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When and how do I harvest my potato crop?
Since most gardeners neither grow potatoes in sufficient quantity to store for many months or have the proper conditions for storage, harvesting what are called new potatoes is most practical. The potatoes can be harvested any time they are of sufficient size to be eaten. This can be anywhere from 1 inch in diameter to full size. Harvest can usually begin about the Fourth of July. Many gardeners like to carefully pull back the mulch, remove soil from around the plant and remove some of the young potatoes without disturbing the plant so it can continue to grow and produce more potatoes. After removing a few potatoes replace the soil, hilling it up if the tubers were found very close to the surface and replace the mulch. This practice could continue until the tops of the plant die down.
For winter storage wait until the tops of the potato vines die to the ground then dig the potatoes, being careful not to damage the tubers. Spread the harvested tubers in a single layer in a dark airy, but not dry, location to cure for about a week. It is necessary to exclude all light or the tubers will turn green. Green tubers are bitter and can be toxic or trigger allergic reactions in some people. To exclude light, darken all windows or cover with a few layers of newspaper to exclude light. After curing, remove any tubers that show signs of rotting. If soil still adheres to the tubers let it be. Do not wash the tubers as doing so can encourage rotting. Store the tubers in a box or bag in a cool, dark location. Traditionally, this would have been done in a root cellar. Maintaining proper moisture is difficult in modern homes can be difficult. The temperature should be between 40-45 degrees and the atmosphere moist but not dank. Check regularly and remove any tubers which show signs of rot.