Learn when and how to harvest potatoes

When to harvest potatoes in garden beds and containers

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Potatoes are one of the easiest crops to grow producing a bounty of tasty tubers when planted in garden beds and containers. Plus, there’s so many awesome potato varieties to grow – from fingerlings to russets – in a rainbow of colors. But as the crop is produced below ground, it’s hard to tell when the tubers are ready to dig. So, how DO you know when to harvest potatoes? 

Learn how to harvest and store homegrown potatoes.

Don’t wash potatoes after harvesting unless you’re about to eat them. Instead, cure them for one to two weeks and then store in a cool, dark place.

When to harvest potatoes? 

Harvesting potatoes is so much fun, even the kids will want to help. It’s like digging for buried treasure – treasure you can eat! There are two main types of potatoes: new potatoes and storage potatoes, and both harvesting time and techniques differ between the two types. Because I want both new potatoes for summer cooking and storage potatoes for fall and winter, I plant at least one bed of each. Figuring out when to harvest potatoes can be a challenge for new gardeners, but once you know the basics, timing the harvest is a snap!

New Potatoes – All potatoes can be new potatoes if harvested when the tubers are still small and thin-skinned, about 50 to 55 days from planting for early maturing varieties. The first sign that new potatoes have formed is the appearance of the flowers. At that point, feel free to start harvesting.

Storage Potatoes – Storage potatoes, also called main-crop potatoes, are ready at the end of the growing season when the foliage has turned yellow and begun to dry. Some gardeners cut off the foliage while others allow it to die back naturally. Either way, the tubers need to be left in the ground for about two more weeks. This allows the skins to thicken up, which results in better storage quality. 

New potatoes can be harvested after potato plants flower

Don’t be shy about trying some of the awesome varieties of potatoes available through catalogs and in garden centres. Caribe is a gorgeous purple skinned variety with bright white flesh. it’s not a long storage type, but makes a wonderful new potato.

How to harvest potatoes

Pick a dry day to harvest potatoes as moisture can spread disease and rot. What’s the best way to harvest? Carefully! Try to avoid piercing or slicing the potatoes when digging the tubers. If your spade does slip, eat damaged potatoes right away. I find it handy to keep a bowl nearby for damaged tubers which then head directly to the kitchen.

New Potatoes – When the plants begin to flower you can start harvesting new potatoes by reaching into the side of the hill and taking a few tubers from each plant. I use a gloved hand, not a tool, for this task as I don’t want to damage the plants and I want to keep my hands (relatively) clean. Once you’ve harvested a few new potatoes, push the soil back in place and mound it around the plants. 

If harvesting new potatoes from a container or potato grow bag, reach into the soil to feel around for the tubers, taking just a few from each plant at any one time. After harvesting new potatoes from in-ground or container plants, feed them with a fish emulsion fertilizer to encourage healthy growth and more tubers.

Storage Potatoes – To harvest storage potatoes, insert a garden fork about a foot away from the plant and gently lift the root mass. There may still be a few potatoes in the ground, so use a gloved hand to feel around for any missed tubers. Once harvested, gently brush off caked on soil and allow them to dry off for an hour or so outdoors. Do not wash the tubers. 

Container grown storage potatoes can be easily harvested by dumping the container onto a tarp or in a wheelbarrow. Sift through the soil with your hands to grab all of the tubers. 

Potatoes are easy to grow and fun for kids to harvest.

Kids love to help dig potatoes in the garden – and they may even eat their veggies!

How to store potatoes

Before they can be stored, potatoes need to go through a curing process. This helps the skin thicken up and extends the storage life of the tubers. To cure potatoes, lay them on newspaper, trays, or cardboard in a cool, dark spot (50 to 60 F, 10 to 15 C) with high humidity for one to two weeks. Pick a location that offers good air circulation. 

Once cured, move the potatoes (removing any that have signs of damage) to bushel baskets, cardboard boxes (with ventilation holes poked in the sides), low baskets, or brown paper bags. You can also find multiple drawer harvest storage at many garden supply stores. Don’t pile them too deeply, however as that can encourage rot to spread. Cover containers with cardboard or sheets of newspaper to block light. 

The storage area should be cooler than the curing site and be dark and well-ventilated. I use a corner of my basement, but a root cellar is best if you have one. Aim for a temperature of 40 to 45 F (4.5 to 7 C) with high humidity. Under ideal conditions, storage potatoes can retain quality for six to eight months. Check tubers regularly and remove any that show signs of rot or shrivelling. 

The thin skin that makes new potatoes so appealing limits their storage life to weeks not months. Therefore, enjoy new potatoes soon after harvesting them.

For a tutorial on when to harvest potatoes and how to do it right, check out this video by Savvy’s Jessica Walliser.

Do you have any tips to add on when to harvest potatoes? Leave them in the comments below. 

For more on growing potatoes in a garden, check out these awesome articles:

Learn when and how to harvest potatoes.

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28 Responses to When to harvest potatoes in garden beds and containers

  1. Doug says:

    Thanks so much!! I’m a new gardner and using bags to plant beets and potatoes. I didn’t have a clue about what I was doing but a good crop of potatoes came up in the bag. The flowers have just died leaving seed pods in their place. I learned that the seeds can be used to start new potato projects. The best part is that your description of how to check when to harvest the potatoes is both timely (for me) and useful. Many thanks again.

  2. Julie Friedman says:

    I am new to growing potatoes and just harvested a couple dozen. Too many to eat at once. How long can I keep these? Can I cure these? And if so, what is the process?

    I read about also leaving potatoes in the ground until October and then letting them sit on the soil to cure for a couple hours before storing. I will do that with the remaining plants.

  3. Anne says:

    Thank you for such an informative article. I’ve just planted my first potatoes and am waiting now to harvest them. Can’t wait to grow new ones using the information you’ve provided. Thanks again!

  4. Tanya Covey says:

    Hi! I have grown potatoes twice before and haven’t run into this problem. This year I noticed my plants beginning to wilt. While waiting a few days to harvest, we received a bunch of rain. The day after the rain, I went out to check on things and noticed I have several newly sprouted plants! What should I do? HELP!

  5. Chris Lowe says:

    I’m a new “gardener” and I use the term lightly 🤫 . . . your article & the comments have been very helpful. Thank you

  6. Cathy Mclean says:

    Should I store my potatoes in the frig to cure? I do not have a cool dark place. I live in Houston, Texas!

    • Niki Jabbour says:

      Hey Cathy… good question! I don’t think you can cure them in a fridge, it’s just too cool. If I were you, I would start to dig plants once the baby spuds have formed and, depending how many plants you have, you can continue to do that for weeks. That would likely be better than trying to cure them in too warm conditions. Good luck! Niki

  7. Wayne B says:

    I have the benefit of living out of town. I literally store my spuds and carrots down the well. I just put the potatoes in 20L/5 gal pails tied to a rope and hang them down the well [36 inch opening] The humidity and temperature are about perfect to keep the potatoes from September through to next June. Don’t overload the pails or use pails with handles in poor condition. Losing a pail of potatoes into the water is not fun. I live in Manitoba Canada so winter freezing and low humidity are a problem.

  8. Julie says:

    Does anyone know if you can eat the larger more mature potato plants straight from harvesting, or do they always need to be cured first?

    I tried my first potato planting this year and only have a single planter, so I’m sure there won’t be enough to mean there’ll be leftover to save for later.
    I know you can eat the small new potatoes right away, but I’d like to leave then to grow a bit bigger if possible.

    • Niki Jabbour says:

      Hey Julie. You can totally eat your mature tubers as soon as you harvest. You only need to cure them if you want them to last for weeks/months. 🙂 – Niki

    • Julie says:

      Perfect!! Thanks so much for clearing that up for me Niki, really appreciate that.
      Now the only trouble is having the patience to actually leave them in there a bit longer! :oD

  9. Ron Mitchell says:

    I’m trying something different this year. Instead of buying small, whole potatoes, I’m using true potato seed from William Dam Seeds. I ordered a variety called Clancy F1. So far I’m not overly impressed with how they have grown in the garden. In years past the growth would be sturdy and vigourous. These guys seem kind of weedy…spindly. They also don’t seem to want to ‘reach for the sky’ but prefer to be inclined to sprawl. I guess the real test will be when I harvest them. Will I get a good quantity of good sized tubers or will this just be another ‘learning lesson’? Time will tell.

  10. Paul Helfman says:

    I’m having a hard time figuring out which are my seed potatoes and which are my new potatoes. Can you help.

    • Niki Jabbour says:

      Hey Paul… usually by the time you harvest, the original seed potato has rotted away. Sometimes they’re still attached to the root system where the stem emerges but they’re soft and mushy. So you shouldn’t worry you may eat it. Just harvest all the firm and lovely baby potatoes. Enjoy! – Niki

  11. Cindy says:

    Can some of my potatoes be saved to use as starts next year? If so what is the best way to do it? I live in Illinois and the potatoes are Yukon gold variety. TIA

  12. Teresa says:

    First time potato gardener here. Thanks for all the great info!!!

  13. Frank says:

    After the plants die back is it important to continue to water in order for the potatoes to continue to develop?

  14. Laura says:

    My dad planted a bunch of sacks and he’s gone now
    I have no idea how many different varieties as he didn’t label them
    We live in Washington state and he planted beginning of May
    The foliage is still green I have no idea when they should be ready?

  15. Mary says:

    I planted red potatoes. They were potatoes I bought in the grocery store that had started to sprout. I just harvested some of them and they are yellow. How would that happen?

  16. Mike says:

    Hi Paul,
    SoCal newbie farmer here. I’ve grown potatoes in containers and in the ground. Oddly enough, one of the potatoes in this container crop has little green ‘tomatoes’ on one of the stalks. Any idea what this is, and are they edible?

    • Niki Jabbour says:

      Great question Mike! Those are fruits that came from pollinated potato flowers and they are NOT edible. They contain high levels of solanine do please don’t eat them. They do look like cherry tomatoes and if you cut them open, they’ll have seeds but they won’t come true to type so I never bother saving them. Hope that helps! – Niki

  17. Sue says:

    Okay, please explain how to keep harvested potatoes at 50 degrees in September, when temps are still in the 80s and 90s. All of these videos and websites tell us to do that, but not HOW. Which makes me wonder if you and the others know what you’re talking about, or just copying other people’s advice.

    • Niki Jabbour says:

      A little rude… we are horticulturists and garden professionals and if we offer scenarios for every region and living condition, it would make this a much longer article. I live in a house with a basement. And while it’s 75F outside now, my basement is about 60F and that is where I store my potatoes. You can also leave them in the ground until the outside temperature is cooler (as it is typically now in most parts of the Northeast US and Canada). Harvest as the seasons switch and hopefully you’ll have a cooler spot inside at that point. Otherwise, put them in a box or basket in a dark pantry, basement, garage, etc where they can at least be out of direct sun/away from light. Eat as soon as possible. You can’t store potatoes long-term (months) without a cool basement or root cellar.

  18. Alice Ryan says:

    Such a wonderful place to read about potatoes!! I didn’t plant any potatoes this year and thought I’d try beets. Well, out of 28 2″ plants, I ended up with 4 that grew. I just put my gloved hand into the soil, and there’s something that feels like a small carrot. LOL So I didn’t plant potatoes, but to my surprise I have 6 plants anyway. I knew what they were the minute I saw the leaves, so we shall soon see what’s under the dirt. I don’t have a garden, but dug around my fence about 3 feet, and that’s where I plant. 3/4 of one side is all raspberries that a large, sweet, and delicious, and they come twice a year, in June and Sept. The rest is filled with tomatoes and pickling cukes that I just started getting 3 weeks ago. I just want to share a potato story. I grew up on a dairy farm back in the 40’s and 50’s. My grandparents were in the big farm house, and we lived in a small house a small field away. Grandpa and his sons (my dad) planted potatoes in that field every year. When it came time they’d go in with their pitchforks and turn the soil over. Then the potatoes would sit in the air for two or three days, before they’d get them. I’d walk through the rows looking for the babies. Anything from the size of a cherry to a pea. I’d brush the dirt off on my pants and pop them in my mouth. Raw potatoes are delicious to me! Gram had a big garden behind the farmhouse. After she picked all the greenbeans for canning, she’d save a 1/2 of a bushel to dry out. When they were done drying, it was my job to sit in her back enclosed porch and take all the seeds out for next year. AND I could get out a roll for the player piano back there, and pump with my little feet (that barely reached the pedals) and watch the keys go up and down, playing I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles!

  19. New gardener says:

    Can you grow potatoes from organic store bought ones? Will they grow new ones and are they editable? Or do you have to use “Seeds” and if so what is a potato seed? Isn’t that just a potato?

    • Niki Jabbour says:

      Hi, some gardeners do plant organic store-bought potatoes in their gardens but the difference is that seed potatoes are tested for diseases like blight. So starting with seed potatoes is less lightly to introduce disease into your garden. You can also buy potato seeds, Clancy is a recent introduction. You need to start them indoors in mid-spring like tomatoes. I find it quicker and easier to grow potatoes from seed potatoes. Good luck! Niki

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