When to Harvest Potatoes & Other Potato Gardening FAQs

Last Updated November 27, 2021 By Bella Zinti

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Now that you have planted your seed potatoes, now what? Though homegrown potatoes are known for being one of the easiest vegetables to grow, there are still many questions home gardeners may have. Below, we're answering commonly asked questions about growing potatoes, like when to harvest planted potatoes and how to store them.

Harvesting Potatoes

How do you harvest potatoes?

Now that you have planted your potato, how do you know when to harvest your potato crop? As your potatoes grow to mature size, the green tops will flower and die. Some may even grow green cherry tomatoes among the leaves, and these are the seeds of potatoes. You can save the seeds and plant them for next season.

Your main crop potatoes are ready to harvest as soon as the vines begin to turn yellow and shrivel up. While you can let the plant die naturally, some gardeners prefer to cut off the vines to speed up the process. To help your storage potatoes toughen up, leave them in the ground for another two weeks before harvesting.

If you want to harvest some baby potatoes, harvest two to three weeks after the plant has finished flowering.

While it varies for different varieties, most potato plants take around 100 to 120 days to grow full-size potatoes. Early potato varieties have a shorter maturity time and will be ready for harvest 50 to 60 days after planting.

One of the best ways to ensure you've picked the right time to harvest your potato crops is to dig up a test plant. If the skins feel thin or rub off easily, your potatoes need more time in the ground. If the skin feels thick and firm, they're ready to cure and harvest.

If you live in an area that is moderate or climates, you may be able to dig potatoes all winter long as long as the oil doesn't freeze. To prevent soil from freezing, you can heavily mulch the patch with straws, wood chips, or shredded leaves.

How many potatoes do you get per plant?

Under the right growing conditions, a single potato plant can produce between five and ten tubers. Yield size also varies widely based on the variety of potatoes you're growing.

The best way to ensure a large yield is to provide your potato plants with proper care throughout the growing season. Start by planting them in small hills that provide additional support. Place them in sunny garden beds or containers with light, sandy soil.

And remember, regular water, fertilizer, and weeding will give your growing potatoes the best chance at success. Planting companion plants like corn, cabbage, and eggplant can help ward off insects that reduce yield size.

What is the best month to harvest storage potatoes?

The best time to harvest your new potatoes is in the late summer to early fall. By September or October, your potato plants will have fully matured and developed the thin skin and delectable starchy flavor you're looking for. Plus, the weather will have cooled down enough to harvest.

How much frost can potatoes take?

Just be sure to harvest your potatoes before the first frost. While most tubers can tolerate light frost if they need to, it can significantly shorten shelf life after harvesting. Any kind of hard frost can instantly ruin a growing season's worth of hard work.

How do you dig up potatoes?

Good news, gardeners! Harvesting potatoes is incredibly easy. But you'll need to be prepared to get your hands dirty. You'll also want to harvest your potatoes on a dry day. Wet conditions can also spread disease and cause your hard-earned harvest to rot prematurely.

While you can use a hand tool to dig up potatoes, it's best to use just a gloved hand. Damaged potatoes can encourage rot and reduce harvest yields, so you'll need to avoid piercing and bruising the potatoes as you dig. And remember, the more baby potatoes you dig, the fewer full-size ones you will have later in the season. It is best that you leave the smaller potatoes and allow them to continue to grow.

There's no need to throw away the harvested potatoes that inevitably get damaged. These tasty tubers are perfectly fine to use for dinner that night!

Once you dug up the potatoes, do not wash them immediately. Only wash potatoes when you are ready to use them. Washing the potatoes will reduce storage life and encourage mold.

How long can potatoes stay in the ground?

Once your potato plants die, your potatoes no longer continue growing. While it may be tempting to start digging as soon as the vines have turned brown, it's best to cure potatoes for around two weeks before you start harvesting. This helps them develop hard skin that is strong enough for long-term storage.

Can I leave potatoes in the ground over winter?

Have you ever wondered what happens if you don't harvest your potatoes?

While most unharvested potatoes will simply rot once the soil becomes wet or die when the ground freezes, that isn't always the case in warm, dry climates. In the right conditions, a few tubers may survive the winter and sprout in the spring.

Unfortunately, these plants should not be grown to maturity. Surviving the winter weakens the plant, resulting in inferior crops and smaller yield sizes.

Storing Potatoes

What is the storage life of potatoes?

Raw potatoes stay fresh for a few weeks to a few months after being harvested, depending on storage conditions. The shelf life of your homegrown potatoes varies widely depending on the light level, temperature, and humidity level where they're kept.

Once cooked, your potatoes will last three to four days in the fridge—if they can even go that long without being gobbled up. In the freezer, they'll last for up to a year in an air-tight container.

How do you store potatoes long-term?

In the right conditions, freshly-dug potatoes can stay fresh for upwards of two months. To maximize the life of your harvest, place your potatoes in a dark, dry area with stable temperatures around 40 degrees. Avoid placing your potatoes in direct sunlight or keeping them in warm, humid spots in your kitchen.

Though it may be tempting to clean off your tubers, do not wash your potatoes before storing them. Instead, gently brush off any caked-on soil immediately after digging them up. Leave them to dry outdoors for an hour or two before bringing them inside.

Where is the best place to store potatoes?

The best place to store your new potatoes is in a cold, dry, dark place like one of the following:

  • Root cellar
  • Garage
  • A bottom shelf in a pantry or kitchen cabinet

To preserve your potatoes for even longer, transfer them to the fridge once they start to age visibly. Under refrigeration, potatoes can last up to three or four months.

Many people prefer to store their potatoes inside a cardboard box, brown paper bags, or harvest storage drawers from a garden supply store. Just be sure that whatever you store them in still has ample ventilation to ensure proper airflow and prevent moisture from accumulating. You can also follow this with grocery store bought potato as well.

How do you tell when potatoes have gone bad?

Just like any other vegetable, potatoes will eventually go bad. You should always check for these signs of spoilage before using your potatoes, especially if they're nearing the end of their storage life.

  • Healthy potatoes feel firm to the touch. If your potato feels soft or mushy, it's time to toss it.
  • As root vegetables, it's totally normal for potatoes to have small blemishes on the outside. With that being said, you should throw out any potatoes with large bruises, bad spots, or mold.
  • While your potatoes should smell a little earthy, anything that smells overly musty, moldy, or rank should be thrown out.

Is it safe to eat potatoes with sprouts?

While it's safe to eat potatoes with sprouts, you should never eat the sprouts themselves. With that being said, sprouted potatoes should not be consumed regularly or in excess, as they contain higher levels of glycoalkaloids. You should never eat green potatoes, as they may contain a poisonous compound called solanine. Interestingly enough, sprouted potatoes also have a lower nutritional value, as they've begun using their energy and nutrients to grow the shoots.

Planting Potatoes

When To Plant Seed Potatoes

Depending on which zone you live in, the best time to plant potatoes is in early spring (March, April, or May), as potatoes prefer cool weather. You can grow potatoes from potato seeds, or the best option would be seed potatoes.

Plant potatoes two to three weeks after your last spring frost. While you can plant earlier, but crops can get ruined by frost or overly wet soil.

Where To Grow Potatoes

Potatoes should be grown in full sun location with at least 6 hours of sun. You can either grow it in the ground with row space 3 feet apart, raised beds, or a potato planter.

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About the author

Bella has a Bachelors degree in interior design, is a master gardener. She designs nourishing outdoor & indoor spaces guided by the practice of Feng Shui.