When to Harvest Potatoes: Key Signs to Look For and Best Yield

Growing your own potatoes can be a rewarding experience. But how do you know when it’s time to harvest them? You might be staring at your potato plants, wondering if it’s the right moment or if you should wait a bit longer. Don’t worry! We’re here to help you understand the signs that indicate When to Harvest Potatoes and share some best practices to ensure you get the most out of your crop. So, let’s dig in!

Understanding When to Harvest Potatoes

Before we jump into the harvest signs, let’s briefly review the stages of potato growth. This will help you understand where your plants are in their lifecycle and what to expect.

Seedling Stage

When you first plant your seed potatoes, they start as seedlings. During this stage, the plants are focusing on growing roots and shoots. You’ll see green leaves starting to appear, and the plants will begin to develop a strong root system.

Vegetative Growth

As the plants continue to grow, they enter the vegetative stage. During this time, you’ll see your potato plants get taller and bushier. This is the stage where the plants are producing the energy and nutrients needed for tuber development.

Flowering Stage

When your potato plants start to flower, it’s a sign that they’re moving into the reproductive stage. While flowering is a sign of maturity, it doesn’t necessarily mean the tubers are ready to be harvested just yet.

Maturation Stage

Finally, the plants enter the maturation stage. This is when the tubers are reaching their full size and developing their skins. This is the stage where you’ll be looking for specific signs that it’s time to harvest your potatoes.

Key Signs When to Harvest Potatoes

So, how do you know when your potatoes are ready to be dug up? Here are some key signs to look for:

1. The Plants Have Flowered and Started to Die Back

One of the first signs that your potatoes are ready to harvest is when the plants have flowered and the foliage begins to yellow and die back. The flowers indicate that the plants are mature, but it’s the dying foliage that’s a more reliable indicator that it’s time to check the tubers.

Why this happens: As the plants die back, the energy from the leaves is being redirected to the tubers, helping them mature. The foliage dying back also signals that the tubers have reached their full size.

2. The Leaves Are Yellowing and Falling Off

If you notice that the leaves of your potato plants are turning yellow and falling off, it’s another sign that the plants are reaching the end of their growing cycle.

What to do: You can start to prepare for harvest, but it’s still a good idea to wait a week or so after the plants have fully died back to ensure that the tubers have fully matured.

3. Check the Skin of the Tubers

To see if your potatoes are ready for harvest, gently dig around the plant and check the skin of a few tubers. If the skin is firm and doesn’t rub off easily, the potatoes are ready to be harvested.

Tip: You can do this by carefully digging with your hands or a garden fork to avoid damaging the tubers. If the skin rubs off, it’s best to wait a little longer.

4. The Potato Plants Have Completed Their Growth Cycle

Potatoes typically take about 70 to 120 days to reach full maturity, depending on the variety. If you’ve reached the end of the growing season and the plants are showing signs of dying back, it’s time to think about harvesting.

How to gauge this: Refer to the seed packet or plant label for specific maturity times and keep track of when you planted them. This can help you determine if it’s time to start harvesting.

Best Practices for Harvesting Potatoes

Now that you know the signs to look for, let’s talk about the best practices for harvesting your potatoes to ensure you get a bountiful crop.

1. Harvest on a Dry Day

Potatoes are best harvested on a dry day.  Wet soil can make it difficult to dig up the tubers and can also lead to rotting. If the weather has been rainy, wait until the soil is dry before you start digging.

Why this is important: Dry soil is easier to work with, and dry tubers are less likely to get damaged or rot.

2. Use the Right Tools

A garden fork or spade is usually the best tool for harvesting potatoes. A garden fork is less likely to cut or bruise the tubers compared to a shovel.

Tool Tip: Insert the fork or spade gently into the soil about 6-12 inches away from the plant to avoid piercing the tubers.

3. Be Gentle When Digging

When you dig up your potatoes, be careful not to damage the tubers. Gently lift the plants and sift through the soil to find the potatoes.

How to handle: Use your hands or a tool to gently move the soil around and avoid crushing the tubers.

4. Cure Your Potatoes

After harvesting, it’s important to cure your potatoes. This involves letting them sit in a cool, dark place for a week or so to allow the skins to toughen up and any minor cuts or bruises to heal.

Why cure: Curing helps extend the storage life of your potatoes and prevents them from spoiling.

5. Store Potatoes Properly

After curing, store your potatoes in a well-ventilated, cold, dark area. A basement or a dark cupboard can work well.

Storage Tips: Keep potatoes away from light to prevent sprouting and avoid storing them in the refrigerator, as this can convert the starches into sugars and affect the taste.

Conclusion

Knowing When to Harvest Potatoes is key to getting the best yield from your garden. By looking for signs like yellowing foliage, checking tuber skin, and observing the plant’s overall growth stage, you can determine the perfect time to dig up your potatoes. Following best practices for harvesting, curing, and storing will ensure that your potatoes stay fresh and delicious for months to come. So, the next time you’re out in the garden, remember these tips and signs. Happy harvesting!

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