When To Dig Up Potatoes

When to harvest potatoes depends on whether they’re an early or maincrop variety, how long they’ve been in the ground, when the foliage begins, blooms and ends are all signs of when you need to harvest potatoes.

However, knowing the signs may not be so apparent for new gardeners, who often ask, when are potatoes ready to harvest? The answer to when do you harvest potatoes isn’t straightforward as it can depend on the potato variety, as these can fall into ‘First Early,’ ‘Second Early,’ and ‘Maincrop’ classifications.

In our guide, you can learn more about when to harvest potatoes and when you can leave than that bit longer to get the best yield.

dug potatoes

By the end, when you grow vegetables, you’ll be glad you added seed potatoes into your gardening kit alongside your cherry tomatoes. The best thing is, harvesting potatoes is a fun family activity and offers the reward of tasty tubers to cook. (Learn How Many Potatoes Per Plant)

How Long Can Potatoes Stay In The Ground?

When you decide to grow potatoes, don’t get potato seeds and seed potatoes mixed up. When you plant potatoes, you’ll rarely use potato seeds and will stick to seed potatoes. If anything, it makes it much faster before you see developing potato plants.

New potatoes and storage potatoes are the two primary types of potatoes, with different harvesting times and practices for each. New potatoes are better for summer cooking, while storage potatoes are best for fall and winter.

Determining when to harvest potatoes can be challenging, but it isn’t too hard to understand a few things.

New Potatoes: You can harvest all potatoes as new potatoes, so long as you have small potatoes, and they are thin-skinned. You’ll find these at about 50 to 55 days. Blossoms blooming are the first signs new potatoes are forming, and you can begin harvesting.

Storage potatoes, called main-crop potatoes, are available once foliage yellows and dries toward the end of the growing season. Some gardeners remove the foliage, while others let it die back. Either way, tubers need to be left in the ground for two weeks so skins can thicken. Harvest potatoes on a dry day so you don’t spread disease and rot.

new potatoes

New Potatoes

As the plant’s flower, you can carefully reach into the hill of your garden beds, collect a few tubers from each plant. Once you’ve harvested some potatoes, re-mound the dirt on your raised beds.

Storage Potatoes

Insert your garden fork about 1-foot away from the plant to carefully dig potatoes and lift the root mass so you can harvest storage potatoes. You can find a few potatoes in the ground, so search and gently brush off soil and set them outside to dry for an hour or two.

Harvesting your own potatoes from a container of storage potatoes is as easy as emptying a container onto a tarp.

Mature potatoes can be left in the ground until the soil freezes in late fall or early winter in moderate or cold areas. Some people find that densely mulching the patch (with straw, wood chips, or shredded leaves) keeps the soil from freezing and allows them to dig potatoes throughout winter.

Before the first hard freeze of the season, most people should go out with their potato fork and dig up the patch.

Potatoes stored in the soil in warmer areas risk growing other plants. Potatoes will sprout if the soil temperature is consistently above 45°F. Your potatoes won’t grow anymore, and if you miss digging any up, these could sprout for the following growing season. (Learn How To Remove A Broken Light Bulb With A Potato)

Should I Dig Up Potatoes Or Leave In-Ground?

Most often, it is best to let potato plants and the weather dictate when to harvest potatoes for winter storage. Potatoes must go through a curing procedure before they can be preserved. This aids in the skin’s thickening and increases the tuber’s storage life.

To cure potatoes, place them in a cool, dark place (50 to 60 F, 10 to 15 C) with high humidity for one to two weeks. Choose a position such as a root cellar with good air circulation.

Move the potatoes to bushel baskets, cardboard boxes, brown paper bags once cured. Keep light out, and don’t stack your potatoes too high. The storage life of young potatoes is weeks rather than months.

First Earlies

The best potato varieties of the first earlier are Red Duke of York, Arran Pilot, and others. ‘First Earlies’ potato plants are ready to harvest in 10-12 weeks between St. Patrick’s Day and mid-March.

You will dig up the first and second early potatoes when the blossoms fall. The first earlies blooming show they are ready.

Early potatoes have flower buds that bloom and don’t bloom. When the buds fall or the blooms fade, dig up your beautiful, new potatoes. Unopened flower buds falling off the plant are also a good sign.

The leaves are still green, but some plants begin to turn yellow. They will have egg-sized tubers that have thin skins and melt in your mouth.

Second Earlies

Nicola, Maris Peer, Jazzy, and Kestrel are some potatoes that fit under the ‘Second Early’ group. They only differ from first earlies in one way: the potatoes grow for an extra three weeks.

For planting timings, you plant potatoes at the same time as your earlies, although it’s best to wait for the first day of spring, in late March.

Harvest using the same methods as the first earlies and check for signs of blossom drop. Potato plants come in an assortment of colors and were initially planted as ornamentals in Europe before they were an excellent food crop.

When to harvest potatoes depends on whether they’re an early or maincrop potato, as well as what happens to their foliage and blooms. The potato flower is a simple flower. When the flowers on early potatoes fade, you know they’re ripe.

maincrop potatoes

Maincrop Potatoes

If you think of a large baking potato, it’s most likely a maincrop, also known as storage potatoes. Second, early potatoes are planted at the same time as maincrop potatoes, or up to a month later. (Read Can You Eat Potatoes That Have Sprouted And Are Soft)

They require a lot more time to mature at around 20 weeks. When you have plants of this type, the tubers expand and grow throughout the summer, thus yielding harvests, which are both more substantial and quantity.

Though many main-crop potatoes can be harvested as earlies, or a few carefully dugout after the plant has flowered.

Such potatoes are grown for flavor and texture as an early crop and will crop earlier. Allow main crops to mature into the giants they should be, then store potatoes long-term across the winter.

You harvest your primary fall crop in late summer, between August and September, right up to the early winter.

At this time, you’ll know they are ready as most of the plant foliage is turning yellow. After a while, the leaves and vines eventually shrivel up, turn brown, and dry, leaving only shriveled leaves and stalks.

Once you reach this stage, you can cut your potato plant about an inch from the ground at any point during this process. Rather than dig your tubers up right away, you can leave them in the ground for another couple of weeks before digging them up.

By doing this, and they will develop thicker skins which are ideal for storing potatoes. This helps to harden the skin and make it more suitable for storage.

While you may think your plants have a disease, it is a natural part of growth. However, if you spot black patches on the foliage or just a few of your plants are dying, you may have to check into potato illness.

Should you see such issues before the 20-week mark, it’s a sure sign something isn’t quite right.

Maincrop Storage

Unlike early potatoes, main crops can be stored for months. Make sure they’re completely dry before storing them in containers or boxes. Any moist environment can introduce or rot. Flip them over in a garage, greenhouse, or outside in the sun after one side is dry.

Potatoes turn green if left in the sun for longer than a day or two. Green is safe to eat in lesser amounts, but it should be avoided if a potato turns dark green.

The best maincrop potatoes should be consumed first and stored in a cool garage or shed.

Potato Storage Tips

  • Water plants less after they flower to toughen potatoes for storage.
  • Potatoes are tubers, and the key is to get your plant to store lots of flavorful starch.
  • Carefully dig up a test hill if you need to see how mature your potatoes are. Skins of large potatoes will be firmly attached and thick. On new potatoes, thin skins rub off easily. They should be left in the ground for a few more days if you don’t want smaller potatoes with tender skin.
  • Don’t get leaving potatoes in the sun. Freshly dug potatoes quickly turn into green potatoes and have a bitter taste.
  • Potatoes can tolerate light frost, but if a hard frost is expected, start harvesting and start digging potatoes up, ready for long-term storage.
  • Be careful not to damage mature tubers, as damaged potatoes encourage rot in these areas.
  • Following harvesting, potatoes have to be cured. Please keep them in temperatures of 45 to 60 Fahrenheit for about two weeks.
  • Once your potatoes have been dug, brush off any soil, but don’t wash potatoes as this reduces the storage life and encourages mold.
  • Store potatoes in a cool, dark area.
  • Pile soil around the base of your potato plant to stop sunlight from reaching your homegrown potatoes.
  • Suppose you want new potatoes, which are smaller, immature potatoes. Harvest before the vines and potato foliage die. Just remember, the more baby potatoes you harvest, the smaller your potato crop you’ll have later.

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