If you’ve ever tried your hand at growing potatoes, you know that the anticipation of harvesting those golden treasures is almost as exciting as the taste itself.
But how do you know when the time is just right to unearth those spuds and enjoy the fruits of your labor? Worry not, because in this article, I’m going to spill the potato beans (or should I say tubers?) on how to tell when potatoes are ready to dig up.
From the subtle signs to the not-so-subtle ones, we’ve got you covered. So grab your gardening gloves and let’s jump right in!
How to Tell When Potatoes are Ready to Dig Up – 9 Signs
Unearth the mystery of potato harvesting with our guide on “How to Tell When Potatoes are Ready to Dig Up.” From fading foliage to hilling heft, discover the 9 key signs that’ll have you digging up spud treasures like a pro!
1. Fading Foliage:
As your potato plants near maturity, you might notice a surprising change in their foliage. Those lush green leaves that once adorned your garden are starting to lose their vibrancy and turning yellow.
While you might miss the emerald hue, this transformation is a good thing! The plant is shifting its focus from leafy growth to bulking up those hidden treasures underground.
So, when the foliage starts fading, it’s like Mother Nature’s way of saying, “Hey, time to get those potatoes!”
2. Flowering Finale:
Picture this: your potato patch is abloom with charming white or pink blossoms. It’s like a garden party, and your spuds are the stars. But hold off on sending out the invitations to your harvesting shindig just yet!
While those lovely flowers might seem like a cue to start digging, they’re actually a sign that the tubers are developing below the surface.
It’s like the plants are teasing you with a preview of the deliciousness to come. Wait a few weeks after the flowers fade to enjoy the full potato extravaganza.
3. Cracking the Code – Skin Toughness:
Time for a little hands-on examination! Gently run your fingers over the skin of a potato. If it feels as thin as tissue paper, you might want to give it some more growing time.
However, if the skin feels thicker and tougher, you’re onto something exciting. This hardening of the skin is a fantastic indicator that the potatoes inside are swelling up and getting ready for their big reveal. Think of it as a potato bodybuilder flexing its muscles!
4. Sizing up the Situation:
Remember the old saying, “Don’t count your potatoes before they hatch”? Okay, maybe that’s not quite right, but size does matter when it comes to spuds.
The size of your potatoes can vary based on the variety you’re growing, but here’s a general rule: aim for potatoes that are at least the size of a golf ball. Those tiny marble-sized ones are cute, but they need more time to bulk up.
And just like humans, overly large potatoes might not be as tender and delightful. So embrace the diversity of sizes in your potato patch for a tasty medley.
5. Patience with Patience:
We know, waiting can be tough, especially when it comes to your precious potato harvest. But here’s the thing: good things come to those who wait, and that includes potatoes.
While you might be tempted to go on a treasure hunt early, hold off until you’ve given your potatoes the recommended time to mature, which is usually around 10 to 12 weeks after planting. Your taste buds will thank you later for the scrumptious patience you exercised.
6. Yellowing of Foliage:
We’re back to foliage, and this time it’s about that classic autumnal color—yellow. As your potato plants approach their full growth potential, their leaves might start to change color, fading from green to yellow.
It’s almost like they’re putting on their fall fashion show. But fear not, this isn’t a sign of trouble; it’s a sign that the plants are redirecting their energy to those precious potatoes beneath the surface. It’s like the plants are giving the tubers their final pep talk.
7. The Sneak Peek:
Imagine you’re at a birthday party, and you can’t resist peeking under the wrapping paper of a gift. Well, the same temptation might hit you when you’re tending to your potato patch.
While we advocate for patience, a little sneak peek won’t hurt. Gently dig around the base of a plant to reveal a small section of your potato hill.
If you find some well-sized spuds with thin skins, you’re onto something delicious. However, if they’re still small and delicate, cover them back up and let them continue their growth journey.
8. Wilting Wonders:
Let’s talk about a plot twist in the potato-growing saga: wilting foliage. It might seem counterintuitive, but when your potato plants start to wilt and appear as if they’re saying goodbye, they’re actually saying, “Hello, it’s harvest time!”
This wilting is a natural progression as the plants reach the end of their lifecycle. Think of it as their grand finale, their swan song, their way of letting you know that the potatoes are reaching their peak scrumptiousness.
9. Hilling Heft:
Throughout the growing season, you’ve been piling up soil around the base of your potato plants like you’re building tiny potato mountains.
This hilling technique is more than just a workout for your arms; it’s also a brilliant indicator of potato readiness. As harvest time inches closer, those soil mounds will start to feel a bit heavier.
It’s like they’re hiding the treasure of plump, mature potatoes underneath. So, when your potato hills are heftier than before, it’s time to channel your inner treasure hunter.
Storing Your Potato Bounty
Once you’ve successfully dug up your precious potatoes, it’s time to think about how to store them properly to enjoy their deliciousness for months to come. Here are a few tips to keep your spuds in tip-top condition:
Curing for Toughness:
Just like a good marinade makes meat tastier, a curing period toughens up your freshly dug potatoes. Allow them to sit in a cool, dry spot for about two weeks before storing.
This process helps the skins become more resilient, ensuring that your potatoes stay fresh longer.
Dark and Cool:
Remember, potatoes are like introverts—they prefer a cool, dark environment. Store your cured potatoes in a space with a temperature range of around 40-50°F (4-10°C). Avoid direct sunlight, as it can lead to sprouting and those dreaded green spots.
Ventilation is Key:
Potatoes need to breathe, just like we do after a jog. Opt for breathable storage options such as burlap sacks, wooden crates, or mesh bags. These allow air to circulate around your potatoes, preventing moisture buildup that could lead to rot.
Check for Sprouts:
We all love a good surprise, but sprouting potatoes aren’t exactly the kind we’re looking for. Regularly inspect your stored spuds for any signs of sprouting or softening. If you find any culprits, remove them promptly to prevent the issue from spreading.
Separate from Onions:
While they’re the dynamic duo in the kitchen, potatoes and onions have a less harmonious relationship in storage. Keep them apart to avoid transferring moisture and odors, which can lead to spoilage.
You’re now armed with the potato-growing wisdom to recognize those sneaky signs that your tubers are ready to shine. With fading foliage, flowering finales, and the irresistible allure of hilling heft, you’ll be able to time your potato digging perfectly.
And remember, the adventure doesn’t end with the harvest—storing your bounty requires some love and care too. So go forth, brave gardener, and may your potatoes be bountiful, your meals be scrumptious, and your gardening journey be endlessly rewarding! Happy digging!