To get the best possible yield from your potato crop, you need to know when to harvest them.
Below, we cover everything you need to know.
When to harvest potatoes
The best time to harvest potatoes depends on when you planted them. Most potatoes are ready for harvest about three to five months after planting.
Here are other important things to look out for:
- When the plants are brown and dying back. The tops of the vines should be completely dead and the leaves may be yellowing or browning. This usually means they are mature and ready for harvest and is the most important indicator to look for.
- When they have a thick skin. Potatoes need a thick skin to help prevent bruising during storage, and this generally happens as the plant dies back.
- When the first hard frost is expected. Potatoes that get hit with frost before you can dig them up will turn black inside or rot, so be sure to harvest them before then!
Do potatoes need to flower before harvesting?
Potatoes do not need to flower before harvesting. Potatoes can be harvested before they flower, and harvesting early is the best way to ensure the potatoes are of high quality.
The potato plant produces small green fruits on above-ground stems and vines as part of its reproductive cycle. These fruits contain seeds that will produce new plants next season.
The flowering relates to the production of these fruits, not to the production of the underground tubers.
However, flowering is a sign that the potato plant is nearing the end of its productive life and potatoes may need fewer energy reserves than when they were first forming.
How to harvest potatoes
If you’re only wanting to dig up a small number of spuds for a meal, the best way to do so is with a garden fork.
A fork allows you to gently loosen the soil around your plant and carefully lift it out without damaging any potatoes or the plant itself.
Once the soil is loosened, use your hands or grab a few potatoes and pull them out.
After harvesting, gently replace the plant and give it a good watering.
Then, enjoy some delicious homemade spuds!
How long does it take for potatoes to grow in Australia?
Many factors play a role in how long it takes your potato crop to grow.
The time of year you plant your potatoes and the weather conditions you experience during the growing season have an impact on harvest time, as do some other factors relating to your specific planting situation.
Also, different varieties of potatoes have different maturity rates.
Potatoes are broadly categorized into early, mid and late-season varieties, but there is variation even within these categories.
For example, some early-season varieties may be ready for harvest about 80 days after planting whereas others will take closer to 120 days or more.
So when choosing a variety of potato to plant in Australia, it’s important to be aware that some will mature faster than others.
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How to store potatoes after harvest
Potatoes are best stored in a cool, dark and well-ventilated area.
Once harvested, potatoes can be stored in a cardboard box, hessian sack or netted bag.
Keep potatoes away from direct sunlight as this can encourage sprouting and loss of moisture.
Before you store potatoes they should ideally be cured.
This toughens the skin of the potato which prevents it from getting damaged when stored. It also allows any wounds on the potato to heal up so it stops rotting while in storage.
This is done by leaving them in a humid place for 10 days. The ideal temperature for curing potatoes is between 10°C and 15°C.
After curing, the storage temperature can be dropped to around 7°C.
It’s best to keep your potatoes at a constant temperature throughout their storage life.