Allotment Vegetable Growing
Sunday 19 May 2013
Vegetable Growing Advice - Vegetable Guides
Harvesting & Storing Potatoes Guide
Your first early potatoes will be ready to harvest between 8 and 12 weeks from planting. These are your 'new potatoes' to be just cleaned and boiled for a special treat at the start of summer.
It's worth sacrificing a plant or two before they are really developed and harvesting the small tubers early for the delicious meal, leaving the other plants to grow on until you are ready for the next treat.
Approach from the side with a fork and lift trying to avoid spearing you crop. You always manage to fork a few, nature of the beast, I'm afraid. You can get special potato forks with flat tines but an ordinary fork will do the job.
With the early varieties you will probably want to get them out of the ground to free the space for other crops. If you leave them in too long the amount of slug damage increases and the risk of blight striking increase (see potato blight)
The maincrop, being the slowest to develop and in the ground for longest are most vulnerable to the blight. When the haulm, as we call potato foliage, starts to go down it is good idea to cut it down a few days or a week before you harvest. Any blight spores on the haulm that get onto the tubers (the actual potato we eat) can cause them to rot in store.
Try and pick a dry sunny day to harvest your potatoes and leave them on the surface for a few hours to harden the skin. This will help them store better. If they are coming up dirty rinse them in a bucket before hardening. You don't want them fully washed, just get the thick off.
Do try to get even tiny potatoes out or next year they'll be growing and acting as a reservoir for pests and disease.
You might want to sow a quick green manure after your potatoes - see green manures
The best way to store your potatoes is in hessian sacks that you can buy from many of the seed suppliers. You can often pick up paper sacks from chip shops, which will do the job although not as well or even use an old pillow case. Don't store potatoes in plastic bags. You need to exclude light or the potato will turn green but allow them to breathe and moisture to evaporate
Before you store them, sort them out. Any damaged potatoes will need using first. This could be ones you've caught with the fork or damaged by a slug. If blight has struck check carefully that it hasn't started on any tubers. Discard these as the blight will spread in store.
The ideal is keep your potatoes at 5°C - a cool dark shed or garage is often the best place. Do not allow your potatoes to freeze, freezing will cause them to taste strangely and may start them rotting. To cure this taste, bring them into the house and store at 15 to 18 degrees for a week before using.
If your potatoes have some green from being exposed to light, storing in the dark can reverse this process. As a rule, do not store potatoes that are more than a third greened.
Slugs may well be hidden in a potato you store so adding a few pellets into the sacks will attract and kill them preventing further damage but with zero environmental risk.
Check your stored potatoes each month for signs of rot. Just empty the sack and inspect them before re-packing. Often your nose is a good guide. Blight has a very noticeable stink.
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