When and how to harvest potatoes

SPUD season starts with early ones popping up in June and lasting until October.

When and how do you harvest potatoes?

How do you know when it's time to dig up potatoes?

Potato harvest is from June to October.

With earlies, wait until the flowers open or the buds drop.

Tubers are swollen, usually underground, parts of a stem or root used to store food by the plant.

They have buds that can produce new plants.

Examples are tuberous begonia, cyclamen, dahlia and potato tubers are ready to harvest when they’re the size of hens’ eggs.

With maincrops for storage, wait until the foliage turns yellow, then cut it down and remove it.

Wait for 10 days before harvesting the tubers, and leave them to dry for a few hours before storing.

What is the best way to harvest potatoes?

Use the right tools. A digging fork or a three- or four-pronged potato hoe helps to gently pry up each plant.

Work methodically by starting 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.

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.

Harvest potatoes on a dry day if possible; it’s easier on you, the soil and the potatoes themselves.

Damaged potatoes need to be consumed within a few days of harvesting.

What do potato leaves look like when 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.

What happens if you don't harvest potatoes?

If you don't harvest potatoes when the plant dies back, if the soil is wet they will rot if the soil is wet, or they'll die once the ground freezes. 

But if you live in a warm and dry enough climate, any tubers that survive over the winter will sprout again in the spring.

How many potatoes do you get per plant?

You can expect about three to six regular-sized potatoes and a few smaller ones from each plant.

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