The Q&A Archives: Potato Harvest

Question: I tried two "tubes" of potatoes this spring. I created a circle with chicken wire, and as the potatoes grew, I added soil in the center and mulch (grass clippings and black/white newspaper) around the fence throughout the summer, making sure at least six inches of leaves were showing. This fall, I eagerly pulled away the fencing and harvested enough potatoes from two tubes for one meal for four adults.The idea of using limited gardening space is great; can you give me some ideas as to what I may have done wrong and suggestions for success next year?

Answer: Your system is sound, and you certainly should expect to harvest more than a bowlful of potatoes! Perhaps you harvested too soon. Potato plants give an indication aboveground of what's going on down below. When flowers appear on the foliage, it indicates that the tubers are beginning to swell. After the flowers die back, you can dig "new" potatoes, but you'll be sacrificing yield by harvesting this early in the season. When the tops of the potato plants begin to yellow and wilt naturally, the tubers will be fully mature and well-developed, and can be harvested. Next year plant several seed potatoes in each of your cages, mulch and water as required, and harvest after the tops of the plants die down at the end of the season. Better luck next time!

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