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When Should You Harvest Potatoes?

Justice is currently an engineering student and has a passion for doing DIY projects and gardening.

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Harvesting Potatoes

The humble potato is one of the easiest vegetables to start harvesting. It's easy to grow and care for, and digging them up is always fun! Plants can produce eight to ten potatoes on average, making them a tasty and lucrative harvest. You can also grow a wide variety of potatoes. It includes delicate and tender new potato varieties, oblong-shaped fingerlings, and massive baking potatoes. And then there are the colors! Red potatoes, yellow potatoes, purple potatoes, and multicolored potatoes. When to harvest potatoes depends on their types and when they are planted, even though they can all be grown similarly.

Lastly, there are various color schemes to choose from: red potatoes, yellow potatoes, purple potatoes, and multicolored potatoes. The best time to harvest potatoes depends on their type and when they were planted, although all types can be cultivated the same.

Even if you aren't knowledgeable about planting potatoes, understanding when to harvest them isn't difficult once you know what kind of potato you've planted. Knowing when to dig them up is fairly easy as long as you're paying attention to them and noting the cues that tell you when the potatoes are ready. In case you're unsure what type of potatoes you have, these indicators will tell you when to harvest them.

Potatoes Have Two Main Types

To produce good crops of thin-skinned potatoes, early potatoes need a short harvest period, whereas maincrop potatoes require a long harvest period. Because of this, early potatoes are often harvested from late spring to early summer (around 55-100 days after planting). Early harvested varieties will be ready in three months, whereas maincrop varieties will only be ready about five months later.

In addition to ' early' potatoes, which can be harvested as early as eight weeks after planting, you can find varieties in the ' first early' category, which are harvested at twelve weeks. Second early potatoes take about fourteen to sixteen weeks to mature and make for a good strategy. You can plant them at the same time or plant them a couple of weeks apart to stagger your harvest.

In addition to early maincrops, you will find late ones that are ready between 16 and 20 weeks after planting. The harvesting process is different for them and they yield thick-skinned potatoes that you can bag and store for months

Flowers on potato plants

Flowers on potato plants

When Should You Harvest Early Potatoes?

Potatoes that I prefer to grow belong to the early category. If you want to harvest them two to three months after your last frost date, plant them two weeks before it. Early potatoes are small, tender-skinned, and edible. They taste delicious when they are just the size of an egg in the spring. As soon as they are the size of an egg, you can harvest them, or you can wait for them to plump up.

I have experimented with many types over the years, including Arran Pilot, Home Guard, Lady Christl, and Red Duke of York, the first early potato with a red skin (that I am aware of). I prefer to cook Annabelle potatoes because they have a delicate golden flesh and a wonderfully mild taste.

In zone 9a, I plant my early potatoes by St. Patrick's Day, but I've sown them in late February before. The downside to frost is that if it hits the potatoes after they've developed, it will kill them. This is why so many people frost their early potatoes. Pulling compost around the plant, completely covering it, is an example of this. Row covers can also be used to protect plants from frost.

You can harvest early potatoes in less than two months, depending on the variety. You can find out how productive your one row of first early potatoes will be by digging up one plant and waiting for two months. For some other potato varieties, you need to wait longer. Most early potato varieties will flower in June and they produce some lovely blooms.Potatoes usually come in a white color, but there are varieties that come in shades of purple and pink as well. When the flowers drop or the buds on the unopened flower stop growing, the potatoes are ready for harvest. This process can take anywhere between 8 and 12 weeks after planting.

When Should You Harvest Second Early Potatoes?

First Early potatoes, a.k.a. second early potatoes, can take anywhere from two to four weeks longer to produce and include types such as Anya, Charlotte, British Queen, Nadine, and International Kidney (Jersey Royals). Longer cropping time also comes in handy in the vegetable garden, as you'll be able to get through the first harvest before harvesting the second earliest.First early potatoes are harvested in twelve to sixteen weeks (three to four months). Second early potatoes are harvested in the same way. Potatoes are delicate and do not keep for very long, so dig them up and eat them soon. Fresh early potatoes lose their unique flavor. In spite of being stored in the fridge or in a cupboard.

You know it's time to harvest your own potatoes when the blooms on the second early potatoes wither or the leaves fall from the plants. Leaf color changes will begin when the leaves still have green leaves and begin to turn yellow. The late harvest of second earlies can produce large, tender potatoes that are comparable to those harvested from first earlies. If you leave them growing for longer, the potatoes can get even bigger! Big early potatoes should be eaten while they're tender and their skin is pliable, or they will quickly harden and become difficult to eat.

 Fresh purple potatoes whole and half on white

Fresh purple potatoes whole and half on white

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When Should Maincrop Potatoes Be Harvested?

During the fall and winter, we dig, dry, and store maincrop potatoes for use over the winter. The skin of these potatoes is thicker, and we do not eat the skin (usually). They also take a lot longer to grow. Some varieties can be prepared in ovens and on gas/electric ranges and then baked, roasted, or boiled. America contains these kinds of potatoes, specifically Russet potatoes, those with brown skin and floury white flesh. In addition to purple potatoes (which store well), I also grow King Edward, Cara, and Pink Fir Apple (a fingerling potato) that are popular in the UK

As with second early potatoes, the planting time of maincrop potatoes can vary; plant them earlier or later in the season as desired. Maincrop potatoes mature in about 20 weeks. Their size and number grow over the summer, resulting in large and abundant harvests. Your typical harvest occurs in late summer, with most of it coming in the period of August to September. You'll know when the time is right when the leaves of the plants turn yellow. Eventually, the leaves and stems will only remain brown and withered as they wilt and dry

The Foliage of Maincrop Potatoes Dies Naturally

Cut off leaves from ground level or wait two weeks for the leaves to completely die and brown before digging potatoes. This time is crucial for the tubers to develop a thicker skin that will keep them fresh longer

The flowers and perhaps deadly green berries that are sometimes produced by maincrop potatoes that appear at the end of the summer. It may also be a case of potato blight or another potato disease if the foliage begins to fall back or develop black spots before four months have passed since planting. Remove all the foliage and stems from your potatoes and either burn them or toss them away if you find that they have blight. Dig the potato tubers up after two weeks have passed. Any that have black splotches or are still damp after drying should be thrown away.

What Does a Potato Plant Look Like When It’s Ready to Be Harvested?

If you're not sure what type of potato plant you have or when to harvest potatoes from it, there are some things you need to do. To determine the size of the potatoes, first, observe the size of the leaves and flowers, and if that's not sufficient, measure the potatoes by hand

Flowering will occur towards the end of the potato variety's growing season. However, not all potato plants will flower. The flowers only bloom late in the spring or early in the summer, but most early potato varieties have them. In order to find out if a plant is an early blooming variety, make sure to check the leaves to see if they are blooming yet.

It is easy to tell when potatoes are ready to be harvested by their foliage. Regardless of when you're harvesting, some of the leaves on the lower part of the stem will wither before being ready. Due to a lack of growth at the top of the plant, potato leaves and stems near the ground die off. The leaves wither from late August to early September, and the plants become brown husks. Potato blight can cause the plants' foliage to die off as well, but it usually happens in the spring.

You can also test when to harvest potatoes by lifting up a whole plant from the ground or gently pulling the soil around its base. If you start with a few larger potatoes that have been in the ground, you can grow potatoes of either type in less than two weeks. You can easily identify a potato even as little as an inch or two from the bottom of the plant. Early in the summer, maincrop potatoes produce a few small potatoes. This method should be used if you haven't yet noticed flowers on the plant, and at the earliest, at the twelve-week stage.

How to Harvest Potatoes

The way potatoes are grown determines the way they are harvested. When you transplant them, use a garden fork to loosen them. Put it no closer than 12-18 inches from the roots of the plant and then start digging. It's essential to avoid spearing any potatoes as damaged potatoes cannot be stored, your goal being to maximize the volume of potatoes in your storage. Any ruined potatoes should be set aside for that day's meal.

Another technique to grow potatoes is beneath mulch; this technique is also known as "no-dig potatoes." The seed potatoes are placed on the soil's surface, and then a thick layer of compost or straw is placed on top of them. The potato crop is really simple to harvest because the potato plants grow right up through the mulch. Simply move the mulch out of the way to harvest your potatoes.

It is also possible to grow potatoes in containers. Other gardeners are more comfortable letting the plants spread this way. When the potato is finished growing, you topple the container and harvest the potatoes. Early varieties of potatoes usually grow only as many potatoes as can be found at the base of the plant. However, some main crop potatoes are long-lived like tomatoes. As you remove them and throw them out, they will keep sprouting new potatoes, over and over again. This is how some people have large harvests from a single plant.

New potatoes!

New potatoes!

Storing Early Potatoes

Despite producing tasty thin-skinned potatoes, early potatoes aren't very good for storing. Take them out of the ground before the roots have grown, store them in a jar, or put them in the fridge but the taste is best if you cook them in less than a week. First early potatoes will initially grow bigger, but still have their tender new skin if you choose to leave them to grow in the ground. Leaving them in the ground for too long will cause their skin to thicken and their texture to change.

Storing Maincrop Potatoes

Maincrops are better suited for long-term storage than earlier varieties. Begin by checking the potatoes and choosing only those that are in good condition. Potatoes that are destroyed or have a nasty look must be put aside and eaten right away. Store them by drying them thoroughly and putting them in a bag. Be sure not to rinse off the dirt from the potatoes, as this will cause them to go bad faster.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2022 Justice Ndlovu

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