Harvesting potatoes: how & when
After months of taking care of potato plants, harvesting them is a welcome treat. When is the right time and what should be considered when harvesting potatoes?
Potatoes (Solanum tuberosum) are vegetables with a long-standing tradition. For ages, they have been a staple food for most and are an important part of many cuisines around the world till today. Although there are many alternatives to potatoes today, it is still hard to imagine cooking without the nutritious tuber. Potatoes are great candidates to be grown in hobbyist gardens for several reasons. Depending on the potato variety, the colourful blossoms can be decorative and beautiful to behold. Moreover, potato plants are relatively easy to cultivate and with good care a plentiful harvest rewards the gardener’s efforts. To ensure that you get your beloved tubers out of the ground at the right time, here are some tips on when and how to harvest potatoes.
When to harvest potatoes?
The harvest window for the potato extends over several months. Many gardeners wonder, when are potatoes ready to harvest and how does one know if they are ready to be harvested. It all depends on whether you want to harvest smaller and sweeter early potatoes or larger late potatoes. Early potatoes can be harvested from mid-June onwards. Medium-early potatoes are usually dug out from the ground by mid-August. Harvesting of late potatoes happens until late October. The choice of harvesting time depends entirely on the gardener’s preferences, the potato variety and when the plants were planted.
Note: If you want to store your laboriously grown tubers after harvest, choose a late potato variety. When the above-ground plant matter has died off, wait another two to three weeks before harvesting potatoes. At this time, the skin of the tubers is thick enough and can therefore withstand surface damage, which significantly increases the shelf life of potatoes.
How to harvest potatoes?
There are several ways to approach a potato harvest. However, regardless of the method, it is advantageous if the soil is relatively dry. If the soil is very moist, an unnecessary amount of residue will remain on the potatoes and you will have to wash your tubers before storing them. In the worst case, this can lead to premature spoilage of the potatoes caused by the excess of moisture.
Before actually harvesting the potatoes, the above-ground potato plant should be removed. If you are growing your tubers on mounded hills, the harvest should be relatively easy. With a digging fork or a potato hoe the potatoes can be lifted gently out of the ground. Mechanical injuries can thus be reduced to a minimum. When harvesting potatoes in shallow beds, you must be a little more careful when picking potatoes, as the soil is usually more compact, and more force is needed here.
Harvesting potatoes in a pot
Planting potatoes in flower pots is also an option. Here you will also find a short and clear video instruction how to grow your own potatoes in a pot in no time.
If you have planted your potatoes as shown in the video above, simply take the inner pot out of the outer pot to harvest the tubers. Very carefully, the potato tubers can be picked from the stolons on the outside of the inner pot. You can then gradually remove the excess soil to harvest all the remaining potatoes or you can put the inner pot back into the outer one and wait for a later harvest time.
Storing potatoes after harvest
Potatoes are one of the vegetables that can be stored very well in their unprocessed state. However, the right conditions must be ensured. Above all, it is crucial that the potatoes are stored in a cool, dry and dark place to prevent premature germination. Humidity is another decisive factor to keep an eye on so that the tubers remain at their best for a long time. At 90% humidity the potatoes remain crunchy and do not become wrinkled. There are a few more things you should pay attention to in order to create optimal storage conditions for potatoes, which you can read about in this article.