“What do potato plants look like when ready to harvest?” As a question is a sign that you feel your potatoes are ready for harvest but you just want to be sure.
Well, potato plants that are ready for harvesting will have large tubers and must have stopped growing. Read this article to know when your potatoes are ready for harvesting.
- What Do Potato Plants Look Like When They Are Ready to Be Harvested?
- – The Bloom Has Ended at Least Two Weeks Ago
- – The Potato Plant Stops Growing
- – The Plant Becomes More Vulnerable to Pests
- – The Potato Leaves Are Falling or Turning Yellow
- – The Whole Potato Plant Is Shrinking
- – You Can Easily Find Full-sized Potatoes Near the Soil Surface
- – By the Time of the Year
- – The Duration of Planting
- – Indication From Other Gardeners
- – Monitoring the Growth Stages of Your Potato Plants
- How Can You Help Your Potatoes To Produce More Tubers?
- How Do You Harvest Your Potato Tubers?
What Do Potato Plants Look Like When They Are Ready to Be Harvested?
Mature Potato plants look weak and dead when they are ready to be harvested, as they have passed maturity and stopped growing. Their leaves will drop and their stems will dry up.
– The Bloom Has Ended at Least Two Weeks Ago
Even though you may not be interested in your potato flowers, you surely need to see them before you can start digging for potatoes. The flowers are not responsible for the production of tubers, but they indicate that the plant has reached maturity and will soon be ready for harvesting.
After successful pollination (or not), the flowers will fall. Fruits may form if pollinated correctly, but you are more interested in tubers. Your potato plants will be ready for harvesting two to four weeks after the last flower drops depending on the variety.
– The Potato Plant Stops Growing
Something common between every tuber-growing plant is that you can tell that they are ready for harvesting when they stop growing. The plant which once had heavy foliage will immediately stop growing new leaves and you may notice a reduction in the leaves.
When you see that your potato plants are not growing new leaves, growing taller, or becoming thicker in their stem, you can tell that the plants will soon be ready for harvesting. You only need to wait some weeks extra before you can collect the tubers.
– The Plant Becomes More Vulnerable to Pests
The thing about healthy and young plants is that they are less prone to pest attacks. Your old potatoes that are ready for harvesting may be dying already, so they might be heavily attacked by insects and other pests. Their once green and fresh leaves will look old and ugly due to pest attacks.
You will see holes or white spots in the leaves. You may also find the culprits on the leaves, especially early in the morning or late in the evening. So long as your potato plants have successfully flowered, you just need to wait for a few weeks and you can harvest their tubers.
– The Potato Leaves Are Falling or Turning Yellow
One major sign that your potato plants have completed their annual life cycle is that their leaves will fall from them or turn yellow. The yellowing of your potato leaves which occurs some weeks after flowering is good for you because it is a sign that you only need a few extra days before you start harvesting your potatoes.
The yellowing of your potato leaves which can tell you that your potatoes are ready for harvesting will most likely occur just before the start of a new season. Note that yellow leaves in potatoes can also indicate pest attacks, bacterial blight, nutrient deficiency, and other problems in your potato plants. This means that the leaves should only turn yellow after the plant successfully flowered.
– The Whole Potato Plant Is Shrinking
After the leaves turn yellow and fall, the remaining parts of the potato plant will start to shrink and dry up. The plant might even fall from its trellis or support. This is a sign that the plant’s annual life cycle is completed and you can start checking for tubers because the tubers are ready for harvesting.
Do not worry if the plant is dying, especially if the plant is dying after it has matured (i.e., produced flowers and fruits). You just need to gather your harvesting and storing tools because it is almost time to start digging for potatoes.
– You Can Easily Find Full-sized Potatoes Near the Soil Surface
When the plant looks dead and has very few or no green leaves left, use a brush to brush off the soil around its root region. You should see large potatoes around the root, not very far from the surface of the soil. This means that you can start collecting the potatoes.
With regards to the size of the tubers, remember that size is relative. This means that the expected size of your potato tubers depends on the variety, as fast-growing varieties produce smaller tubers. Also, note that the growing condition of the potatoes affects the number and size of tubers produced.
– By the Time of the Year
The time of the year will tell you when to harvest. You also have to take into account the variety you are harvesting as that indicates the growing season of your potatoes. There are different times for harvest depending on what kind of potato you want in terms of size.
- When to harvest for what size:
- First early potatoes: These potatoes take little space and produce little tubers. While you can start planting them in march, you should wait until June or July before you can harvest them.
- Second early potatoes: These plants need slightly larger space and produce larger tubers. Plant them in mid-April and harvest them around July and August.
- Maincrop potatoes: Maincrop potatoes produce the largest tubers, but they grow slowly. Plant them in April and expect their tubers between August and September.
- Here are some common potato varieties as well as the best season to harvest them:
- Blue potatoes: In fall months.
- Fingerling potatoes: Fall through spring.
- Long white potatoes: Spring until summer.
- Yellow-fleshed potatoes: Check them in late summer. They will be fully ready in early fall.
- Red potatoes: Between summer and fall.
- Russian banana potatoes: Late summer.
- German butterball potatoes: Late summer.
- New potatoes: Harvest them in late winter or from spring to summer.
- Russet: You can harvest them year-round.
- Sweet potatoes: Early fall.
– The Duration of Planting
The duration of planting refers to the number of days that your potato plants need to grow before you can harvest their tubers. If you know the number of days that you should wait for, you can easily tell when your potato plants are ready for harvesting.
Here are the types of potatoes and the number of days to wait for:
- First earlies: You should wait for at least 90 days before your first earlies will be ready for harvesting.
- Second earlies: These potatoes need at least 110 days before they can be mature enough for harvesting.
- Main crops: Main crops are potatoes that produce the largest tubers. Wait for 135 days after planting before harvesting.
– Indication From Other Gardeners
One stress-free way to tell that your potatoes are ready for harvesting is by joining gardening forums and clubs. You do not even need to ask questions before you can know when your potatoes are ready for harvesting because a few people will already be starting the conversation.
As long as you planted your potatoes at the same time as other gardeners and you cared for the plants, you can use recommendations from the forums to know when you can harvest your potatoes. Do not fail to regularly attend meetings or comment on posts.
– Monitoring the Growth Stages of Your Potato Plants
Potato growth stages are stages that your potato plants must reach or pass before they can be ready for harvesting. They include germination, flowering, and maturity. So long as you have seen your potato plants pass every stage of growth, you can tell that they are ready for harvesting.
Here’s how to tell what stage your potato plants are currently in:
- Germination of the plant: When you plant potatoes, they need to germinate. This stage is simply when the plants start growing.
- Vegetative growth: The plants produce a lot of leaves in this stage. They also grow potatoes (i.e., the tubers) in this stage.
- Flowering and fruiting: Potatoes that are mature will produce flowers. If the flowers successfully pollinate, they will lead to fruits. The fruits contain seeds through which you can grow new plants.
- Tuber bulking: The plants, in this stage, spend more nutrients in growing tubers that are larger. They no longer produce new leaves and other organs, so they spend all their nutrients and energy on tubers.
- Maturity and readiness for harvesting: This usually occurs before the next season. The plants start to shrink and die. The potatoes are ready for harvesting at this stage.
How Can You Help Your Potatoes To Produce More Tubers?
To help your potatoes to produce more tubers you can do things like exposing them to more sunlight or growing them in nutrient-rich soil. To help your potato plants to produce more tubers, you want to make sure that they grow in the best possible growing conditions.
– Expose the Potatoes to More Sunlight
Potato plants produce tubers. Plants produce tubers with the help of the sun, as tubers are simply made of energy (carbohydrates) that they store through photosynthesis. This means that the more photosynthesis occurs in your potatoes, the more tubers they will produce.
While so many factors affect the rate of photosynthesis in plants, the most important factor to consider is light, as plants can only photosynthesize in the presence of light. This means that if you want more tubers, you need to expose your potatoes to more sunlight. Please do not expose them to more than eight hours of direct sunlight daily so that you do not burn their leaves.
– Grow Them in Nutrient-Rich Soil
Even though potatoes grow more tubers in the presence of more light, they need nutrients to produce leaves and other parts. Photosynthesis usually occurs in the green parts of plants, especially leaves, so your plants need enough nutrients in the soil if you want them to produce tubers.
Ensure that the soil is rich in nitrogen, as nitrogen is the major nutrient that is responsible for the production of leaves. Just make sure that the soil is not nutrient-depleted so that your potato plants will not have stunted growth and will have more tubers.
– Do Not Prune the Leaves of Your Potato Plants
Potatoes and other agriculturally important plants are not like the ornamental plants that you need to prune regularly so that you can maintain their beauty. Even though you want your potatoes to be beautiful in your garden, your major focus is on ways to encourage more tuber growth.
Potato plants need a lot of leaves to produce tubers, so you should not prune the leaves. Instead, only remove the dead ones or those that have turned yellow. Instead of removing the leaves and branches growing away from the wall or trellis, change their direction by taking them to a new spot.
– Prevent Pests From Attacking Your Potatoes
Pests eat potatoes, so they are dangerous to plants. Some pests attack your potato leaves and prevent the plants from producing more tubers. Others attack the potato tubers and destroy them in the process. This means that you want to prevent pests from attacking your potato plants.
Watch out for caterpillars, beetles, spider mites, and other types of insects on your potato leaves as they will create holes in the leaves and kill the leaves in the process. You should also watch out for groundhogs, cutworms, and other pests that attack plants from the ground as they will destroy the tubers.
– Grow Your Potatoes in Beds and Sacks
Growing potatoes in beds and sacks is a planting trick used by many gardeners. This trick can ensure that your potatoes will grow in loose soil, have enough water and nutrients, and produce more tubers. Potatoes growing in beds and sacks produce more tubers as the roots are well-covered and you can easily add more soil to cover more parts of the stem.
– Cover Your Potato Stems Regularly
If you want your potatoes to produce more tubers, you should cover their stems regularly, as the covered parts of potato stems can grow more tubers. After four to five weeks of planting, cover the stem of the potatoes. Continue to cover the potatoes once weekly until the added soil reaches a total of 8 inches at least).
– Grow Your Potatoes in Loose Soil
Loose soil ensures that your potato roots can breathe easily. Loose soil also ensures that there will be more space for your potato plants to grow more tubers. If the soil is too compacted, your potatoes will have stunted growth and this will negatively affect the growth rate of the tubers.
Potato plants growing in compacted soil grow smaller tubers because there is no space for the tubers to bulk up. To know if the soil of your potato plants is loose, monitor how quickly water drains from the soil. If water stays on the surface of the soil for a long time, you need to loosen the soil by mixing it with perlite, sand, and other products that help to loosen the soil.
How Do You Harvest Your Potato Tubers?
To harvest potatoes’ tubers, gently brush the soil and remove the tubers of the mature potatoes with your fingers or a spading fork. After harvesting the tubers, expose them to the air and sun for a little while, especially if the soil is soggy.
– Harvesting Potatoes in Sacks or Bags
If you are growing your potatoes in sacks or bags, you can easily harvest them, as bagged potatoes are the easiest to harvest. You only need to roll down the sack and reveal the roots and soil. You should already see large tubers of potatoes before you scatter the soil. Using your fingers, scatter the soil and roots then collect the tubers.
If you like, you can flood the open soil with water. The water will quickly wash off the soil from the potato tubers, giving you quick access to the tubers. You can now remove the harvested potatoes from the sack and cure them.
– Harvesting Potatoes in Raised Beds
Potatoes ready for harvesting in raised beds are also easy to harvest. Their growing medium is elevated, so you only need to reveal the roots with your fingers, a trowel, or a spading fork. Be careful so that you do not damage the tubers while digging the soil. You do not need to dig too deep to reveal the tubers.
So long as you are growing your potatoes on the right substrate (i.e., a loose one), the soil should be very easy to dig. When you have revealed the tubers, use your hands or a spading fork to remove them from the soil.
– Harvesting Potatoes in Level Grounds
Potatoes that are growing in level ground are the most difficult to harvest, as you will need to dig more inches into the soil before you can get the potatoes. Dig potatoes from the soil as gently as you can so that you do not damage them.
Ensure that you keep digging until you cannot find any more potatoes in the soil. Remember to cure potatoes by exposing them to the sun. This is essential in storing potatoes for a long time. Harvesting potatoes is easy, right?
Now you can grow and eat homegrown potatoes, as you now know what potato plants look like when they are ready for harvesting. Take note of the following points from this article:
- Do not worry if your potato plants are dying some weeks after flowering, as it means that they are getting ready for harvesting.
- Note that the time to harvest potato tubers depends on the type or variety of potatoes that you are growing.
- First earlies produce little tubers quickly while maincrop plants are the last to produce tubers, as they produce the largest tubers.
- To store potatoes, ensure that you cure them by exposing them to the sun first so that they do not rot quickly.
- Grow your potatoes in bags or sacks so that you can easily care for them and harvest their tubers when the time is right.
Ensure that your potatoes grow in the right growing conditions so that they can produce larger tubers.
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