How To Avoid Damage When You Harvest Potatoes

There is nothing more exciting than growing potatoes and then digging up your very own potato harvest My kids especially love helping dig up potatoes, you will often find them shouting “here is one” or “look at this one!”.

Part of the challenge is knowing when to harvest potatoes. Potatoes that are cut or bruised will not keep well so some care needs to be taken when harvesting potatoes and following some basic advice you can make sure all your potatoes are harvested with minimal damage.

When to Tell When Potatoes Are Ready for Harvesting

Do you want to grow vegetables in your garden but don’t know when to tell whether they are ready for harvesting or not? Learning how and when to harvest homegrown -potatoes is important, especially if you intend to grow vegetables.
Apart from learning how to harvest the vegetables, you also need to learn how to handle them and store potatoes to avoid getting damaged during the winter season.

Signs That Your Potatoes are Ready to Harvest

Here are some signs that will tell you that this is the right time for digging up potatoes. 

  • Watch the Vines

The state of the vines is one of the best predictors of when potatoes are ready to harvest. Allow your potatoes to grow until the vines die and become brown. This visual cue indicates that it is ready to harvest.

This is different from what occurs when the vines freeze. The vines will turn black and decay if they are frozen. Check for readiness before digging up all of your potatoes. Temperatures around 40 degrees Fahrenheit are ideal for storing cured potatoes.

  • Keep an Eye on the Calendar

Seed potatoes show how long it will take for them to grow from the time they are planted to the time they are harvested, which is generally between 85 and 115 days. Because elements like soil conditions, climate, and rainfall may all impact how long it takes your potatoes to mature, use the timings as a guide to determine when they’re ready to harvest.

  • Look for Readiness
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Leave the potatoes in the ground for another two or three weeks after the vines have perished. Reduce the amount of watering the potato plants as the vines begin to dry up. The reduced water content aids in the curing of the potatoes, allowing them to be kept properly.

With a spading fork, carefully dig up one or two hills of potatoes and pick up some of the tubers. With your thumb or fingers, rub the skin. Your potatoes aren’t ready to harvest if the peel slides or rubs off readily.

  • Early Potatoes

Early potatoes can take anywhere from 70 to 90 days to reach harvest time, which is normally in June or July. Potatoes are primarily farmed by farmers in southern locations, where temperatures are normally warmer.

  • Late-Season Potatoes

These types are harvested somewhere between 130 and 150 days after planting. Purple Majesty, King Edward, and Russet types are typical cultivars that are ready for harvest in August and September.

harvest potatoes

New-Potatoes

This refers to the young tubers present in potato plants. The potatoes tend to be small and with a much softer skin compared to the more mature potatoes. For this reason, you should eat the new potatoes soon after you have harvested them as they do not store well. Traditionally, it takes around 10 weeks from the planting date for many potato varieties to generate tubers that are large enough for consumption.

In case you lose count of when the plants were put to ground, just keep a keen eye on the plant. A plant is typically ready for harvesting when it starts to bloom. Instead of digging or pulling out a whole plant, you should instead move soil carefully from around the plant. Having done this, remove a few potatoes from each plant in your garden.
Leave the other plants to continue growing until fall when you can harvest the mature potatoes.

Mature Potatoes

Mature potatoes get harvested in early winter or fall depending on prevailing weather conditions and the plants. Before you can start harvesting mature potatoes, you will need to wait until the plant’s foliage has withered and started to die back. Once the foliage is dead, grab a hoe and dig up a potato from at least two plants.
Using your fingers to rub the skin of each potato. If it’s ready for harvest, its skin will not scrub off with ease. If you notice the skin scrubbing off easily, leave the potatoes in the garden for a few more days. You may also need to test several more plants.

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How to Harvest Potatoes in Containers

Potatoes are a widely cultivated crop as their tubers continue to grow beneath the soil until they become ready for cooking or harvesting. They are ideal for container gardening as they can easily grow in different types of soils. Potato container gardening is recommended as it reduces the risks of pests, prevent weeds, and makes for easy harvesting. Instead of using a garden fork, you can use your hands to dig out the potatoes when they are ready for harvesting.

  • Harvesting of new potatoes should occur when the plant begins to flower. All you have to do is stick your hand inside the container and beneath the soil’s top layer. Once inside the soil, remove the potatoes you require. New potatoes are less starchy and are sweeter than the mature ones.
  • By relying on this method, you can continue harvesting both the new and mature potatoes for weeks on end. You will need to make sure the remaining tubers are properly covered with soil. Apply manure and supply them with sufficient water.
  • If interested in harvesting the entire crop present in your container, you have to wait until the stem of your plant has started turning yellow. Allow it enough time for the top to die off. Since they are now mature, you don’t have to continue using your hands. Instead, you can tip the container onto an open ground patch and begin sifting through the soil to collect the -potatoes.

How to Harvest Potatoes from The Ground

If planning on harvesting the potatoes for storage during the winter season, you should let the weather guide you on when to harvest. Allow the vine tops to die before you can start the harvesting process. Additionally, the soil and air temperatures will also be a major factor when planning a harvest. For you to harvest the mature potatoes, you will require a spading fork or a shovel. When harvesting potatoes to prepare a meal, use the fork to dig along the outer soil edges. Carefully pull up the plant and pick the potatoes you need. Plant it back in place and make sure it’s properly watered.

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When digging, take care not to cut, bruise, or scrape off the plant tubers. A damaged tuber needs to be used immediately, as storing it will only lead to rotting. When done harvesting, start the curing process. This will involve exposing them to temperatures of between 45° to 60° F for 14 days. This is enough time for the minor injuries sustained by the potatoes to properly seal. Cured-potatoes should be stored in dark places with a temperature of around 40° F. Don’t allow them to freeze and don’t also expose them to too much light as this will cause them to start changing colour.

Can you Harvest Potatoes Too Early?

Potatoes that are dug up too early are usually smaller. It is not necessary for the potatoes to have flowers in order to harvest them. You can dig up the plan before it blooms. It’s crucial to note, however, that the potatoes may not be of any significant size at this time in their development.

For How Long You Can Let Potatoes Sit in The Ground?

Potatoes can be left in the ground until the soil freezes in late autumn or early winter in mild or cold areas. According to some people, densely mulching the patch (with wood chips, straw, or shredded leaves) keeps the soil from freezing and allows them to dig potatoes throughout winter.

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