How To Tell When Your Potatoes Are Ready

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With all root crops, it can be a struggle to know when they are truly ready, and potatoes are no expectation to this.

How do you know whether your spuds are ready or not when they are buried underground?

As it turns out, there are a few tricks to know when the time is right, so let’s have a look.

Earlies or Main Crop?

If you are growing maincrop potatoes, the one thing to look out for is the leaves starting to yellow and die back.

As the plant ages, the leaves will naturally yellow, start to die off and generally look untidy.

When this happens, you know the potatoes are ready to harvest.

Look for:

  • Yellow/Brown Leaves
  • Leaves Wilting/Flopping
  • Leaves Dying Back
  • Plant Generally looks Untidy
When the leaves start to yellow, die and look untidy

If your potato plants leaves start to look messy, they are probably ready to harvest.

But what about if you are growing earlies or first earlies?

In this case, it gets a little trickier. This is because the leaves will not have started to die back because you are harvesting the plant much earlier.

Earlies can have lush green leaves but still be ready to harvest
Earlies can have lush green leaves but still be ready to harvest

An early potato can have lush green foliage like in the image above, but still be ready to harvest.

So how do you tell?

The easiest way to tell is to keep track of when you planted the seed potato and know the rough time to harvest.

Then when it’s getting near to your anticipated harvest date, have a root around in the soil.

This is the best way to know if earlies are ready. Get your hands dirty and have a good feel around for the tubers.

When you feel one, get a good gauge for the overall size.

Then I recommend searching for another; there can often be one spud larger than the others, so testing two is my recommended route.

Have A Root Around
Have A Root Around

Try and be gentle here because if you are a little early, then you don’t want to damage the still-developing tubers.

We are just feeling to try and gauge the size, not pull them up.

A Small New Potato
A Small New Potato

I pulled this spud from the plant behind it. And there was another I felt at roughly the same size.

If I wanted new potatoes, then this plant would be ready to harvest.

Flowers

Many people recommend waiting until your potato flowers have started to fade and die as a gauge for harvesting potatoes.

But I recommend removing the flowers so that the plant puts all of its energy into tuber production rather than trying to reproduce through seed production.

Pinch The Flowers Out As Soon As They Appear
Pinch The Flowers Out As Soon As They Appear

You can learn more about that here.

It’s Really Up To You

With all that said, it’s really up to you when to harvest your potatoes.

There is no such thing as harvesting a potato too early for it to be inedible.

The issue with harvesting early is that your potatoes will be smaller; the longer you wait, the bigger your harvest (as long as the plant is still alive and able to send energy to the tubers).

This can sometimes be a bad thing with earlies or new potatoes, as the potatoes taste their best when they are young and small.

With maincrops, you can’t leave them too long, and they actually store very well in the soil.

The longer you leave them the thicker their skin gets and the longer they last in storage.

There are, however, times when you may want to lift them ASAP. This is usually when you notice the plant suffering from blight or spot rust on a tuber.

In these situations, getting the tubers harvested as soon as possible is your best bet for saving your crop.

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