When to harvest potato?

How And When To Harvest Potatoes

You’ve planted early, hilled carefully, cultivated and fertilized. Your potato plants are full and healthy. Now you’re wondering when to harvest potatoes you’ve so carefully tended. Knowing how to harvest potatoes will help you will help you get the greatest benefit from your crop.

When to Harvest Potatoes

For winter storage, it’s best to let the plant and the weather tell you when to harvest potatoes. Wait until the tops of the vines have died before you begin harvesting. Potatoes are tubers and you want your plant to store as much of that flavorful starch as possible.

Temperatures of both the air and soil should also factor into when to dig. Potatoes can tolerate light frost, but when the first hard frost is expected, it’s time to get out the shovels. In areas where the fall is cool, but without frost, soil temperature will dictate when to pick potatoes. Your soil needs

to be above 45 F. (7 C.)

When to dig potatoes for dinner is much easier. Wait until late in the season and take only what you need, carefully resetting the plant so the smaller tubers have a chance to mature.

How to Harvest Potatoes

Now that you know when to dig potatoes, the question becomes how. To harvest potatoes, you’ll need a shovel or a spading fork. If you’re harvesting for supper, drive your fork into the soil at the outside edges of the plant. Carefully lift the plant and remove the potatoes you need. Set the plant back in place and water thoroughly.

After deciding when to dig up potatoes for winter storage, dig up a “test” hill for maturity. The skins of mature potatoes are thick and firmly attached to the flesh. If the skins are thin and rub off easily, your potatoes are still to ‘new’ and should be left in the ground for a few more days.

As you dig, be careful not to scrape, bruise or cut the tubers. Damaged tubers will rot during storage and should be used as soon as possible. After harvesting, potatoes must be cured. Let them sit in temperatures of 45 to 60 F. (7-16 C.) for about two weeks. This will give the skins time to harden and minor injuries to seal. Store your cured potatoes at about 40 F. (4 C.) in a dark place. Too much light will turn them green. Never allow your potatoes to freeze.

After you decide when to dig up potatoes, get the whole family involved. Equipped with a small basket, even the smallest child can share in this fun and rewarding experience.

Mining Tools (Skill)

Mining Tools

Description
Removed: {{{removed_version}}}
Attribute
Group Tools
Max level 100
Experience to level 500
Experience Multiplier
Experience Multiplier
Skill points to level
Skill points multiplier

Effects
Effects Block Damage

Requirements
Level 1
Level 2
Level 3
Level 4
Level 5

Versioning
Added
Removed
Updated
Confirmed Alpha 16.3

Description

Do more damage, repair and upgrade faster and receive harvest bonuses with mining tools if applicable. Gain skill by using items from this group.

Mining Tools (Skill) is one of the Skills in 7 Days to Die. A survivor can increase his Mining Tools (Skill) level by using tools to collect resources. It is also possible to spend skill points in order to increase the level of this skill.

Effects

Skill Group Items

The usage of the following items will improve this skill, and this skill will improve the usage of these items.

Extension:DynamicPageList (DPL), version 3.3.3: Warning: No results.

List from this group

  • Stone Shovel
  • Iron Shovel
  • Steel Shovel
  • Iron Pickaxe
  • Steel Pickaxe
  • Iron Fireaxe
  • Steel Fireaxe
  • Auger
  • Chainsaw

Find a house the first night or two, create frames to block windows and doors. First couple days is generally spent gathering food, water and supplies.

Decide where to build a more horde-safe place. The first horde is on day 8 at 22:00. Zombies and Zombie Dogs can beat or chew through wood fairly quickly so building a base of wood with little or no defence is not the best idea. A rooftop fort is better. Gather tons of wood. You will need it.

If you have chosen to make a ground house look at this paragraph and not the next one.

Build a 7 by 7 block floor and make this floor in the ground not on it. build the walls 6 blocks up with a stair case leading to the top. the top will be 9 by 9 blocks wide for a little one blocks ledge for spider zombies, you can also make spike traps under this ledge to kill them. Next build a 2 block wide three block deep trench one block away from your house. Place wood spikes or log spikes in the trench to injure/kill zombies that fall in. Remember to repair spikes as they will break.

Now you’re ready to upgrade the blocks and survive whatever this cruel world throws at you.

Not your ideal strategy? Look at the other paragraphs for more

If you choose to build a wood house, then the house itself isn’t as important as the defenses around it. Wooden spikes are the cheapest defense to build and doesn’t require special tools. It takes 20 wood for a one-block size set of spikes. As the spikes take damage, they will become more ‘bloody’ looking. They will eventually be completely destroyed. Take care when moving around spikes, they cause bleeding and can kill players. Log Spikes last longer than Wooden Spikes but take more materials to build and do less damage.

Flagstone or Cobblestone can be created by low level players and is more durable than wood. Flagstone requires Cobblestone Rocks to craft and can be upgraded to Cobblestone Blocks with additional cobblestone rocks. Cobblestone Rocks are crafted with clay soil and small stones. A stone shovel can be used on the ground of most biomes to get clay soil. Small stones can be found on the ground or can be gained by hitting rocks with a tool such as a Pickaxe or Stone Axe.

If you are building a base rather than reinforcing an existing structure, start by creating four towers, each in a corner of a 5 x 5 space. The bottom platform of the structure should be out of zombie reach. Use wooden frames if needed to create stairs while building to get your character up higher till you have your towers as high as you want them. Build towers between two on two sides to put ladders on.

Once this is done, create a floor and build on top. This should protect you from all zombies except the Spider Zombie, who can climb up walls. Placing a one block wide wood ledge around the platform will stop them as they can’t get around it. Do not build past the towers as you risk the entire thing collapsing from displaced weight. Place defenses around the base on the ground. For a stronger base, consider building on an asphalt roadway. It’s not recommended to build on or near farms. Yes it’s nice to have a pre-made garden but zombie dogs love them too and are very aggressive. They will chew at the base of structures.

*Some of these may not work with the A17 update as zombies that cannot reach you may attempt to destroy supports of the house causing it to collapse.

Probably the safest place to build is on the roof of a brick building. If you build on a roof and use a ladder, remove the top section of the ladder. If possible have the roof only accessible from within the house so that the zombies cannot utilize it. Building wood frames around the edge of the roof allows the player to shoot the zombies with projectiles. This also gives the player a means of situational awareness. Having an additional layer of defense inside the house allows for additional safety. Within the house section off an area and set up bars so that you can shoot the zombies and stay relatively safe even once they have penetrated the outer defenses.

Caves

*Building in a cave is largely inadvisable because zombies often spawn in caves. Therefore zombies would spawn more often and feral zombies spawn at a higher frequency. In addition with the A17 update zombies may dig into the cave rather than going through it in a linear fashion. This makes it harder to determine weak points and reinforce them until it is too late.

For players choosing to build underground, there are a few things to keep in mind. The biggest one is physics. It’s real and it will kill you. Having a tunnel collapse is not fun and depending on the material and amount falling, will most likely kill you. The best bet is to find a mine that already has tunnels naturally in it. Unfortunately, these are rare in-game, at least on the current maps. Caves are cool though and some have natural water pools, saving you from having to building a cistern and bringing water in using the Water Bucket.

Other things to be wary of are heat and activity. Items such as Forges and Torches create heat and this in turn will spawn Screamer Zombies. Screamers will spawn smaller zombie hordes if not killed immediately. Never place your forge near the entrance of your cave or If you choose to dig your own cave and tunnel system, start by digging a 3 block deep hole, then go downwards at an angle and decide at which depth to create a cave. Alternatively, you can dig straight down, but you will need to place ladders to get back up. If desired, place a hatch at the entrance.

By looking at your map, you can see your current depth. Bottom is at – 56 and is covered in Bedrock. When struck with a tool, it will make a ‘twang’ sound. It is possible to hit water on the way in and a detour will be required. Natural pools are nice as a water source, but a cistern can be created and filled using blocks and the Water Bucket. Defenses are not necessary deep underground but zombies can dig so having your cave carved into a hillside is not a good idea. Go for deep underground. Digging in a North, South, East or West direction using your compass will give you a better chance of having straight lines.

Once you have your cave where you want it, and it’s a good distance from the surface, use whatever materials you prefer but reinforcing cave edge walls with concrete or cobblestone is a good idea. If you build a multi level domain, use towers for stability. Be sure to go back up and place defenses on the surface. Gardens will not grow without a light source, so they will need to be above ground, or in a connected pit with frames above to keep zombies out. Light will flow through frames.

Quick Guide to Growing Potatoes

  • Plant potatoes during the cool weather of early spring, once the soil can be worked.
  • Space potato plants 12 to 14 inches apart in an area with loose, fertile soil that has a pH of 5.8 to 6.5.
  • Improve compacted or clay-heavy soils by mixing in several inches of compost or other rich organic matter.
  • Once stems reach 8 inches tall, mound soil around the lower half of the stem to protect tubers from sunlight. Repeat in 2 to 3 weeks.
  • Space potato plants 12 to 14 inches apart.
  • Lay down a 6-inch layer of straw to keep soil temperatures between 60° and 70° F.
  • Feed growing potatoes with a continuous-release plant food to maximize your harvest potential.
  • Harvest potatoes 2 to 3 weeks after plants flower.

Soil, Planting, and Care

Potatoes are cool-season crops and can survive light frosts. Plant as soon as soil is workable in early spring. Potatoes need fertile, well-drained soil that’s loose and slightly acid (pH 5.8 to 6.5). Hard, compacted soil produces misshapen tubers. Amend heavy clay soil the fall before planting by working organic matter into planting beds, or amending the soil with aged compost-enriched Miracle-Gro® Performance Organics™ All Purpose In-Ground Soil. You can also grow potatoes in large pots. Fill them with a high-quality potting mix like Miracle-Gro® Performance Organics™ All Purpose Container Mix, which also contains nutrient-filled compost.

Potatoes form as tubers 4 to 6 inches below the soil surface. When stems reach 8 inches tall, draw soil up and around plants, covering half of lower stems. Repeat the process two to three weeks later. Potatoes exposed to sunlight turn green, which causes flesh to taste bitter. Keeping tubers covered prevents greening.

Some gardeners grow their potatoes in straw, placing straw around the 8-inch-tall stems instead of soil. This method yields potatoes that you don’t have to dig, but simply fish out of the straw. If you use the straw method, be sure to keep your straw layer consistent throughout the growing season. It will most likely break down and need to be topped off during the course of growing the potatoes.

For best results, it’s also important to feed potato plants regularly throughout the season with a premium fertilizer like Miracle-Gro® Performance Organics™ All Purpose Plant Nutrition to ensure they get a steady dose of nutrition.

Maximum tuber formation occurs when soil temperature is 60 F to 70 F. Tuber formation stops when soil temperature hits 80 F. Mulching soil with straw or other organic matter can help reduce soil temperature. Research has shown that maintaining a 6-inch-thick straw layer around potatoes keeps soil temperatures 10 degrees lower. Potatoes are sensitive to drought. Keep plants consistently moist, especially when plants flower and right after, since this is the peak time when tubers are forming.

Move potatoes to a different place in the garden each year to help limit disease and insect problems. For best success, rotate potatoes on a 3-year program, growing them in a different spot for three years in a row before cycling through the growing spots again.

Growing Potatoes in Florida

The potato is one of America’s most popular vegetables. Each year, Americans eat an average of 125 pounds of potatoes per person. Solanum tuberosum–also called the Irish potato–is a cool season crop. During the winter and spring months, Florida’s commercial farms grow and supply much of the country with “new” potatoes.

A home-grown and freshly harvested potato tastes very different from one that has been sitting in storage or on a grocery shelf for months. Growing potatoes in Florida can be fun and easy by following our recommendations.

Nutrition & Safety

On average, potatoes contain eighteen percent starch, two percent protein, and small but necessary amounts of vitamin B6, iron, niacin, magnesium, thiamine, folic acid, and potassium. They are also a good source of vitamin C. A medium potato contains about seventy-five calories, slightly more than an apple. Potatoes are low in sodium, essentially fat-free, and easy to digest.

Avoid eating green tubers. Green tubers have relatively high levels of solanine (glycoalkaloid), which has a bitter taste. Solanine is found throughout the plant, but it is especially concentrated in unripened potato tubers, green tubers, and in new sprouts. It is toxic at very low levels. Tubers can “green” when exposed to sunlight in the field, in storage, and at home.

Growth Cycle

The growth cycle of the potato can be roughly divided into five stages.

  • Sprout development. The eyes of the potato develop sprouts, which emerge from the soil.
  • Vegetative growth. The leaves, stems, and root system form, photosynthesis begins, and the plant prepares to store nutrients in tubers.
  • Tuber initiation. Tubers begin forming on the end of stolons (underground stems), usually before the plant flowers.
  • Tuber bulking. Tubers enlarge. Sugars and starches accumulate.
  • Maturation. The tubers reach full size. The top of the plant dries out and dies. During maturation, the tuber skin toughens, extending storage life.

Varieties

Growing potatoes in Florida produces different commercial varieties from those grown in other parts of the country. Most U.S. growers produce russet potatoes. This variety does not grow well in Florida because it can take up to four months to produce tubers. The late maturity of russet potatoes makes them more susceptible to diseases, pests, and bad weather.

In Florida, the popularity and success of potato varieties depends on factors such as yield, disease resistance, quality, and adaptability. The following are the Florida’s most popular potato varieties.

White-skinned Potatoes

  • LaChipper is Florida’s current standard commercial white-skinned potato. It yields well under our winter growing conditions. It has a buff to white skin color and a moderately smooth skin texture. Tubers are mostly round with relatively shallow eyes.
  • Sebago is a traditional Florida variety with moderate yield, buff to white skin color, and a slightly netted skin texture. Tubers are round to oblong with moderately shallow eyes. Long-time residents in potato-growing areas of Florida appreciate the exceptional flavor of this potato variety.
  • Yukon Gold is a relatively new variety that can be found year round in the produce section of the grocery. It has moderate to high yield, buff to white skin color, and a moderately smooth skin texture. Tubers are mostly round with relatively shallow, pink eyes. These potatoes are well known for their yellow flesh and great taste.

Red-skinned Potatoes

  • Red LaSoda is north Florida’s current standard commerical red-skinned potato. The plant produces well and matures early. The tubers have a moderately smooth bright red skin and relatively deep eyes.
  • LaRouge is south Florida’s current standard commerical red-skinned potato. It produces a moderate to high yield. The mostly round tubers have relatively deep eyes and moderately smooth skin texture. The bright red skin color and the good boiling quality make LaRouge a popular variety across the state.

Russet Potatoes

Florida does not have a standard commerical russet variety. When choosing a russet variety for your home garden, select varieties that mature relatively early so that the potatoes can be harvested during the cooler months of the year.

One relatively short-season russet is Russet Norkotah, which matures 100 – 115 days after planting in Florida. This potato produces high yields of brown to dark brown tubers that have a heavy russet or netted skin texture. They are oblong to long with a shallow to intermediate eye depth and are exceptional baking potatoes.

Other Varieties

Many new and exciting varieties–such as red and blue flesh potatoes and fingerling types–are now available through reputable catalogs and garden supply companies on the web. Make sure to purchase early-maturing varieties so that they can be planted and harvested in the cooler months of the year.

Part of the fun of home gardening is exploring unusual varieties that cannot be purchased in the supermarket. Try new varieties and share them with your friends!

Planting

Soil Preparation

To grow a healthy potato crop, you must properly prepare the soil before planting. Potatoes thrive in a loose, well-drained, slightly acidic soil (pH 5 – 6). Most Florida soils will probably not need much treatment, unless you live in an area with a high water table where periodic flooding occurs.

Potatoes do not grow well in flooded conditions, so make sure that excess water drains from the root zone. To drain the root zone, establish the beds at least ten to twelve inches above the level of the soil. Elevating the beds ensures that plants are above any standing water.

In well-drained soil, organic matter–compost, rotted-manure, green manure–aids in water retention and contributes essential nutrients as it decomposes. This organic matter breaks down quickly in Florida’s hot, humid climate, so be sure to add more each year.

Fertilization

Potato plants are heavy feeders and require adequate nutrition throughout the growing season. To determine what kind and quantity of nutrients to apply to the soil, get the soil tested by a qualified laboratory. Contact your county Extension office for local fertilization recommendations. Your county agent can help you interpret soil test results and determine which nutrients are deficient in the soil.

Florida soil generally requires the addition of nitrogen and potassium each potato season. Nitrogen and potassium are typically applied at least twice during the season. Apply half of the fertilizer at planting and the remainder during the season. More fertilizer may be necessary during periods of heavy rainfall.

At planting, apply about 0.75 lbs of nitrogen and about 0.5 lbs of potassium per 100 ft of row. This is roughly equivalent to 7.5 lb of a 10-0-10 complete fertilizer at each application. Any recommended phosphorus or other nutrients should be mixed into the soil at planting.

Seed Piece Preparation

To start growing potatoes in Florida, you plant the potato tuber. When the tuber is planted, it is called a “seed” potato. Only certified seed potatoes should be planted in your home garden. Certification insures that the seed tubers are free of disease. You can buy certified seed from a number of reputable garden supply stores.

Do not plant potatoes from the grocery store in your home garden. These potatoes may carry harmful potato diseases that will hurt the growth of your crop. Tubers from the grocery store may also be treated with sprout inhibitors that may prevent the plant from growing in your garden. In addition, grocery stores carry many different varieties of potato. If you find a variety you like, you may not be able to find it again in future seasons.

New potato plants grow (sprout) from the buds (eyes) on the skin surface of potato tubers. When one or more of the eyes begin to sprout, the tubers are ready to cut into seed pieces. You can also cut the tubers before the eyes sprout. Cutting the potato into seed pieces will cause more eyes on the seed to sprout.

Potato tubers are naturally dormant for a period of time after harvesting. Sprouting at the eyes indicates that the tuber is no longer dormant. To break dormancy, store dormant tubers in a lighted area at room temperature for a few days. Do not store tubers in direct sunlight.

Cut your seed potatoes so that each piece is about the size of an egg with at least one eye per seed piece. When cutting seed, try to make as few cuts as possible. Typically one pound of potatoes will make about six to eight seed pieces.

Allow cut seed pieces to “heal over” before planting them. To heal cut tubers, leave them in a dark, humid, well-ventilated place at a temperature of 60 – 65° F for one or two days. Seed pieces can be planted directly after cutting, but doing so increases the risk that the tubers will rot before sprouting.

Plant Spacing

Rows should be at least thirty-six inches apart. Within the row, place the plants about six to eight inches apart. Plant the seed pieces four inches below the soil surface with the cut side down and the eyes (sprouts) facing up.

During the Growing Season

Potatoes growing in the garden will need periodic attention. Giving your potatoes more attention will improve the quality and quantity of tubers at the end of the season.

Hilling

Because seed pieces are planted only four inches below the soil surface, the sprouts may push up above the soil surface. Exposed tubers will turn green in the sun, making them inedible (see Nutrition). Hilling–adding soil from the furrows between rows to the top of the potato row–protects the new sprouts.

To prevent tubers from getting sunburned, add two or three inches of additional soil on the potato row when the sprouts emerge from the soil. Depending on the depth of planting and dormancy of the seed pieces, sprouts usually emerge approximately ten to fourteen days after planting.

Approximately three to four weeks after planting, place the remaining fertilizer–0.75 lbs of nitrogen and 0.5 lbs of potassium per 100 ft of row–in a band about four to six inches to either side of each plant. The fertilizer should be buried about two inches deep.

Irrigation

Growing potatoes in Florida is typically done during the drier season of the year: winter and spring. Supplemental irrigation may be required in some years to provide plants with water. Maintain moderate soil moisture levels throughout the season. When soil moisture levels increase or decrease drastically over a short period of time, rough-skinned and/or knobby tubers can result.

Potato roots do not grow well in wet conditions. Over-watering washes fertilizer out of the root zone–making it unavailable to the plant–and promotes root and tuber decay. Small plants have a smaller root zone and require less water than mature plants, so adjust your water applications accordingly.

Weeds

Weeds can be a big problem for potatoes because they compete for light, water, and nutrients. They can also host insects and diseases. Mulches–either plastic or organic–can be used to suppress weeds.

For potatoes in the home garden, hand cultivation is the most frequently-used weeding strategy. Be careful not to injure the potato plant’s shallow root system or the tubers near the soil surface. If you use herbicides, make sure they are labeled for use on potatoes, and always follow the instructions on the label.

Insects

Insect damage can severely reduce tuber yields. Insects that can cause injury to potato plants and tubers include Colorado potato beetles, flea beetles, aphids, leafhoppers, and wireworms.

Crop rotation is one of the best preventative measures against insects. Potatoes should be planted in the same part of the garden only once every three years. Because pests can live in nearby weeds, removing weeds also helps control insects.

On smaller plantings, you can remove larger insects by picking them off the plants by hand. For large plantings, it may be more practical to use pesticides intended for the home garden. Follow all label instructions, and pay attention to all cautions and warnings.

Diseases

Plant diseases can also injure potato plants and tubers. Early blight, late blight, and rhizoctonia are a few fungal diseases that commonly strike Florida potatoes.

  • Early and late blight cause the most injury to the plant tissue. These diseases cause lesions to appear on the stems and leaves of the plant. They develop rapidly in wet conditions and cause the plants to lose their leaves or rot completely.
  • Rhizoctonia can attack both the stems and tubers. It can rot the plant at the soil line and cause raised black spots on the tubers.
  • Leafroll and mosaic viruses can also injure the potato plant. Symptoms include stunting, leaf curling, and a general yellowing of the plant. If you suspect that any plants have a virus, remove them from the garden.
  • Corky ringspot is the symptom of the tobacco rattle virus, which is transmitted by the stubby root nematode and causes a lesion on the tuber. Plant parasitic nematodes are microsopic worms that live in the soil and feed on plant roots.

Prevention

Many fungal diseases are spread through water. Avoid walking through the garden while potato leaves are wet. Water the garden in the morning to allow leaves enough time to dry before evening, or apply water in the furrow between raised potato beds. These methods will reduce the amount of water standing on the leaves and lower the chances of disease.

Planting certified clean seed potatoes can also help keep your plants free of disease. To reduce possible sources of disease, destroy piles of rotten potatoes, plants, and other crop residue. Pesticides are available to help control certain diseases. Follow all label instructions and cautions when using pesticides.

Inclement Weather

During the season, potato plants should be protected from excessive rain or irrigation. Never allow plants to grow in standing water, which can reduce yields by causing rot and plant death.

Freezing temperatures can also damage potato plants. Although the potato plant is tolerant of cool weather, it cannot handle temperatures below freezing. When freezing temperatures are forecasted, cover very small plants (three to four inches) with soil. Cover larger plants with freeze protection fabric. To prevent injury to the plants, remove these materials as soon as temperatures warm above freezing.

Harvest & Storage

Vine Killing & Harvest

Most potatoes are ready for harvest 80 – 115 days after planting. If the potatoes will be stored after harvest, the plant should be allowed to mature (die) before harvesting the potatoes. If a plant has not begun the maturation stage on its own, you can induce maturation by killing the tops of the plant. Harvest the tubers approximately two to three weeks after the plant has died.

To harvest, carefully dig potatoes and remove them from the root system of the plant. Discard the seed piece–if it is still on the plant at the end of the season–and any green tubers.

For the home gardener, harvesting can be done mechanically by cutting the plants at the soil surface with pruning shears or a knife. The top of the potato plant can be discarded. Leave the potatoes buried for two to three weeks after removing the tops so that the tubers can mature. Cover any exposed tubers with soil. The mature tuber has a tough skin that rubbing will not easily remove. A mature tuber will store much longer than an immature tuber.

To harvest potatoes, carefully dig below the potatoes with a shovel or spading fork and lift the potatoes. Shallow digging may damage the tubers and limit their storage life.

Storage

Keep potatoes in a dark, well-ventilated cool place (60 – 65° F) for ten to fourteen days after harvest to allow cuts and bruises to heal. Move them to a final storage location with a high relative humidity, good aeration, and colder temperature (38 – 40° F). The tubers may sprout at warmer temperatures.

Be sure to remove any damaged or rotten potatoes prior to placing the crop in long term storage as these will produce a nasty smell and greatly shorten the storage life of the rest of the crop. If you wash the tubers, allow them to dry thoroughly before storing. Under proper conditions, potatoes can be stored for three to six months or more.

Tuber Yield

A 100-foot row can produce from 150 to 300 pounds of potatoes depending on the variety and the year.

Adapted and excerpted from:

“Growing Potatoes in the Florida Home Garden” (HS933) by Jeffery E. Pack, James M. White and Chad M. Hutchinson. Published by: Horticultural Sciences Department (reviewed 02/2016).

What We Can Help With

Agriculture

Natural Resources

4-H Youth Development

Lawn & Garden

Family Resources

Learning Opportunities

Connect With Us!

PHOTO: JJ Hall/Flickrby Jessica Walliser December 1, 2015

Homegrown, freshly dug potatoes have a delicious flavor and buttery texture you probably won’t find in potatoes bought from the grocery store shelf. By following this simple guide to growing and digging potatoes, a huge harvest is easier than you might think.

Plant for a Good Potato Harvest

Potatoes are native to South America, where they were—and are—a staple crop for indigenous cultures. Once they arrived in Europe, plant breeders focused their efforts on creating the familiar edible tubers we’ve come to know and love today.

Select Potato Varieties

Hundreds of potato varieties exist, many of which boast distinct flavors, colors and textures. The first step in growing great potatoes is selecting the best variety for your climate and your tastes. Northern growers plant their potatoes in the spring for late-summer/fall harvests. In cooler climates, potatoes can be planted as early as two to three weeks before the average last-frost date in spring, but only if the soil has dried out a bit. Planting potatoes in wet soil can lead to rot. In the South, spuds are planted in late winter for a spring harvest, or in late-summer for a late-fall harvest. While most potato varieties do well in various climates, check with your cooperative extension or a few fellow gardeners to discover the best choices for your part of the country.

Prepare Seed Potatoes

Once you’ve selected a variety, purchase certified disease-free seed potatoes from a reputable source. These small tubers aren’t truly seeds but rather small, mature potatoes that are planted in the ground like seeds.

Before planting, cut seed potatoes into pieces. Each piece should contain at least one “eye” and be about the size of a half-dollar coin. These eyes are what sprout when you leave a potato in the cupboard too long. They’re easily found by searching the seed potato for small, dark indentations or, if the eye has already begun to sprout, swollen bumps.

After the seed potatoes have been cut into pieces, let them rest on the kitchen counter for a few hours to a few days before planting. This encourages a layer of callus tissue to form over the cut and helps prevent rot.

Prepare Planting Sites

Susy Morris/Flickr

Select a that receives full sun, and work plenty of compost into the area. Potatoes prefer a soil pH between 5.5 and 6.5, and soil that is well-drained. Waterlogged soils will cause the tubers to rot. Choose a spot, if possible, where other members of the nightshade family, such as tomatoes and peppers, have not been grown within the past few years.

Choose a Planting Method

Many methods of planting potatoes exist:

  1. Plant the tubers in rows, 6 inches deep and 12 inches apart.
  2. Dig a 10-inch-deep trench. Space the tubers at 12-inch intervals down its length, covering them only with a light layer of soil. Gradually fill in the trench as the plants grow.
  3. Plant three to five seed potatoes in a mound of soil.

Hill Your Potatoes

Regardless of which planting method you choose, hilling your potatoes is a necessary practice. Because the tubers are produced at the base of the plant just beneath the soil’s surface, hilling or mounding soil up around the base of the growing plants results in better potato yields and shields the developing tubers from light.

Hilling increases the underground surface area for tuber production, but an alternative to this process is to simply mulch your potato plants with a thick, 8- to 10-inch layer of straw. Not only does the straw layer serve to increase the underground surface area, but it also suppresses weeds and cuts down on the need for watering.

Wait for the Harvest

As your potato crop continues to grow, aside from regularly watering your spuds, there’s little to do until harvest time.

New versus Mature Potatoes

Susy Morris/Flickr

Potato harvesting can take place at two different times. If you’d like to harvest new potatoes—the young, immature potatoes whose skin has not yet hardened—for immediate consumption, the plants are ready for harvesting as soon as they start to produce flowers. Most gardeners sneak a few new potatoes from the edges of the growing plants by gently digging around with a gloved hand. You can easily harvest a handful of new potatoes while still leaving the plant intact for continued tuber production.

To harvest mature potatoes, look for a different set of clues. These tubers take a bit longer to develop, and there are a few necessary practices to ensure the spuds are truly ready for harvest and storage.

Signs Your Potatoes Are Ready To Harvest

Soon after your potato plants reach maturity, they come into flower. This signals that tuber formation has begun. The plants continue to grow for the next several months, and eventually the leaves and stems start to turn yellow and flop over. Mature storage potatoes are ready for harvesting a few weeks after the foliage has turned brown and died back completely. Tubers left in the ground have time to thicken their skins and properly cure before the harvest. This curing period is critical because harvesting potatoes early can cut down on their shelf life, whereas properly cured potatoes can be stored for many months.

Tips for Harvesting

Susy Morris/Flickr

Once digging time arrives, the real fun begins. A ritual akin to digging for gold, potato harvesting is easy.

  • Use the Right Tools: A digging fork or a three- or four-pronged potato hoe helps to gently pry up each plant.
  • Work Methodically: Start around the outside of the hill and work your way closer to the base of the plant. Get way down under the plant so you don’t spear any spuds.
  • Pick and Dig: As you pry and lift each plant out of the soil, the tubers are unearthed. Simply pick them up as they’re discovered, and use your hands to dig around in the loosened soil for any remaining potatoes.
  • Stay Dry: Harvest potatoes on a dry day if possible; it’s easier on you, the soil and the potatoes themselves.
  • Eat Damaged Potatoes Quickly: Damaged potatoes need to be consumed within a few days of harvesting.

Preparing Your Potatoes for Storage

Elizabeth Weller/Flickr

Once your potatoes have been harvested, brush off any excess soil with your hands. Be careful not to bruise or break each potato’s skin, and do not wash potatoes before storing.

The Curing Stage

Allow your dug potatoes to rest in a single layer for three or four days in a well-ventilated, dry location. Once they have rested, they’re ready for storage.

Root Cellar Storage

Potatoes are best stored in dark, cold conditions; between 45 and 55 degrees F is best. A dark, well-ventilated root cellar is a great place, but not everyone has one. If a root cellar isn’t an option, put your harvested potatoes in a wicker or plastic basket, a brown paper bag, or a cardboard box and store it in a dark basement or cool garage. Protect the tubers from light, and don’t layer them in the box or basket any more than a foot or so deep. Do not freeze them or store them in a refrigerator.

In-Ground Storage

Some gardeners prefer to leave their potatoes in the ground for storage and dig them only as needed. This is possible where the ground doesn’t freeze or become waterlogged with autumn rains. For this method, put a thick layer of fresh straw over the plants after they have died back, and dig the tubers up as needed. Some gardeners might experience a high rate of rot in potatoes stored in-ground, particularly during periods of wet weather. Also, potatoes stored in the ground are left vulnerable to voles, chipmunks, mice and other tuber-munching mammals that enjoy burrowing under the straw mulch.

Problems With Potatoes

Irene Kightley/Flickr

Potatoes can be a trouble-free crop if you follow a few simple practices, though they’re not immune to typical garden problems. Here are some you might face.

  • Insect Pests: To protect growing plants from foliage-munching Colorado potato beetles and flea beetles, cover the plants with a layer of floating row cover. These two pests can affect yields by reducing the amount of photosynthesis taking place in the leaves. It’s important to control them, if possible.
  • Garden Rodents: Voles and other rodents can be problematic to growers using straw mulch on their potatoes. If you find teeth marks on your harvested potatoes, you might need to set a few mousetraps inside sideways, empty tin cans to control them.
  • Potato Scab: Scars, scabs, lesions, craters and thickened spots on potato skins can be a sign of potato scab, a devastating disease that leaves potatoes looking less than desirable. Alkaline soils can encourage scab, so if this disease becomes a problem, aim for a new target pH of 5.0 to 5.2. To reduce your chances of a scab infection, plant only scab-resistant potato varieties, avoid using manure to amend your potato patch, don’t over-irrigate and rotate your crops.
  • Wireworms: If you notice small holes in your dug potatoes, wireworms might be the culprit. The soil-dwelling larvae of several different species of click beetles, wireworms tunnel into the tubers, creating shallow holes that extend into the potatoes only by about 1/2 inch. The holes are easily removed when the potatoes are peeled, but their presence can limit their storage life. Beneficial nematodes can be applied to the soil in the spring to help eliminate wireworms. Fall tillage also exposes wireworms to predators and freezing temperatures.
  • Sunlight Exposure: When potato tubers are exposed to sunlight, they produce chlorophyll and solanine, a glycoalkaloid poison. Green patches on the potatoes is evidence of sunlight exposure. Although solanine is found in many different members of the tomato family, green potatoes have enough to make you sick, so avoid eating any potatoes with green patches. To prevent greening, hill your potato plants.

Saving Small Potatoes For Spring Planting

The Art of Doing Stuff/Flickr

With a little extra effort, you can save your own seed potatoes for next year’s plantings. After harvesting, pull the smallest tubers from the bunch and store them in a dark box or bin, wrapped in layers of newspaper. Put the box or bin in a cold garage or root cellar, but do not let it freeze. The potatoes are shriveled by the time planting-time arrives next spring and they might have already sprouted, but the tubers can still be used.

The downside to saving your own seed potatoes is the increased risk of disease. Pathogens can easily overwinter on the seed potatoes and be reintroduced to the garden. Purchasing certified disease-free seed potatoes at the start of each season avoids this problem.

Homegrown potatoes tell you when to harvest them

Potatoes are definitely one of America’s favorite vegetables. Did you know that each year we eat about 125 pounds of potatoes per person? Potatoes are a staple food and many home gardeners plant potatoes to store them for the fall and winter months. Knowing how to take care of your homegrown potatoes is important so that they store well.

Michigan State University Extension has these tips for winter storage of homegrown potatoes:

  • Toughen up potatoes for storage before harvest by not watering them much after they flower.
  • Let the potato plants and the weather tell you when to harvest them. Wait until the tops of the vines have completely died before you begin harvesting. When the vines are dead, it is a sure sign the potatoes have finished growing and are ready to be harvested.

Potatoes are tubers, and you want your plant to store as much of that flavorful starch as possible.

  • Dig up a test hill to see how mature the potatoes are. The skins of mature potatoes are thick and firmly attached to the flesh. If the skins are thin and rub off easily, your potatoes are still too new and should be left in the ground for a few more days.
  • Don’t leave the potatoes that you have dug in the sun for long after they have been dug up from your garden, otherwise your potatoes may turn green. Green potatoes have a bitter taste and if enough is eaten can cause vomiting and diarrhea. Small spots can be trimmed off, but if there is significant greening, throw the potato out.
  • Potatoes can tolerate light frost, but when the first hard frost is expected, it’s time to get out the shovels and start digging potatoes. An interesting place you might not be aware of is the potato museum in Washington, D. C. that contains lots of history, information and artifacts relating to potatoes including antique harvesting tools.
  • As you dig, be careful not to scrape, bruise or cut the potatoes. Damaged potatoes will rot during storage and should be used as soon as possible.
  • After harvesting, potatoes must be cured. Let them sit in temperatures of 45 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit for about two weeks. This will give the skins time to harden and minor injuries to seal.
  • After the potatoes have been dug, brush the soil off. Do not wash potatoes until you’re ready to use them. Washing can easily reduce the storage life and encourage mold.
  • Store potatoes in a cool, dark area after harvesting. Too much light will turn them green.

Sometimes before harvesting some potatoes become exposed to the sun because they are just barely underground and not covered with soil. Keep soil over the potatoes to prevent sunlight from turning them green. If you want new potatoes, which are small, immature potatoes about 1 to 2 inches in size, harvest them just before their vines die. Remember though that the more baby potatoes you dig, the fewer full-sized ones you will have for later in the season.

After you decide when to dig up potatoes, get the whole family involved. Equipped with a small basket, even the smallest child can share in this fun and rewarding experience.

To learn even more about potatoes, go to MSU Extension’s Michigan Fresh website. This site has a wide variety of fact sheets that will help you use, store and preserve fresh, locally grown fruits and vegetables. You will also find information on flowers and ornamentals.

Whether the goal is to harvest tender, immature “new potatoes,” or to harvest fully mature potatoes for storage and use over the fall and winter, it’s helpful to follow some basic guidelines on how and when to harvest potatoes. Our Certified Organic seed potatoes ship in March. Order now for next spring!

New Potatoes

All potato varieties can be harvested as new potatoes — dug up before the plant reaches maturity, while its tubers are still small. By the time that the plants have begun to flower, most of them will have developed at least some immature tubers ready for harvest. At this stage the tubers have thin skins and less dry matter within. They are small, so they can be cooked and served whole. But the thin skins that make them so succulent and delicious also reduce their ability to store well. The thin skins allow easier evaporation of the interior moisture, so they should be consumed shortly after harvest. New potatoes should be harvested and handled carefully in order to reduce bruising and damage to the skins, both of which can cause decay.

New potatoes can be harvested in spring and early summer, but this tends to sacrifice the parent plant so that it will not produce mature storage potatoes later in the season. If the plant is lifted with great care, some of the immature tubers can be removed as new potatoes, and the plant can be re-potted in new soil. This causes some stress to the plant, and is not generally recommended. Usually a row (or container) is sacrificed for new potatoes, and the left rest to mature to full size.

Always harvest potatoes with gentle care. Use a fork to gradually loosen the soil around each plant. Potato Grow Bags and other containers are useful, as they can be dumped, soil and all, into a wheelbarrow or over a tarp to sift through the soil and harvest each tuber by hand.

Storage Potatoes

Storage potatoes are harvested once the plant is completely mature at the end of its growing season. At this time, the foliage begins to yellow and dry, normally from the lower leaves progressing upward. Some late potato varieties may still be green and bushy by the time early and mid-season plants have completely withered. For the best storage potential, mature tubers should not be harvested for at least two weeks after the foliage above ground has died. This waiting period allows the skins of the tubers to thicken, which is key to long term storage. Thick, unbroken skins (just as in winter squash and onions) reduce the loss of moisture from within.

If frost is expected within two weeks while plants are still green and vigorous, many growers defoliate the tops in order to trigger the skin setting process. A weed trimmer can be used to shred the leaves and stems of the plants so that death is gradual rather than sudden. If the plants die suddenly (including death to hard frost), the tubers may be discoloured. It is simpler to just select the appropriate variety for a given growing region in order to avoid artificial defoliation.

Again, all potatoes should be dug with care to avoid piercing the skins or bruising the tubers. In garden beds, it’s a good idea to remove soil methodically, and feel around for each of the tubers as they are uncovered. Keep dug potatoes out of direct sunlight, and preferably out of extreme heat or cold. The ideal range for harvesting storage potatoes is 13-18°C (55-65°F). If dug spuds are exposed to sunlight, the risk of soft rot and sun scald are increased. Just keep them under the cover of burlap sacks or tarps until they can be moved into long term storage.

Storing Potatoes

Optimum storage conditions are in a dark location at 4-7°C (40-45°F), with 90% humidity. This is easy to achieve in a cold cellar, but can be managed by simply storing the tubers in paper sacks or burlap sacks in a garage or shed. Check stored potatoes regularly and thoroughly in order to remove any that are starting to turn.

More on How to Grow Potatoes.

When is the right time to dig potatoes?

Question: We have a few raised beds in our backyard. We’ve grown zucchini, tomatoes, peppers and basil for the last few years, and we planted seed potatoes in one of the beds earlier this spring. The plants are green and very big, but we aren’t sure when to dig the potatoes up. Can you tell us how long we have to wait to harvest? Thank you.

Answer: Potatoes are a terrific backyard garden crop, especially for beginner gardeners. They require very little care after planting and typically produce a good crop of spuds, as long as the soil is healthy and the plants are kept well watered.

Knowing when it’s the best time to harvest potatoes isn’t difficult. However, you may find it surprising to hear that potatoes can be dug and eaten at two different times.

First, early harvests, called “new potatoes,” can be made anytime after the plants begin to produce flowers. New potatoes have soft skin that doesn’t store well, but they have a smooth, buttery flavor and are prized in the kitchen. To harvest new potatoes, simply dig around the outside of a potato plant, being careful not to uproot the entire plant. Harvest a few new potatoes from each plant, but be sure to leave the plant intact so it will go on to produce full-sized potatoes for later harvest. New potatoes should be eaten within a few days of harvest.

For mature potato harvests, you have to wait until a few weeks after the plants fully die off to dig them up. Keeping your spuds in the ground for several weeks past dieback thickens, or cures, the skin. This extends the shelf-life of your harvest and allows you to enjoy homegrown potatoes for many months.

When the potato plants begin to turn yellow and die back, stop watering them to allow the soil to dry out a bit. It can take several weeks for the plants to completely brown and die off. Wait two more weeks before carefully digging up the potatoes with a pitchfork or shovel.

Eat any potatoes damaged by the harvesting process as quickly as possible. Brush any excess soil from the rest of the dug potatoes and set them on a table in the garage for a week or so to finish curing. Do not wash potatoes before storage.

When the potatoes are ready for storage, brush off any remaining dry soil and place your spuds in a box, basket or bin. Keep them in a cool, dark room.

To increase the production of potatoes in future plantings, hill extra soil up over the plants once or twice throughout the growing season. Hilling buries more of the stem underground, encouraging the production of more potatoes. I use a hoe to mound soil from between the rows up against the stems of the potato plants. I do this when the plants are about 8 inches tall. I keep mounding soil until the plants are nearly covered.

If you don’t have extra soil to hill up around your potatoes, you can also bury the stems under a thick layer of straw. Straw makes for easier harvesting, but if it’s not thick enough, it will allow light to reach the developing potatoes which causes them to turn green. Eating green potatoes can make you sick due to compounds found in the green pigment.

Homegrown potatoes are a fun crop that pays big rewards. Both kids and adults will love digging for “buried treasure” when the time is right.

  • Horticulturist Jessica Walliser is the author of several gardening books, including “Attracting Beneficial Bugs to Your Garden,” “Good Bug, Bad Bug,” and her newest title, “Container Gardening Complete.” Her website is jessicawalliser.com. Send your gardening or landscaping questions to or The Good Earth, 622 Cabin Hill Drive, Greensburg, PA 15601.

    Categories: Lifestyles | Home Garden | Jessica Walliser Columns

    TribLIVE’s Daily and Weekly email newsletters deliver the news you want and information you need, right to your inbox.

    More Jessica Walliser Columns Stories

    When are potatoes ready for harvest??

    8 CommentsTuesday, 3 July 2018 | SimplySeed

    There’s nothing to beat the taste of fresh new potatoes, however it’s one of those questions that every new grower asks – “When are my potatoes ready for harvest?”

    Actually it’s not that daft because you can’t see them like you can with tomatoes and by harvesting early, you are beating all those high prices in the shops.

    Within a typical growing season, we are able to grow 3 types of potatoes. These are first earlies, second earlies and maincrop. The first and second early varieties are known as ‘new potatoes’. They have a shorter growing season than maincrop and are generally smaller in size but taste better.

    First Earlies

    Weather conditions permitting, first early seed potatoes are planted between mid-March and mid-April and should be ready for harvesting after about 10-12 weeks. That should ensure a nice crop of fresh potatoes for early June and into July, just in time for summer salads. There will be no sizeable tubers until the plants have finished flowering, so it’s not worth even thinking of lifting them until then. Once the plants have finished flowering, try a test dig to see if they are of a useable size. Only harvest what you need for a couple of days at a time. Leave the rest to grow on for up to 2 weeks. They will not increase tuber quantity, but the tubers already there will increase in size. It’s amazing the difference a week can make. (The variety shown in the video and the photographs below is Arran Pilot.)

    Second Earlies

    Planting second early potatoes is a good way of extending the new potato crop for a few more weeks and possibly right up until the end of August. They are generally planted around late April and should be ready for harvesting about 10-12 weeks later. Again, and as for earlies, they will not be ready for harvesting until they have at least finished flowering. A test dig will reveal whether they are a good size and ready for lifting. It’s important to remember to water both earlies and second earlies during dry periods. The tubers will need water in order to expand but it’s always best to give them a good soaking once or twice a week rather than a light watering every day.

    Maincrop Potatoes

    Maincrop seed potatoes are best planted during April. They need a much longer growing period than first and second earlies and will need a little more care and attention during the growing season, especially with watering. Earthing up, feeding and checking for pests and diseases should also be a regular routine. They should be ready for harvesting in about 15-20 weeks, which will be around mid-September onwards. Leave the stems to die off completely before lifting. These are the varieties you will store throughout the winter months and so the skins need to be set first if they are going to last the winter.

    Harvesting & Storage

    First and second earlies can be left in the ground until required but it’s not recommended to leave them beyond 2-3 weeks after their due harvest date. If they are left in the ground too long they will lose that fresh new potato taste as the skins begin to harden and thicken. They are always best eaten within a day or two of lifting and will generally only keep in a cool, dry place for about 5-7 days. Despite many opinions and recommendations, all potatoes do not store well in a fridge or freezer and will lose their fresh taste. They will also taste dry and sometimes sweet. Fresh is always best. Carefully use a garden fork and not a spade to unearth your potatoes.

    Maincrop potatoes will store for much longer periods due to their thicker skins and texture. They can be kept in dry hessian or paper sacks and stored in a cool, dry, frost-free shed for many months, which should see you through the winter. Ensure there are no damaged potatoes in your sacks because they will rot and affect all the other potatoes. They also need to be kept in the dark to prevent sprouting and greening. Never eat green potatoes as they will contain solanine, which is quite toxic.

    Summary

    There has always been some debate about whether the flowers of potato plants should be removed. In theory, by removing the flower, the plant will divert more of its energy into the growing potatoes. However, the difference is thought to be quite negligible so it really all comes down to personal choice and preference.

    When the flowers appear on the shoots and stems of potato plants, it’s a sign that the potato tubers are maturing. It is however only an indication and so a test dig will reveal whether they have reached a size considered ready for harvesting. If they are still very small then simply leave them for another week or two, in which time they will grow very quickly. With maincrop potatoes, wait until the stems have died down completely before lifting.

    As a guide, harvest first and second earlies 10-12 weeks after planting. Remember you can leave them in the ground for further 2 weeks, rather than lift them all at the same time. Maincrop potatoes are usually ready in September but again you can wait until November to lift them or wait until just before the first frosts.

    It’s best to eat first and second earlies within a day or two of harvesting, although they can be kept up to about 7 days in a cool, dry and dark place. Maincrop potatoes can be stored in hessian or paper sacks and placed in a cool, dry and dark shed. They can be used throughout the winter months but do check the bags for any damaged potatoes and be sure to remove them. Always discard any potatoes that show signs of greening. Rub out and remove any sprouts on maincrop potatoes, although they are not thought to affect quality.

    What should I be planting in January? Here’s a few we recommend…..

    Pea Shoots Seeds 4018

    Premium variety for especially bred for pea shoots…..

    Average Contents : 675 seeds

    Only: £1.59

    In stock

    Sweetcorn Shoots Seeds

    Special selected variety for growing sweetcorn shoots…..

    Average Contents : 100g seeds

    Only: £4.49

    In stock

    Garlic Solent Wight

    The best garlic in terms of overall eating and keeping quality.

    November to January planting best but crops well from end March planting.

    Only: £2.49 £1.99

    Sorry, we are currently out of stock

    Broad Bean Super Aquadulce

    Very popular, the standard variety for overwintering…..

    Average Contents : 60 seeds

    Only: £0.99

    In stock

    What is your potato crop looking like? Let us know with a comment below….

    All blog content on this page is copyright of Simplyseed and is not to be reproduced without prior written permission. ©

    Article Updated 3 July 2018

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *