Vegetables and Fruit forum: Potatoes: when to harvest?

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Name: Neal Linville
Winchester, KY (Zone 6a)
Charter ATP Member I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Bulbs Cottage Gardener Roses Irises
Garden Ideas: Level 2 Celebrating Gardening: 2015
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gemini_sage
Jan 31, 2015 8:50 AM CST
Last year was my first attempt at an all out veggie garden, and it was lots of fun and a smashing success, so I'm pumped to go further with it this year. I planted Yukon Gold, a blue and a red skinned variety last year, and got a nice harvest of new potatoes, but not much of a later harvest of larger tubers for winter storage. How and when do you harvest? If I want mature tubers to store, should I forgo harvesting new potatoes?

I thought I had left enough in each hill to continue growing and maturing, but not sure. In fall they started trying to grow again, but it was too late to leave them. Perhaps I grew the wrong varieties for this application?
"...and don't think the garden loses its ecstasy in winter. It's quiet, but the roots are down there riotous." Rumi
Name: Tom
Southern Wisconsin (Zone 5b)
Irises Vegetable Grower Butterflies Region: Wisconsin Keeps Horses Cat Lover
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tveguy3
Jan 31, 2015 9:13 AM CST
Neal, It's best to grow some for new potatoes during the summer, and leave some for late fall harvest after the plant dies back. When you dig them you should take all of the potatoes from that hill, otherwise they may begin to grow into plants. Some people grow them under mulch and just reach in under the mulch and grab some off, but I have never tried that method. I like to build up a nice hill around them, they seem to produce more potatoes that way.
I am not afraid of an army of lions led by a sheep; I am afraid of an army of sheep led by a lion. - Alexander the Great
Name: Neal Linville
Winchester, KY (Zone 6a)
Charter ATP Member I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Bulbs Cottage Gardener Roses Irises
Garden Ideas: Level 2 Celebrating Gardening: 2015
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gemini_sage
Jan 31, 2015 9:36 AM CST
Ah, I see. I'm using raised beds, and the media is mostly the decomposed remains of piles of mulch the local tree trimmers brought a few years ago. The compost is loose and friable, so I was able to just reach my hand under and pull out potatoes. Having helped dig them as a kid, that was particularly fun for me! I believe this year I will grow them closer together, and harvest every other one for new potatoes.

Tom, are there any varieties you recommend? For various reasons- storage, vigor, etc.?
"...and don't think the garden loses its ecstasy in winter. It's quiet, but the roots are down there riotous." Rumi
Name: Mary Stella
Anchorage, AK (Zone 4b)
Peonies Ponds Dahlias Canning and food preservation Lilies Permaculture
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Oberon46
Jan 31, 2015 10:50 AM CST
I read an article that said the closer together the plants, the smaller the potatoes. I grow mine in felt pots, big 20 gallons ones and put maybe four seed potatoes in each. All I get is fingerlings from russets and small new potatoes from the Yukon Golds. Like you Neal, I want some big ones to store. Plus the return on the investment in the pots and stuff to fill them with (soil, leaves, straw, etc) is expensive for 30# of potatoes. I have the cooperative extensions pamphlet on growing potatoes here as well as one on growing them in pots. I will dig them out.
"What a person needs in gardening is a cast iron back with a hinge in it" Charles Dudley Warner (spelling edited by Dinu lol)
Name: Tom
Southern Wisconsin (Zone 5b)
Irises Vegetable Grower Butterflies Region: Wisconsin Keeps Horses Cat Lover
Dog Lover Keeper of Poultry Daylilies Celebrating Gardening: 2015
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tveguy3
Jan 31, 2015 10:51 AM CST
I ususally grow Yukon Gold, and Red Pontiac, Just like their flavor, and they seem to store well. I'm thinking about trying the German Butterball this year, someone on here recommended them, can't remember who. I don't know about varieties down in your zone though, there might be some better choices for your area, maybe someone else has some advice.
I am not afraid of an army of lions led by a sheep; I am afraid of an army of sheep led by a lion. - Alexander the Great
Name: Neal Linville
Winchester, KY (Zone 6a)
Charter ATP Member I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Bulbs Cottage Gardener Roses Irises
Garden Ideas: Level 2 Celebrating Gardening: 2015
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gemini_sage
Jan 31, 2015 10:59 AM CST
How close together is standard? I felt like I had a lot of wasted space, but I think they were about 2' apart.
"...and don't think the garden loses its ecstasy in winter. It's quiet, but the roots are down there riotous." Rumi
Name: Tom
Southern Wisconsin (Zone 5b)
Irises Vegetable Grower Butterflies Region: Wisconsin Keeps Horses Cat Lover
Dog Lover Keeper of Poultry Daylilies Celebrating Gardening: 2015
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tveguy3
Jan 31, 2015 10:59 AM CST
This is what I dug from my best hill of Red Pontiac

This was my smallest harvest from one hill of the reds
Thumb of 2015-01-31/tveguy3/d733a2
This was the largest bunch of Yukon Golds from one hill

and this was the smallest
Thumb of 2015-01-31/tveguy3/193b3d
These aren't as prolific as the reds.
I didn't take a picture of just the potato vines, but here's a pic of the sweet potatoes, and the irish potatoes are just to the right of them. You can't really see that they have been hilled in this picture.
Thumb of 2015-01-31/tveguy3/cd5f22

I am not afraid of an army of lions led by a sheep; I am afraid of an army of sheep led by a lion. - Alexander the Great
Name: Tom
Southern Wisconsin (Zone 5b)
Irises Vegetable Grower Butterflies Region: Wisconsin Keeps Horses Cat Lover
Dog Lover Keeper of Poultry Daylilies Celebrating Gardening: 2015
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tveguy3
Jan 31, 2015 11:00 AM CST
I think I plant them about 2 feet apart as well.
I am not afraid of an army of lions led by a sheep; I am afraid of an army of sheep led by a lion. - Alexander the Great
Name: Mary Stella
Anchorage, AK (Zone 4b)
Peonies Ponds Dahlias Canning and food preservation Lilies Permaculture
Garden Ideas: Level 2
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Oberon46
Jan 31, 2015 11:07 AM CST
Holy cow. Mine are at the most 12" or even less in the pots. I grew I grew the Yukon Gold and Kennebec. I am thinking of Yukon Gold, German Butterball and the Kennebec again. I am fighting potato scab though and not sure what to do about that. Doesn't hurt the potatoes but makes boiling them in their skins or baking pretty impossible. The pots sit in a cold shed all winter but I guess that doesn't kill the virus. I used new dirt in most of the pots last year and some came through clean, some not. Not sure how you would sterilize felt pots. The picture of stuffing them in my microwave is not pretty; same with the oven. Guess they could be put in a 33 gallon barrel with some sort of fungicide and water. I will go to the cooperative extension and ask.
"What a person needs in gardening is a cast iron back with a hinge in it" Charles Dudley Warner (spelling edited by Dinu lol)
Name: Neal Linville
Winchester, KY (Zone 6a)
Charter ATP Member I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Bulbs Cottage Gardener Roses Irises
Garden Ideas: Level 2 Celebrating Gardening: 2015
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gemini_sage
Jan 31, 2015 11:07 AM CST
Beautiful and helpful pics Tom! And gorgeous garden! I feel better, my yields per hill were mostly in the mid range, and I do think I had spaced them further than I needed to. It's been so many years since I've been around potatoes being grown, I'd forgotten what to expect.

And your sweet potatoes, did your vines get a lot bigger before the end of season? Mine were insane! Some traveled over 25'! Yields were good too, especially figuring in what I missed while digging them. The vines were such a jungle, I missed a couple of hills, and found them a few days ago while prepping beds!
"...and don't think the garden loses its ecstasy in winter. It's quiet, but the roots are down there riotous." Rumi
Name: Neal Linville
Winchester, KY (Zone 6a)
Charter ATP Member I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Bulbs Cottage Gardener Roses Irises
Garden Ideas: Level 2 Celebrating Gardening: 2015
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gemini_sage
Jan 31, 2015 11:09 AM CST
When do you both plant them? Using last projected frost date as a guide...
"...and don't think the garden loses its ecstasy in winter. It's quiet, but the roots are down there riotous." Rumi
Name: Mary Stella
Anchorage, AK (Zone 4b)
Peonies Ponds Dahlias Canning and food preservation Lilies Permaculture
Garden Ideas: Level 2
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Oberon46
Jan 31, 2015 11:10 AM CST
Wish we could grow sweet potatoes but our weather is too cold and too short. I never thought of the other kind as 'Irish' potatoes but I suppose they are.
"What a person needs in gardening is a cast iron back with a hinge in it" Charles Dudley Warner (spelling edited by Dinu lol)
Name: Mary Stella
Anchorage, AK (Zone 4b)
Peonies Ponds Dahlias Canning and food preservation Lilies Permaculture
Garden Ideas: Level 2
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Oberon46
Jan 31, 2015 11:12 AM CST
Mine went into the dirt late but still early enough that I had to drag the pots out the garage door to the sun on the driveway and then put them back at night. Not that they would freeze, but I wanted to soil to stay as warm as possible. So I would say 4 weeks from last frost. May 31 is the date we use, although I haven't seen a frost that last in as far as I can remember.
"What a person needs in gardening is a cast iron back with a hinge in it" Charles Dudley Warner (spelling edited by Dinu lol)
Name: Tom
Southern Wisconsin (Zone 5b)
Irises Vegetable Grower Butterflies Region: Wisconsin Keeps Horses Cat Lover
Dog Lover Keeper of Poultry Daylilies Celebrating Gardening: 2015
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tveguy3
Jan 31, 2015 11:52 AM CST
I used to always plant potatoes on Good Friday so I could harvest some by July 4th. Early frost doesn't bother them, if the top dies back a bit it will re-grow. Now I plant them around June 1. I found out that if I do that I'm not bothered by potato bugs. (not sure if you guys have them where you live) Here's a pic of the sweet potatoes about mid Sept. before harvest time, you can see they have over run everything, and the irish potato vines are nearly dead already.

Thumb of 2015-01-31/tveguy3/bce47a
This was my sweet potato harves last fall
Thumb of 2015-01-31/tveguy3/ab0c3c
Don't have many left, just enough to make some slips for next spring. These were Beauregard sweet potatoes.
I am not afraid of an army of lions led by a sheep; I am afraid of an army of sheep led by a lion. - Alexander the Great
Name: Neal Linville
Winchester, KY (Zone 6a)
Charter ATP Member I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Bulbs Cottage Gardener Roses Irises
Garden Ideas: Level 2 Celebrating Gardening: 2015
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gemini_sage
Jan 31, 2015 12:31 PM CST
Tom, we do have potato bugs, so that is a great tip!

I still have several sweet potatoes, including a couple of monsters that are bigger than I ever need at one time. I've been surprised by how well the little ones have held. I believe I'll use those for slips in spring.
"...and don't think the garden loses its ecstasy in winter. It's quiet, but the roots are down there riotous." Rumi
Name: Mary Stella
Anchorage, AK (Zone 4b)
Peonies Ponds Dahlias Canning and food preservation Lilies Permaculture
Garden Ideas: Level 2
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Oberon46
Jan 31, 2015 12:39 PM CST
I have not been bothered by any bugs at all
"What a person needs in gardening is a cast iron back with a hinge in it" Charles Dudley Warner (spelling edited by Dinu lol)
Name: Tom
Southern Wisconsin (Zone 5b)
Irises Vegetable Grower Butterflies Region: Wisconsin Keeps Horses Cat Lover
Dog Lover Keeper of Poultry Daylilies Celebrating Gardening: 2015
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tveguy3
Jan 31, 2015 12:55 PM CST
June 1st is the magic date for this zone regarding potato bugs, not sure what that would be in your zone. Probably later then that for you.
I am not afraid of an army of lions led by a sheep; I am afraid of an army of sheep led by a lion. - Alexander the Great
Name: Sandy B.
Ford River, Michigan UP (Zone 4b)
(Zone 4b-maybe 5a)
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Weedwhacker
Jan 31, 2015 11:02 PM CST
I think I was the one that mentioned the German Butterballs -- and they are definitely my new favorite! The plants were taller than the other varieties that I had (Red Gold and Russet Burbank) and I was afraid there wouldn't be anything under all that greenery, but they were VERY productive, had nice regular oval shapes, and I haven't found one yet, of any size, with a hollow middle. They have a beautiful golden-colored flesh and are great for mashing, frying, baking, and pretty much any other use. Still too early to tell right now, but the friends that recommended them to me said they kept very well over the winter for them.

I plant my potatoes about a foot apart, in trenches about 10-12" deep, and then cover them only partially and keep filling in the dirt as the plants grow. Dig some for new potatoes, then dig the rest once the plants start dying back.

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Name: Tom
Southern Wisconsin (Zone 5b)
Irises Vegetable Grower Butterflies Region: Wisconsin Keeps Horses Cat Lover
Dog Lover Keeper of Poultry Daylilies Celebrating Gardening: 2015
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tveguy3
Feb 1, 2015 5:22 AM CST
I thought you were the one to mention them, but wasn't sure. I'm going to get some to try this year.
I am not afraid of an army of lions led by a sheep; I am afraid of an army of sheep led by a lion. - Alexander the Great
Name: Neal Linville
Winchester, KY (Zone 6a)
Charter ATP Member I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Bulbs Cottage Gardener Roses Irises
Garden Ideas: Level 2 Celebrating Gardening: 2015
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gemini_sage
Feb 1, 2015 7:02 AM CST
I love the texture of Yukon Gold, seems to hold its shape while frying and doesn't break apart. And I feel I use less butter because of the color, LOL. Which makes German Butterball sound like a good one to try, sounds more productive than Yukon Gold.
"...and don't think the garden loses its ecstasy in winter. It's quiet, but the roots are down there riotous." Rumi

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