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How to Harvest Potatoes

Updated on December 5, 2012
Freshly harvested potatoes
Freshly harvested potatoes | Source

Growing potatoes might seem to be fairly straightforward (just letting them grow and digging them up when ripe... that seems easy enough), but the caring and keeping of potato plants can actually be somewhat challenging, particularly when it comes to harvest time.

Experienced potato growers might find that there are a few problems that can occur in a potato crop:

  • Some potatoes might be rotten
  • If you're not careful when harvesting, you could damage part of the crop
  • You might not even find all the potatoes (I always worry that I miss some!)
  • Worms might get to your crop before you do

On the other hand, if you have a green thumb (no pun intended) and can follow these gardening tips for growing and harvesting potatoes, they will turn out perfectly.

Hilled potato plants
Hilled potato plants | Source

Tips For Harvesting Your Potatoes

  • What size potatoes do you want? If you want smaller baby potatoes for roasting, you can harvest 2 to 3 weeks after the potatoes have finished flowering. Dig around the plants and take the largest (most ripe) potatoes, leaving the smallest ones to continue growing.

    If you want larger potatoes, add mulch to help the potatoes avoid exposure to sunlight. Hold off on harvesting until the foliage to die off. There is a window of time where you'll be able to bring in some real whoppers before they start to go bad. As you become more experienced in growing potatoes, you'll find the perfect harvest time.
  • What variety of potatoes are you growing? The variety you're growing can make a big difference when it comes to when you'll be harvesting. Varieties like Irish Cobbler is an early variety that can be harvested in as few as 60 days, but other varieties can need as long as 140 days before they can be harvested.
  • Do you plan to eat the potatoes right away or store them? If you plan to eat your potatoes when you harvest them, your best bet is to harvest only what you need and leave the rest for another day.

    If you're wanting to harvest and store them, wait until two to three weeks after the foliage starts to die back. If the ground is dry, dig them up with a fork and allow them to lay in the field, unwashed, for a couple of days to allow the skin to mature. If the ground is wet or you expect rain, transfer the potatoes to a dry place, that's fairly safe from the elements -- like your garage or basement.
  • Do you plan to use this year's crop of potatoes to start next year's crop? If you're wanting to use your potatoes as a way to start off next year's crop, save the nicest potatoes. Don't wash them, but rather, just keep them in a dry area and wait for Spring to come! They'll be budding and ready to go by the time you're ready to plant.

Should you grow potatoes?

Growing your own potatoes can be a rewarding hobby. You can harvest fresh potatoes right out of your own garden which can be considerably cheaper than buying them at your grocery store.

Potatoes are the perfect plant to grow because they're obviously not too picky about where they grow. They'll grow in a wide variety of soil types and weather conditions.

Be sure you keep an eye on your crop because they are susceptible to the same threats as other types of root vegetables and can rot if care isn't taken to keep the soil perfect. Harvest them on time and enjoy them the same day for best flavor or store them to enjoy potatoes throughout the winter.


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    • MarleneB profile image

      Marlene Bertrand 3 years ago from Northern California, USA

      You have provided me with some great tips. I planted some potatoes and wasn't sure when to harvest them. Thanks for the great information. I think my potatoes will be ready very shortly. I can hardly wait to harvest them.

    • GoodLady profile image

      Penelope Hart 4 years ago from Rome, Italy

      Your tips are excellent - (how do you test soil for worms ahead of time?) and important to tell everyone how much better it is for your health to enjoy the potato straight out of the ground!

    • Faith Reaper profile image

      Faith Reaper 4 years ago from southern USA

      I just love potatoes!!! What an excellent hub, very detailed and great pics. One day I want to have a nice big garden, but I'll have to wait until such time as I do not work all week, I guess. Would like to get my granddaughters involved in planting. Voted Up, awesome, interesting and useful In His Love, Faith Reaper

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