Harvesting Potatoes ?

guthriegatorfarmAugust 19, 2009

So I've never had to pay much attention to potatoes, but it seems that we've usually planted them in June or so, hill them as we go along, and then in September the plants get ugly and brown and we dig them up and have a bunch of potatoes.

This year we did them a bit differently - we planted them in a long ring of last years compost, then alternated filling it back in with straw and dirt. We also planted these ones quite a bit earlier than usual. The plants have been absolutely happy and beautiful in their new home.

A few weeks ago I was having guests for dinner, ran short on potatoes so reached my arm way down into the patch and pulled out quite a few spuds that were much bigger than I was expecting. Since then the plants have seemed to be dying back already, so I thought they must be ready to harvest.

I dug a few plants out and what I'm finding is a few giant potatoes, lots of smallish medium sized ones, and tons of teeny tiny ones. They seem to be getting bigger the further down I dig - and I don't remember exsctly how far I started, but I haven't hit bottom yet.

What I'm wondering is - would you harvest them all now, or wait and let them grow for awhile, even though the plants themselves look pretty dead? My mother in law said to just reach down and pull out the big ones, but they're WAY down there and I feel like I'm mucking up all kinds of roots and stuff - I'd hate to harvest 10, but have 20 rot because I didn't find them, you know? I don't know if that happens or not actually. She also said that I could pull up the plants, tiny spuds still attached, dig out the large ones and then replant the plant again and let the little ones grow - but these plants look well on their way to dead.

Advice? I feel like a moron - my husband usually does the potatoes, while I stick to my tomatoes and flowers - but this summer he's had to work so much that I'm doing it all pretty much by myself, and I've just never had to learn much about them till now!

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peggy_hosta(z4 neSD)

I'm afraid your plants wouldn't grow if you stuck them back in the ground after plucking the big potatoes off. I would bet that it's the variety of pot. that's the issue here- not something that you did unless you didn't water them thoroughly and only the top part got moisture.

    Bookmark   August 20, 2009 at 12:48PM
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I'm not quite sure what you mean by 'variety of pot'?
Maybe you mean where they're planted? Because I probably didn't explain that very well. I have a long, narrow ring made of fencing - it's about 3ft wide and 30ft long or so, about 4ft high - with last years compost in the bottom, where we planted the potatoes, and then as they've grown we've filled it with straw and dirt. We've had a cold, wet summer until very recently - and they seemed to LOVE that. But then it very suddenly became very hot and humid and that's about when the plants all seemed to turn brown - maybe it was the sudden shift in the weather? The rest of my garden reacted pretty dramatically - but for the better.

How long do you think I can put off digging them up - maybe give those little ones a chance to grow more? Do potatoes rot if you leave them in the ground too long after the plants start to die?

    Bookmark   August 21, 2009 at 2:22PM
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leftwood(z4a MN)

Peggy's advice is right. Although I did get a brief chuckle from her "variety of pot" phrase. Don't know why, by my first thought was marijuana before the revelation that pot was short for potato.

By variety of pot(potato) I believe she meant named variety, like Kennebec, Yukon, etc. (like a carrot variety might be Danver's Half Long, Red Cored Chantenay, or Imperator).

If the tops are half dead, then it is time to dig. Some people in the Midwest (like Illinois) plant potatoes at Easter time. Here in MN I plant anytime in May. Planting later is okay, bit yield will probably be less.

    Bookmark   August 22, 2009 at 2:27AM
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pot = potato Of course. Definitely embarassed to have missed that one. I told you I'm feeling moronic lately!

I just don't remember what variety they were. They have a bright purple skin if that helps. I've started to dig them out and have quite a few more giant ones than I thought. It just seems a shame to be throwing out all these vines with these tiny potatoes left on them when it seems like there should be so much time left for them to grow. But some of the plants have completely and totally died now, and others seem to have perked up. I don't know what's going on, but I'm just going to dig them up and be done with it I guess.

Until later this fall that is - I have another patch that I didn't get planted until much later. Hopefully those will keep growing for quite awhile before I have to worry about them!

    Bookmark   August 23, 2009 at 11:23PM
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