When to harvest potatoes for the best crop possible
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There is nothing better than the taste of your very own home grown potatoes. Whether we choose to grow them in pots (which is ideal for smaller gardens or even growing on balconies) or if we have our own raised bed or vegetable patch, we all need to harvest our potatoes.
So you’ve grown your potatoes, now all you need to know is when the best time to harvest them is, as well as how to harvest the crop. The time in which you harvest them depends on the type of potato you have chosen. There are three types of seed potatoes, first early, second early and main crop potatoes. Whether you have grown the same crop variety in the ground or in pots they all generally need harvesting at the same time.
Firstly you need to know what type of seed potato you have, please see below to find out more information about them.
First early – These potatoes are always the first to be harvested as the name ‘First’ suggest. They are usually new potatoes that are approximately the size of an egg. You would usually plant these around March if planting in the ground. If you plant them in pots you can plant them slightly earlier around the end of February.
Second early – Plant these anytime between mid-March and mid-April.
Main crop – Best planted around mid-April and late March, these make up the majority of potatoes and often produce the largest yields.
How long do potatoes take to grow?
Lifting first early potatoes
First early potatoes usually take around 10 to 12 weeks from the date of planting before they are ready for lifting, this should be between June and July. The potato plants should be in flower and if they are then the potatoes should be ready.
If you have grown them in pots, it is worth just digging down slightly with your hand and checking they are ready, if not give them another week. If grown in the ground, just do the same and try and gently lift some soil to check a couple of potatoes to ensure they are ready. They need to be around the size if an egg and are used as new potatoes.
Lifting second early potatoes
Second early potatoes, usually take around 13 weeks before they can be lifted which is usually between July and August. Like first early potatoes, they they should have open flowers before harvesting and the potatoes should be about the size of an egg.
Lifting main crop potatoes
Main crop potatoes take around 20 weeks before they can be harvested. Depending on when you have planted them it can be any time between late August and October. When the plants have started to wither and have turned yellow you cut back the plant foliage and stalks to just about ground level. You then need to leave them for around two weeks before lifting, by which time they should of formed a hard skin that does not rub off in your hand.
How to lift your potatoes
When lifting your potatoes, it can be easier if you use a flat tined potato fork but using a normal garden fork will work too. Gently place the fork around the edge of the plants being careful not to get too close to the centre of the plant as this may damage potatoes. Gently lift with the fork from the soil.
If you have grown them in potato grow bags or pots them simply turn up side down and the soil should drop out revealing the potatoes.
Storing your potatoes
When you harvest them, let them dry out for a few hours before you store them in a cool, dry but frost free place either in hessian sacks or wrapped in paper. Never store them in polythene as this causes them to rot. Do not store potatoes you have damaged with the fork, these should be used straight away and will be fine to eat.
Main picture: credit: wikimedia.org
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