Harvesting potatoes at the perfect time can be difficult, since you can’t see them underground. So, in this post, you’ll learn exactly when potatoes are ready, and I’ll show you how to dig them up too.
Determining when to harvest potatoes can seem intimidating, because they are underground and you can’t see them. But really it is quite easy, and there’s no need to worry.
I’ll guide you through everything you need to know about harvesting potatoes. You’ll learn how to tell when to gather them, how to dig them up, and what you should do before storing to ensure they last the longest.
Follow these simple instructions, and you’ll have a bountiful potato harvest that will last well into the winter.
Here’s what you’ll learn in this detailed potato harvesting guide…
How Long Does It Take To Harvest Potatoes?
Harvesting potatoes can take a bit more time than other crops because you have to dig them up. Of course, the exact time it takes depends on how many you planted.
The good news is that you only have to do it once, so you don’t need to worry about it taking a ton of time throughout the season.
When To Harvest Potatoes
Since they grow underground, it’s not easy to tell when to harvest potatoes. I know I was completely clueless about this myself the first time I grew them!
The good news is that it’s pretty simple to figure it out, because the plant will tell you when they are ready. They’re so smart!
The simple answer is that potatoes are ready to harvest once the plants are done growing. Buuuut…
How Do You Know When Potatoes Are Done Growing?
Potatoes are ready to harvest once the plant dies back. It’s important to remember that they are tubers. And that’s what contains the energy that allows the plant to grow.
Once the foliage starts to die, that means all of the energy is being stored in the tubers, and they are getting ready to go dormant (which is when we can eat them).
When that happens, you should dig them up as soon as you can. Don’t leave your crop in the ground for too long after the plant dies, or they could start to rot.
It’s also a good idea to harvest potatoes before frost. If you can’t get to them in time, they should still be fine, but make sure to dig them up before it gets below freezing.
How To Harvest Potatoes
If possible, plan to harvest potatoes on a day when it’s not raining, and the soil is on the dry side. Since they are underground, wet dirt can make pulling them a bit tricky.
If you had them in a pot, then simply tip it on its side, and gently tease the soil to loosen it up. Then pull the potatoes out with your hand as you sift through the potting soil.
Digging them out of your garden without damaging them can be a bit more challenging. Since you can’t see exactly where they are underground, it’s easy to accidentally cut them with your shovel.
Related Post: Free Garden Harvest Tracking Sheet & Guide
How To Dig Up Potatoes Without Damaging Them
Potatoes grow in wide clumps around the base of the plant. To prevent damage as you dig them up, start about a foot away from where the stem was.
Carefully dig down all the way under the clump to loosen up the soil. As you work to loosen it up, you should start to see the potatoes.
I find it easier to dig in the soil with my hands once it’s loosened up a bit. That way I won’t cut or chop a bunch of the potatoes in half with my shovel.
If you cut or puncture any of them as you’re digging, that’s ok. They are still edible! Just eat those up right away, and don’t try to store them.
Inspect each one as you pull it, to make sure there’s no rot. And be gentle with the potatoes as you harvest them.
Don’t carelessly drop them into a bucket or toss them into a pile. They won’t store well if they are damaged or bruised.
Also, direct sunlight will make them turn green. So don’t let any of them sit in the sun for too long after you pull them.
How Often Do You Harvest Potatoes?
Potatoes are a one-and-done type of crop. They are usually ready in late summer or early fall, once the daytime temperatures start to get cooler.
If you have multiple plants, you can harvest each one as soon as the potatoes are ready. Then just leave the others in the ground until they are done growing.
What To Do With Potatoes After Harvesting
You can eat your garden fresh potatoes right after you harvest them, or store them for later.
If you choose the right storage location, they will last for several months, and you can enjoy them all winter long. Yum!!
But there are a few things you need to do before you can store them. Just like onions, potatoes must be cured (dried out) first.
How To Cure Potatoes After Harvesting
If you plan on storing your potatoes, don’t wash them after harvesting. Wait to wash them until right before you use them (just like you would with the ones from the grocery store).
Simply brush off any large clumps of dirt with your hands, taking care not to damage or peel off parts of the skin in the process. You don’t need to be fussy about this and get all the dirt off though, just remove the large clumps.
To cure them, allow your potatoes to sit in a dark garage or basement for a few weeks to dry out completely before storing them.
There shouldn’t be any moisture left on them at all. Once they’re cured, put them in a cool, dry and dark place.
A pantry or root cellar are perfect choices (I sure wish I had a root cellar!). Warm temperatures will cause stored potatoes to sprout faster, and if it’s too damp they could rot.
If any of yours start to sprout in storage, use those up first (or save them to plant in your garden again in the spring!).
FAQs About Harvesting Potatoes
Harvesting potatoes is fairly straightforward, but you might have some other questions. Here are the answers to the ones I get asked the most. If I haven’t answered yours here, be sure to ask it in the comments below.
What happens if you don’t harvest potatoes?
If you don’t harvest potatoes when the plant dies back, a couple things could happen. Most likely 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.
Can you eat freshly harvested potatoes?
You can absolutely eat your potatoes right after harvesting them. The skin will be thinner (almost peeling off if you rub it).
They also contain more water, so they don’t get as fluffy when baked or mashed. But they are still delicious.
How long can I leave potatoes in the ground?
After the greenery has died back, potatoes can stay in the ground for several days, if the conditions are right.
As long as the soil is dry, and the temperature is above freezing, you don’t have to harvest potatoes immediately. But it is best to dig them up within a few days to prevent rotting.
Should you wash potatoes before storing?
No. Do not wash potatoes before storing them. Freshly harvested potatoes have a very thin skin that’s prone to tearing, which can leave the tuber open to rot.
Instead, gently brush off the worst of the dirt before you set them in a cool, dry place to cure.
While initially it seems trickier to harvest potatoes, it’s actually fairly simple. Now that you know how to properly dig up and cure the delicious tubers, you can enjoy potatoes from your own garden well into the winter.
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More Posts About Harvesting
- How To Harvest Chives & When To Pick Them
- How & When To Harvest Parsley
- When And How To Harvest Tomatillos
- How & When To Harvest Basil Leaves
Share you tips for harvesting potatoes in the comments section below.