taken what you need from it, you will need to replant it.
You should put the potato plant back in its place and press the soil back down around it. Doing so will allow the tubers that remain on the plant to continue to grow.
If the plant you lifted did not hold enough New potatoes, lift another. You should continue to do so until you reach your desired amount of potatoes.
Even if you remove all the tubers from a plant, you should still set it back into the ground. The plant will continue to grow and will more likely produce new tubers.
If your potatoes are being grown in mulch, straw, or very loose soil, it should be easy enough to remove the potatoes you want.
This is simply done by easing your hand into the zone of the tuber and remove the potatoes you want.
New potatoes do not keep for very long because their immature skins are thin. Having thinner skins means they will lose moisture more rapidly.
There is also more of a risk of the potatoes becoming infected by disease pathogens. These potatoes can be kept in the fridge for up to one week.
How to Harvest Main Crop Potatoes
When it comes to harvesting Maincrop or Regular potatoes there is a little bit of preparation that is required.
Once the stems of your potato plant have died back you will need to give your potatoes a dry period.
Giving your potatoes a dry period means not watering them for ten days to fourteen days.
A dry period before harvesting is necessary in order for the skins of your Maincrop potatoes to harden or “set”.
This is especially important for potatoes that will be stored for a long period of time. Once your Maincrop potatoes have had a dry period, you can then harvest them.
To harvest these potatoes, you will need a spading fork or a garden spade.
A garden spade is best used if you know how deep your potato tubers are growing. With the garden spade, simply lift up the entire hill.
When using a spading fork, you should work from the outside edges of your bed or planting row inwards.
Press the fork into the soil roughly 10 inches to 18 inches away from your potato plant’s stem. Gently turn and loosen the dry soil to lift your potatoes up from underneath and draw them out of the ground.
Caution must be taken so that your potatoes do not get damaged when doing this.
Potatoes that are bruised, scraped, or cut during harvesting risk rotting during storage.
These potatoes should be used first or as soon as possible. Maincrop potatoes will also need to be dried and cured in order to be stored.
Tips when Harvesting Potatoes
Interestingly, Maincrop potatoes that are dug from warm soil typically do not bruise as easily as potatoes dug from cold soil.
Soil is classified as warm when it is 50°F to 65°F or 10°C to 18°C and cold when it is 45°F or 7°C and below.
Potatoes can also be left in the ground past their maturity date. They should, however, be harvested before the first frost.
The best time to harvest them is when they have matured though as this is when they are the most nutritious.
Whilst harvesting, it is best to keep your potatoes protected from sunlight. If potatoes are left out in direct sunlight for too long, they will begin to green.
This greening is a sign of your potatoes producing a chemical compound known as Solanine.
Solanine results in bitter-tasting potatoes. Excessive amounts of this chemical can be toxic.
Always save the best potato tubers to plant the following season. Do not save the potatoes that are discolored or soft.
If any of your potato plants were diseased, do not save the potatoes. Only the best will do!
Do not wash your potatoes right until you use them! By washing a potato, you will shorten its lifespan or storage life.
This is not only true for potatoes harvested at home. It is relevant for store-bought potatoes as well.
How to Tell if Potatoes are Ready for Harvest
The growth of potatoes is generally divided into different phases. There are five phases of growth.
Knowing these five phases will be helpful in understanding when your potatoes will be ready to be harvested.
In the first phase of growth, seed potatoes begin growing their sprouts. Roots will also begin to form and grow.
The second phase of growth shows photosynthesis beginning. Your potato plant will start to develop branches and leaves.
Phase three of potato growth is when tubers start to develop. Tubers are seen as swellings of the potato’s stolon.
During this phase, your plant’s flowers should be developing too.
In the fourth phase of growth bulking of the tubers occurs.
This is when your potato plant will begin investing most of the resources it absorbs into its tubers. In this phase, New potatoes can be harvested.
And finally, during the fifth phase, the canopy of your potato plant will begin to die back.
This signals the maturation of your potato’s tubers which means it is time to harvest them. The tuber’s skins will also harden in this phase.
When to Harvest Potatoes
There are two types of potatoes you will get from your plants. This is dependent on the time at which you harvest your potato tubers.
The two types of potatoes you could harvest are known as New potatoes and Maincrop potatoes.
Maincrop potatoes are also known as Mature potatoes or simply Regular potatoes.
New potatoes are potatoes that have been intentionally harvested early.
Harvesting New potatoes are done for their tender skin as well as their smaller size. These potatoes are immature. Hence, they should be eaten within a few days after you harvest them.
New potatoes are not meant to be cured and therefore will not keep for longer than a few days.
Maincrop or Regular potatoes are simply that, your main potatoes you would typically cure and store to use later.
These ‘regular’ potatoes are left to mature so that their spuds are large. They are the largest group of potatoes grown.
These potatoes are what you would typically buy from a store.
How Long do Potatoes Take to Grow
How long your potatoes take to grow will depend on what variety you have planted. Different potato varieties vary slightly in growth time.
This will then affect when you can start harvesting New potatoes and when you can expect to harvest your Maincrop potatoes.
The foolproof method of telling when to harvest your potatoes is by observing the plant.
Looking at your potato plant and determining what phase of growth it is in will help you with this.
If you are wanting to harvest a few New potatoes, the best time to do this is once your plant has started to flower.
You can continue to harvest New potatoes right up until two weeks before your Maincrop potatoes will be ready to be harvested.
Maincrop potatoes will be ready to be harvested once the potato plant has died completely.
Some varieties of potato plants bloom late or in some cases do not bloom at all. If this is the case with your potato plant, you will need to physically check your potato tubers.
After about 65 days to 75 days, if your potato plant has not yet flowered it is time to check on your plant.
To check on your potato plant’s tubers, you will need to check near your plant’s base.
The tubers form on the plant’s underground stems. These stems are known as stolons.
The stolons of a potato plant are generally twelve inches to eighteen inches long.
This length is what determines the circumference around which you should check for developing potato tubers.
The Best Soil Conditions for Cultivating Potatoes
Ideally, you should only harvest your potatoes on a warm and dry day. The temperature of the soil needs to be at least 45°F or 7°C when harvesting.
It becomes unnecessarily difficult to harvest potatoes from wet soil.
When the soil around your potatoes is wet at the time of harvesting it is likely to stick to your vegetables.
Overly watered or wet soil is also known to cause potatoes to rot ahead of time. This is why it is an important practice to not harvest your potatoes during a rainy day or too soon after.
It is known that potatoes are much likelier to keep better if the soil simply shakes off of them when harvesting them.
How to Dry and Cure Potatoes
Once you have harvested your Maincrop potatoes, they will need to be dried and cured. Doing so helps your potatoes to keep for longer periods of time.
Leave your potatoes to sit in a cool, dry, and dark place of around 45°F to 60°F or 7°C to 15°C. You should allow your potatoes to cure like this for up to fourteen days.
After giving your potatoes time to cure, you can then brush off any soil still clinging onto them.
Remember to never wash your potatoes before storing them!
Only wash your potatoes right before you are due to use them.
You should also avoid keeping your potatoes near apples. Apples release a gas known as ethylene. This gas will cause your potatoes to go bad or spoil.
Curing your potatoes will also allow for small nicks and bruises to heal.
However, potatoes with bigger bruises or deep cuts should be used immediately or as soon as possible.
These more severely damaged potatoes will not keep well and should not be stored.
How to Store Potatoes
When storing potatoes for long periods of time you will need to store them properly.
It is generally quite difficult to meet all of the potato’s requirements unless you have a root cellar.
Potatoes need to be kept in an area with high humidity, cooler temperatures, ventilation, and no light. Cool temperatures are necessary to avoid your potatoes sprouting.
You should check your stored potatoes often. If your potatoes have started forming sprouts, you will need to knock them off with your hands.
You should never store raw potatoes in the fridge either. Storing potatoes in a fridge will result in them having a sweet taste which is undesirable.
This sweetness comes from the starch in the potato changing to sugar from being in an environment that is too cold.
Harvesting your potatoes is a super easy task. Although, it is a task that should be done with care. Gentleness is important when harvesting your potatoes as you do not want to damage them.
Storing your potatoes can be a little bit of a trying task, but once you find a good spot, keep it! With proper curing and storing, you can enjoy your potatoes as you like over the next couple of months. Remember not to keep your raw potatoes in the refrigerator or near fruits. And, if your versatile vegetable has a green spot or two, simply cut it off and enjoy the rest.
Marcel runs the place around here. He has a deep passion for houseplants & gardening and is constantly on the lookout for yet another special plant to add to his arsenal of houseplants, succulents & cacti.
Marcel is also the founder of Iseli International Commerce, a sole proprietorship company that publishes a variety of websites and online magazines.