How to Harvest Potatoes: A Complete Guide from Planting to Storage 

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15 March 2024

Food

How to harvest potato

If there is something that I have learned in life, it is about gardening. Well, almost everything if not all. And if there is one thing that took me some time to master, it was knowing how to harvest potatoes at home! 

Potatoes are one of the most versatile and popular vegetables in the world. They can be cooked in many different ways, such as boiled, baked, fried, mashed, or roasted. Moreover, they are also rich in carbohydrates, fiber, vitamin C, potassium, and antioxidants.

But how do you grow and harvest your own potatoes at home? You see, potatoes are not like cilantro or other plants. These are tubers. 

In this article, I will show you everything you need to know about how to harvest potatoes, from planting to storage.

So, if that is something that you are interested in knowing, then I have you covered! Keep on reading this blog till the end to learn more… 

How to Plant Potato Seeds or Tubers? 

How to Plant Potato Seeds or Tubers_

The first step in how to harvest potatoes is to plant them. You can start with either potato seeds or tubers. Potato seeds are small, round, and black, and they are usually sold in packets.

Potato tubers are the actual potatoes that you eat, and they have eyes or buds that can sprout new plants.

You can buy certified seed potatoes from a nursery or garden center, or use organic potatoes from the grocery store. 

Here are some if the steps that you must take to plant them: 

Planting Potato Seeds 

  • To plant potato seeds, you need to sow them indoors in pots or trays filled with moist potting soil.
  • Place them in a sunny spot and keep the soil moist but not soggy.
  • The seeds will germinate in about two weeks and produce small green shoots.
  • When the shoots are about 3 inches tall, you can transplant them outdoors in your garden or in containers. 

Planting Potato Tubers 

  • To plant potato tubers, you need to cut them into pieces, each with at least one eye.
  • You can do this a few days before planting to let the cut surfaces heal and prevent rotting. Alternatively, you can plant whole small potatoes with several eyes.
  • To prepare the soil, you need to loosen it and add some organic matter, such as compost or manure. 
  •  You also need to make sure the soil is well-drained and slightly acidic, with a pH of 5.0 to 6.0.
  • You can use a soil test kit to check the pH level and adjust it with lime or sulfur if needed. 

Planting Potato Pieces 

  • To plant the potato pieces, you need to dig a trench about 4 inches deep and 12 inches wide.
  • Place the pieces about 12 inches apart, with the eyes facing up.
  • Cover them with 3 inches of soil and water well.
  • As the plants grow, you need to hill up the soil around them to cover the lower stems and prevent the tubers from being exposed to sunlight, which can turn them green and bitter.
  • You can also mulch the soil with straw, leaves, or grass clippings to retain moisture and suppress weeds. 

How to Care for Your Potato Plants? 

How to Care for Your Potato Plants_

The second step in how to harvest potatoes is to care for your potato plants. You need to water them regularly, especially during dry spells, to keep the soil moist but not waterlogged. You also need to fertilize them every two weeks with a balanced organic fertilizer, such as fish emulsion or seaweed extract. Also, you can add some wood ash or bone meal to provide extra potassium and phosphorus, which are essential for tuber formation. 

You also need to protect your potato plants from pests and diseases, which can reduce your yield and quality. Some of the common potato pests are: 

  • Colorado potato beetles, which are yellow and black striped insects that feed on the leaves and can defoliate the plants. You can handpick them and drop them in a bucket of soapy water, or use an organic insecticide, such as neem oil or pyrethrin. 
  • Potato leafhoppers, which are small, green, winged insects that suck the sap from the leaves and cause them to curl and yellow. You can spray them with a strong jet of water, or use an organic insecticide, such as garlic or hot pepper spray. 
  • Wireworms, which are thin, brown, worm-like larvae that bore into the tubers and cause holes and tunnels. You can trap them with pieces of carrot or potato buried in the soil, or use beneficial nematodes, which are microscopic worms that parasitize and kill the wireworms. 

Common Potato Diseases 

One of the most common reasons why a potato cannot grow or survive is the diseases. If you were wondering what some of these can be and how to deal with them, I have you covered! 

Some of the common potato diseases are: 

  • Late Blight: It is a fungal disease that causes brown spots on the leaves and stems, and black or brown lesions on the tubers. It can spread rapidly and destroy the entire crop. You can prevent it by planting resistant varieties, avoiding overhead watering, and removing any infected plants and tubers. You can also use a fungicide, such as copper or sulfur, as a preventive measure. 
  • Scab: This is a bacterial disease that causes rough, corky patches on the tubers. It does not affect the taste or edibility of the potatoes, but it reduces their appearance and storage quality. You can prevent it by planting resistant varieties, maintaining a slightly acidic soil pH, and avoiding excessive nitrogen fertilization
  • Potato Virus Y: Lastly, this is a viral disease that causes mosaic patterns, mottling, or yellowing on the leaves, and misshapen or knobby tubers. It can reduce the yield and quality of the potatoes, and it can be transmitted by aphids or infected seed potatoes. You can prevent it by planting certified virus-free seed potatoes, controlling aphids, and removing any infected plants and tubers. 

How to Determine When Your Potatoes Are Ready to Harvest? 

How to Determine When Your Potatoes Are Ready to Harvest_

The third step in how to harvest potatoes is to determine when they are ready to harvest. This depends on the type and variety of potatoes you planted, and the size and maturity you want.

There are two main types of potatoes: early and late.

Early potatoes are ready to harvest in about 10 to 12 weeks (about 3 months) after planting, and they produce small to medium-sized tubers that are tender and thin-skinned. They are best for boiling, steaming, or roasting. 

Late potatoes are ready to harvest in about 15 to 20 weeks (about 4 and a half months) after planting, and they produce large, starchy tubers that are firm and thick-skinned. They are best for baking, mashing, or frying. 

Early Harvesting 

  • To harvest early potatoes, you can start digging them up when the plants begin to flower, or when the lower leaves start to yellow.
  • You can use a garden fork or a spade to gently lift the plants and tubers from the soil, or you can use your hands to feel for the tubers under the soil.
  • You can harvest as many or as few potatoes as you need, and leave the rest in the ground until you are ready to use them.
  • You can also harvest some of the young, tender leaves and stems, which are edible and nutritious. 

Late Harvesting 

  • To harvest late potatoes, you need to wait until the plants have died back completely, or until the first frost.
  • This allows the tubers to develop a thicker skin, which helps them store better.
  • You can use a garden fork or a spade to dig up the entire row of plants and tubers, or you can use a potato digger, which is a special tool that lifts and separates the tubers from the soil.
  • You need to be careful not to damage or bruise the tubers, as this can cause rotting or spoilage. 

How to Dig Up, Cure, and Store Your Potatoes? 

How to Dig Up, Cure, and Store Your Potatoes_

The final step in how to harvest potatoes is to dig up, cure, and store your potatoes. This is important to preserve the quality and shelf life of your potatoes, and to prevent them from sprouting, rotting, or shrinking. Here are the steps to follow: 

Digging Up 

After digging up your potatoes, you need to brush off any excess soil and remove any damaged, diseased, or green tubers.

Do not wash your potatoes, as this can remove the protective skin and invite bacteria and fungi. You can wash them just before cooking or eating them. 

Curing 

You need to cure your potatoes for about two weeks in a cool, dark, and well-ventilated place, such as a basement, garage, or shed.

This allows the skin to harden and heal any minor cuts or bruises and enhances the flavor and texture of the potatoes.

The ideal temperature for curing is between 50°F and 60°F, and the ideal humidity is between 80% and 90%.

You can spread your potatoes in a single layer on a newspaper, cardboard, or wooden crate, and avoid exposing them to light, which can turn them green and bitter. 

Storing 

You need to store your potatoes in a cool, dark, and dry place, such as a cellar, pantry, or closet. The ideal temperature for storage is between 40°F and 50°F, and the ideal humidity is between 65% and 70%.

You can store your potatoes in paper bags, cardboard boxes, mesh bags, or wooden crates, and check them regularly for any signs of sprouting, rotting, or shriveling.

You can also store your potatoes in a root cellar, which is an underground or partially underground structure that maintains a constant temperature and humidity.

Additionally, you can also store your potatoes in a clamp, which is a mound of straw, hay, or leaves covered with soil, that insulates and protects the potatoes from frost and rodents. 

Wrapping It Up! 

If you want to know about how to harvest potatoes, I hope that this blog has been of help to you. However, if there are any other queries related to the same, please feel free to let me know.

All that you need to do is scroll down till you reach the bottom of the page. Then leave your comments and suggestions in the box below. And I will be there to answer them all for you!

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Ankita Tripathy loves to write about food and the Hallyu Wave in particular. During her free time, she enjoys looking at the sky or reading books while sipping a cup of hot coffee. Her favourite niches are food, music, lifestyle, travel, and Korean Pop music and drama.

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