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How To Harvest Your Potato Crop

  • Time1 hr 5 mins
  • Cost$1
  • DifficultyEasy–Moderate
Share to PinterestHow To Harvest Your Potato Crop
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During the five phases of potato growth, you’ve witnessed tiny sprouts popping up from the seed tubers, the roots taking hold, leaves and stems developing, and dainty flowers blossoming. New tubers appeared and bulked up, and now, 70 to 120 days after you planted your crop, the plant’s stems and leaves have died back, a sign that your potato crop has reached maturity.

It's time to dig in and harvest some spuds.

What You'll Need

Tools

  • Shovel or spading fork
  • Storage container

Supplies

  • Potato plants
01

Toughen up the potatoes

Share to PinterestPotato seedling in hay
Hans Verburg / Getty Images

Once mid-summer arrives, cut back on watering the potato plants until it’s time to harvest. Wait about two to three weeks after the vines and leaves have died and the blossoms have fallen off. Cut back or remove any remaining foliage.

These steps toughen up your tuber crop, allowing the skins to thicken so that they store well. In regions that often have wet weather in the fall, this step is especially important.

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02

Water the crop before harvesting

Share to PinterestWatering potato plants with watering can
vkyryl / Getty Images

Choose a dry day to retrieve your crop, but make sure you’re gathering them before the first hard frost. Remove any dirt clods or other debris from around the plants. Lightly water soil around the crop to soften the dirt, making it easier to pull the potatoes from the ground. This step also protects the spuds from damage during the harvesting process.

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03

Dig up a test hill first

Share to Pinterestman digging up potatoes from garden
Dan Brownsword / Getty Images

Check to ensure the tubers have reached maturity by first digging up a test hill and examining one of your current crop. You’ll know a potato is ready for removal if the skin is thick and firmly attached to the flesh. Thin skin that rubs off easily is a sign the plant isn’t fully mature. It means you need to leave the crop in the ground for a few extra days before harvesting.

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04

Loosen the soil around the plants

Share to PinterestClose up of unearthed potatoes in garden
Dan Brownsword / Getty Images

Carefully dig around the plants to locate the potatoes and determine how deeply you need to dig into the soil to remove them. This cuts back on potentially damaging the potatoes while digging. Most people use a spade or a gardening fork to dig, but you may find other tools that suit you better.

Once you’ve determined the potatoes’ depth, start digging about a foot away from the plants to loosen the soil, making your way around a full section of plants.

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05

Dig up the potatoes

Share to PinterestWorkers digging up fresh potatoes
zlikovec / Getty Images

Dig deep enough under each plant to raise the root mass, the entire hill of potatoes, at the same time. Lift them gently to prevent bruising or damaging the skins. Once you’ve lifted the hill, you can use your fingers to harvest the potatoes.

Those pulled from warm soil are less likely to bruise than potatoes plucked from cold soil, so consider starting a little later in the day.

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06

Protect harvested potatoes from light

Share to PinterestSack of freshly harvested potatoes
Dan Brownsword / Getty Images

Place the potatoes in a covered container as you harvest the rest of your crop. Those exposed to direct light develop a chemical called solanine that turns them green and produces a bitter taste. These green potatoes can also make you sick if you eat a large enough serving.

After digging up the crop, run your hands through the soil again to see if there are any stragglers hidden beneath the dirt. Expect a harvest of three to six regular-sized potatoes per plant, along with some smaller ones.

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07

Set aside damaged ones

Share to PinterestA man in a garden holding freshly harvested potatoes (red and yellow)
Meyer-Rebentisch, Dr. Karen / Getty Images

While they may seem like tough vegetables, spuds are easily damaged during the harvest. It usually occurs when someone strikes the potato with the edge of the spade or the prong of the gardening fork. Set aside any damaged potatoes, store them in the fridge, and consume them as soon as possible. They won’t last in storage.

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08

Cure and store

Share to PinterestPotato packing shed
Alan_Lagadu / Getty Images

After harvesting, cure the undamaged potatoes for two weeks: find a dark place where the temperature stays between 50 and 60 degrees. This allows their skins to harden, which protects them during storage. Pace them in well-ventilated boxes or bags. They will keep for around two months in a cool, dark place where the temperatures average between 55 and 60 F, and there are good air circulation and high humidity levels.

Avoid storing your crop in the fridge. It leads to an increase in sugar content, along with higher levels of acrylamide when the potatoes are roasted, baked, or fried at high temperatures.

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09

Harvesting new potatoes

Share to Pinterestperson holding new harvest potatoes
valentinrussanov / Getty Images

A new potato isn’t a type of potato, but one that is harvested early in its growing season before it has had an opportunity to mature. The skin is much thinner and the potato tastes sweeter and has a higher moisture content.

Most new potatoes are one to two inches in diameter and should be stored in the fridge, then consumed within one week after harvesting. Gently dig around the plant to find the potatoes. Choose a few from each plant, then cover the rest with soil so they can continue to mature.

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10

Additional potato harvesting and storage tips

Share to Pinterestpotatoes in a basket
deepblue4you / Getty Images

After harvesting, sort through the potatoes and toss those that are soft or discolored. If the plant was diseased, dispose of both it and any potatoes it yields.

Remember to avoid storing potatoes next to fruit. Some fruits, like apples, give off ethylene, which can cause the potato to sprout.

Don’t wash potatoes in water after harvesting, although you can brush away excess dirt. Wait until right before you use them to wash them or you’ll shorten their storage life.

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