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Harvesting potatoes: This is the right time

09.03.2021  /  Reading time: 9 minutes

Harvested in good time and stored correctly, potatoes can be kept until the next season without any problems. The healthy tuber contains many nutrients and carbohydrates that no self-catering garden should be without. Find out here how to harvest and store potatoes correctly.

This article contains:

  1. Harvesting potatoes: here's how
  2. When to harvest potatoes?
  3. When are potatoes ready to harvest?
  4. Can potatoes be harvested too early?
  5. How to harvest potatoes correctly?
  6. How do you store potatoes?
  7. Frequently asked questions about the potato harvest

Quick Overview

When can you harvest potatoes?

  • Depending on the potato variety, the potato plant is in the bed for between 3 and 5 months
  • Early potatoes are ready to harvest from the beginning of June
  • Medium-early to medium-late pot ato varieties can be harvested from July to August
  • Late potatoes stay in the bed the longest and are ready for harvest from September to October

How do you harvest potatoes?

  • Can potatoes be harvested too early? - Yes, you can. If you harvest too early, the skin is not yet sufficiently developed. A thick skin is particularly important for storage potatoes.
  • Instructions: Loosen the soil, pull the potatoes out of the ground by the green (early potatoes) or by the stolons
  • Do not wash after harvesting, only lightly remove the soil

How do you store potatoes?

  • Only undamaged, mostly unprocessed tubers are stored
  • Potatoes should be stored in a dark and cool place (4 - 8 °C)
  • Storing potatoes in the fridge is not a good idea, as this changes their structure and taste
  • Alternatively, you can freeze or preserve cooked potatoes

Harvesting potatoes: here's how

Potato plants send out a clear signal when they are ready to harvest: Their foliage begins to wither and dry out. Most potato plants remain in the bed for around 3 to 5 months until they are ready to harvest. After that, the plant dies and signals to you that you can harvest the potatoes. If your plant dies much earlier, it may be infected with late blight. In this case, you should also act immediately and harvest your potatoes. Otherwise the tubers could become inedible. Do not dispose of the infected plant parts in the compost, otherwise the disease may spread in your garden.

When to harvest potatoes?

Depending on the potato variety, potatoes are harvested between June and October. Early potato varieties such as Christa or Annabelle produce the first potato harvest. As a gardener, you can take advantage of the different harvest windows for different potato varieties. Especially in a self-sufficient garden, it is important to have a balanced supply of different crops throughout the season. So plan for early potatoes and late potatoes in your garden if you want to supply yourself with tubers all year round.

Most potatoes are harvested when the green tops have died back. As long as the plant is growing, the potatoes are also growing in the soil. This is where early potatoes differ from late varieties, as they are often harvested with the green tops still on. This is why early harvests are usually not as productive and produce smaller but more aromatic potatoes.

Red potatoes in the field
Early potatoes are usually much smaller and only have a tender skin compared to late varieties.

When are potatoes ready to harvest?

Early potatoes

  • These varieties take around 90 to 120 days to ripen and can be harvested from the beginning of June.
  • Potatoes are usually harvested when the tops of the plants are still green.
  • Early potatoes have a thin skin and a relatively high water content, so they are not suitable for storage and should be eaten within a few days (you can also harvest the plants in stages so that you can use everything).

Medium-early and medium-late potatoes

  • You can harvest these varieties after around 4 months (120 to 140 days ), from around July to August.
  • Medium varieties combine the good flavor of early varieties with the shelf life of later varieties. Can be stored for about 3 months.
  • Potatoes are ready to harvest after the foliage has withered and died. If you want to store them, it is best to wait another two weeks before harvesting. The skin will then become thicker, which improves the storage life.

Late potatoes

  • Late potato varieties have the longest growing time and stay in the bed the longest: 140 to 160 days, about 5 months . These varieties are ready to harvest from around September to the end of October.
  • They usually produce the largest harvests of potatoes that can be stored for a long time (if stored correctly, they can be kept until the following spring).
  • To increase the shelf life, wait around 2 to 3 weeks after the haulm has died back before harvesting.

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Can potatoes be harvested too early?

Potatoes are very sensitive to the cold and should be harvested before the first frost. As soon as they freeze, their cells are destroyed and they start to rot. However, if they are harvested too early, the skin cannot harden sufficiently and the potatoes are more susceptible to rotting.

Potatoes with soil, freshly harvested
Potatoes are not washed after harvesting. The soil protects the tubers from rotting.

How to harvest potatoes correctly?

  • A dry day is best for harvesting potatoes. It should not have rained for a few days beforehand. The soil should be as dry as possible to make harvesting easier. This also means that less soil sticks to the potatoes.
  • Loosen thesoil with a digging fork or, even better, a potato hoe (with rounded tips) and lift it up a little. Be careful not to damage the tubers.
  • You can then simply pull theearly potatoes out of the ground by the green part of the plant. After harvesting, remove the green tops.
  • For all other varieties that are harvested when the green is already dead, remove the dead parts of the plant first. These can be spread on the bed as mulch (unless the plant was infected with late blight). Then pull the potatoes out of the soil by the stolons.
  • Remove a little soil from the potatoes in the field, but do not wash them!


Things to bear in mind when harvesting potatoes

  • Try to find all the tubers in your bed. If you miss one, it may sprout again the following year. On the one hand, this is not ideal for crop rotation. Secondly, it can really mess up your garden planning.
  • Potatoes are not washed, as this encourages rotting and fungal diseases.
  • Sort out potatoes with green spots directly in the field, as these contain the poison solanine and are not suitable for consumption. These green spots are caused by light hitting the tubers. Incidentally, this can also be caused by incorrect storage.
  • If you find particularly small potatoes, you can save them as seed potatoes for planting next year. This way, you can grow varieties that you particularly like again.

Early potato harvest Potatoes with greens
Check carefully to see if there is still a small bulb hiding somewhere. Otherwise it could sprout unintentionally next year.

How do you store potatoes?

Potatoes can be stored very well unprocessed. A cool cellar or earth bunkers are best suited to keep the tubers fresh for a long time. To get the most out of your harvest for as long as possible, it is important not to store damaged tubers. Potatoes are also not washed after harvesting. Only remove coarse soil residues and leave the remaining soil on the potato. Wash the tubers immediately before eating them. Otherwise you will encourage rot or fungi, which can ruin your harvest.

Potato storage - the optimal storage location

The ideal storage place for potatoes is dark, dry and at temperatures between 4 and 8 °C. If the temperatures are too high, this stimulates the sprouting of the potatoes and they become inedible. Incidentally, the same thing happens if you store potatoes together with apples. Apples spray the ripening hormone ethylene, which induces sprouting in potatoes. Therefore, never store potatoes with apples. Apples are best stored individually in a separate place. Light also promotes the sprouting of seedlings and green spots on the potatoes. Both make the potatoes inedible.

Storing potatoes in the fridge

Due to the optimum storage temperatures for potatoes, you should not store potatoes in the fridge! This changes their taste and structure. At temperatures below 3°C, the starch in the tubers is converted into sugar, which makes the potatoes taste sweeter.


I hope that your questions about harvesting and storing potatoes have been answered. If you have any questions or comments, please write to us at [email protected].

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Image: Image by olarts on Pixabay

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Author

Marie

Marie studied agricultural science at the University of Hohenheim. Her main focus is on ecological agriculture and permaculture. She writes articles for Fryd to educate people about ecological interrelationships and alternatives to current land use. Our current economic systems, especially in agriculture, have numerous negative effects on nature and destabilize our ecosystems. We need a great diversity in our gardens and beds again to counteract the extinction of species. Every gardener can contribute to creating and maintaining habitats and food for a wide variety of creatures. With her articles, she would like to pass on her experience in dealing with natural systems and give people the opportunity to contribute to a stable ecosystem and thus also to securing our livelihood.

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FAQ

This depends on whether you have planted early or late potatoes. Depending on the variety, the plants are in the bed for 3 to 5 months. Early potatoes are ready to harvest from June, while late potatoes can be harvested from September/October.

Yes, you can harvest potatoes too early. Make sure that you only harvest when the potato foliage has wilted. If you harvest too early, the skin will still be thin, which will affect the potatoes' shelf life.

First loosen the soil a little with a digging fork. Then you can pull the potatoes out of the ground by the potato greens or stolons. After harvesting, the potatoes are not grown, but only slightly freed of soil. Otherwise you risk rot.

You can only store undamaged potatoes, otherwise they will rot and damage the other potatoes. Your potato storage should be dark and cool. Alternatively, you can also freeze cooked potatoes.

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