Do you know how to harvest those potatoes you’ve grown this year? This simple guide will show you when to harvest potato plants and how to get the most out of your potato crop!
Harvesting potatoes can be a fun and rewarding experience (since fresh potatoes are so much more tasty than those from the grocery store), and this guide will take you step by step through how to harvest those fresh potatoes!
If you’re looking for a full article on not only harvesting potatoes but how to plant seed potatoes, care for plants, and get them ready for harvesting, then check out my full post on How to Grow Potatoes at Home. This is a helpful guide, and it’s a good idea to start there if you’re in the beginning stages of planting potatoes. If you are looking for instructions on harvesting sweet potatoes, check out my full post on How to Harvest Sweet Potatoes for those instructions.
Now, let’s get down to harvesting a crop of potatoes!
When to Harvest Potatoes
Timing really is everything when to comes to harvesting mature potatoes, and this is also true no matter what potato varieties you have growing in the home garden. Some vegetables have a very strict growing season and can’t linger past a certain point. However, potatoes can be a bit more forgiving than something like beans or okra which can both get tough and inedible the longer they’re left growing.
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Thankfully, potatoes are very laid back, and early potatoes (small or new potatoes) can actually be harvested while the plant continues to grow. These baby potatoes can be gently dug out anytime, but just be careful to not damage other potatoes you want to keep growing.
Here are some helpful guidelines to know when it’s harvest time for your potatoes:
- For full-sized potatoes, the best time to harvest is when the plant starts to die back. This usually happens in mid to late summer, when the days are warm and the nights are cool.
- After plants flower and begin to die back is ideal, but as you’ll see in my video below, that isn’t always the case.
- It’s a good idea to choose a dry day when you decide to harvest, as this makes harvesting much easier.
Don’t worry too much about harvesting potatoes at the exact correct moment. If you’re a few weeks early or late, your potatoes will be just fine.
How to Harvest Potatoes
Now that you know when to harvest, it’s time to get down to the business of actually harvesting those spuds from that well-drained soil you planted them in! Here’s what you’ll need to harvest no matter the type of potato you’ve planted:
- Garden gloves (I like these inexpensive ones from Amazon since my kids are frequently “borrowing” mine.)
- Basket or container for holding the potatoes (or try a Roo Apron, my favorite!)
- Garden fork or spading fork if you’d like to stand while harvesting
- First, note if the plant seems ready for harvest. As I said earlier, the plant will usually be starting to die back. This means the leaves will be yellowing and wilting. If you’re unsure, give the plant a little tug. If it comes out of the ground easily, it’s time to harvest!
- Start by putting on your gloves if you plan on using them. Some people like the feel of soil under their fingertips… to each his own.
- Grab the base of the plant and begin to move it side to side and back and forth, loosening it a bit. Then gradually pull the entire plant up. You should see the original seed potato, as well as the fresh potatoes hanging onto the plant by the thin roots. The soil around the plant should also now be loosened up.
- Using your garden fork or your hands, start digging around the outside of where the plant has been pulled up. If you’re using a garden fork, be careful not to damage the harvest as you dig potatoes.
- Once you have a few dug up, place them in your container and continue until you’ve harvested all the potatoes you need! And that’s it! You’ve now successfully harvested your own potatoes!
Right after harvest, you may notice that the potatoes will have thin skins, different from some varieties at the grocery store. Depending on what type of potato you grew and how many you harvested, you may need to now prepare your potatoes for long term storage. For the short term, place potatoes in a single layer on newspaper or other surface, out of direct sunlight.
This will give them a chance to dry out a bit before you prepare for storage or until you’re ready to use them in a week or so. If you have grown enough potatoes that you need to store them long term, check out the instructions below.
How to Store Fresh Potatoes
If you’re lucky enough to live in a cooler environment, then chances are you can store potatoes for months on end using proper techniques. For those like me who live in the hot, high humidity south, storage will always be a bit more difficult and less long lasting if you don’t have a basement or other dark, cool space.
Here are step by step instructions for how to store your freshly harvested potatoes so that they last longer:
- Once potatoes are harvested, don’t leave them out in the full sun.
- Don’t wash your potatoes before storing, though you do want to clean most of the soil off of them. A light brushing will do.
- Store potatoes in a cool, dark place that has good ventilation. An unheated basement, root cellar, or garage is perfect. If you don’t have either of those, any dark closet will work in a pinch.
- Place potatoes in a wire mesh basket or on a wooden pallet to allow for air circulation.
- Be sure to check on your potatoes every few weeks and use any that have started to sprout. If you are harvesting in waves, be sure to use the older potatoes first.
- Need more info on storage? Check out this post from The Pioneer Woman on storing potatoes.
Harvesting Potatoes FAQ
Still have questions about harvesting potatoes from the home garden? No worries! Check out these frequently asked questions all about harvesting home grown potatoes:
- How do you cure potatoes for storage? Technically, the first few weeks of storage, following the instructions above, is the curing process. This is simply when the skin of potatoes thickens up, making them more durable for storage, and minor cuts or blemishes to the outer surface “scab” over. Any potatoes that wrinkle up after the first two weeks of storage should be used or discarded.
- How many potatoes do you get from a potato plant? This is such a great question, because we all want to know how much we can expect. This answer depends on the potato types being grown and how well the plant grew during the season. My yukon gold plants usually grow a minimum of 6-8 full sized potatoes. Check the seed potato package for more information about the potential yield for the variety of potato that you are growing.
- Why are some of my potatoes green? Tubers that been exposed to light may begin to turn green. You will usually see green or partially green potatoes close to the top of the soil where sun would have been on the potato.
- Are harvested green potatoes safe to eat? In small quantities, yes. Ideally, you can just cut the green portion off of a potato and proceed as usual. Green potatoes may have a bitter taste, so do anticipate this if you decide to eat one.
- How do you know when potatoes are ready to dig up? As mentioned above, after the plant has bloomed and begin dying back is a sure sign that the potatoes are ready for harvest. You can also gently dig around the plant and feel around for any potatoes to check their size.
- What happens if you dig potatoes up too early? Worst case scenario, you simply have undersized potatoes to eat. And while it’s incredibly tempting to harvest potatoes early and see just what that plant grew, do try to wait until the plant leaves begin to yellow and the plant starts to die back. If you can’t contain your excitement, consider harvesting one plant and leaving the rest in place to continue growing.
- Can you grow potatoes from the grocery store? This is a very common question for both potatoes and garlic, and since potatoes certainly can sprout in your pantry, doesn’t that mean you can plant them to grow? Yes, actually you can grow potatoes from the grocery store that have started to sprout. I would encourage growing organic varieties that haven’t been treated with any type of sprouting agent, but you can certainly grow what you like. I personally like to purchase seed potatoes or save a few smaller potatoes back from my harvest the previous season.
And there you have it! Now you know how to harvest and store your own potatoes! I hope this guide was helpful and that you enjoy fresh potatoes all winter long! Happy harvesting! Do you have any tips for storing fresh produce? Let us know in the comments below! And be sure to check out our other gardening guides to help you be successful in the garden!
More Potato Growing Helps
Still looking for help with your garden potato harvest? Check out these helpful articles from The Kitchen Garten:
- How to Grow Potatoes in Containers: If you don’t have the space for a large garden or raised bed garden space, consider growing potatoes in containers. Find out how to plant, grow, and harvest potatoes in containers!
- Early Spring Garden Favorites: Not sure what to grow in the early spring garden? Hint: potatoes are one of them! Learn exactly what you can grow in the cool weather of early spring and how to have a thriving spring vegetable garden! It’s one of my favorite times of year to garden!
- Garden Gloves
- Basket or Roo Apron
- Garden Fork
- First, note if the plant seems ready for harvest. As I said earlier, the plant will usually be starting to die back. This means the leaves will be yellowing and wilting. If you're unsure, give the plant a little tug. If it comes out of the ground easily, it's time to harvest!
- Start by putting on your gloves if you plan on using them. Some people like the feel of soil under their fingertips... to each his own.
- Grab the potato plant close to the base and move it side to side and back and forth, loosening it a bit. Then pull the entire plant up. You should see the original seed potato, as well as the fresh potatoes hanging onto the plant.
- Using your garden fork or your hands, start digging around where the plant has been pulled up. If you're using a garden fork, be careful not to damage the potatoes as you dig them up. Once you have a few dug up, place them in your container and continue until you've harvested all the potatoes you need! And that's it! You've now successfully harvested your own potatoes!