Fruit & Vegetable Gardening

Harvesting Potatoes

Just because I messed up this season, doesn’t mean you have to make a mess of harvesting potatoes later this year!

Harvesting potatoesThis year,  I thought that it would be a good idea to dig up half of my crop of Kestrel Potatoes, put them in a large hessian sack and place them in a dark, cool and dry place – under my stairs. However, several weeks after harvesting potatoes I discovered a sticky brown liquid beneath the bag. I was shocked to find that some of the potatoes in the center of the bag had rotted, leaving a disgusting mess. Most of the surrounding potatoes had also been affected.

So, what went wrong? Many factors could have caused this. The potatoes may have been too damp, damaged or affected by many fungal diseases. I did leave some of the soil on the potatoes to help draw moisture away from the tubers. What else could I have done to prevent this happening again?

Don’t rush off and dig up all of your potato crop!

Many of us feel that once the green leaves of the potato plant begins to turn yellow and drop, that is the time we should earnestly harvest our potatoes. This is simply not the case. We can leave them in the ground and dig them up whenever we need them.

Keeping potatoes in the ground is an excellent way of keeping them fresh. On harvesting, they will taste as good as they were in the summer months. The only difference is that they may taste a little sweeter. As soon as the plant dies back the starch in each tuber starts to turn to sugar. The only drawback is that you may attract slug damage. Slugs crave the sugar content of older potatoes, so you may have to take measure to protect your crop. Hopefully organic measures!

My crop has now all gone. I just wish I had left the potatoes in the ground and taken only what I needed. You can leave them under the protection of the soil at least until Christmas. You must always make sure that your potatoes are covered (at all times and at any part of the growing cycle). If they are exposed to daylight, they will rapidly turn green and green potatoes are poisonous!

By James Middleton

An obsessive gardener since 1982. Day-time job - web designer and developer and University lecturer.

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