Potatoes are a relatively easy crop for the home gardener. Planted in rich, fertile, well-drained soil, they can produce many pounds of food per plant. They can be grown with irrigation or as a dryland crop. The potatoes must be hilled – covered with loose soil – at least twice during the growing period. Potatoes can be grown in the garden and also do well in containers.
Potatoes are generally grown as a storage crop. In times gone by, they might make the difference between a winter food supply and going hungry. How they are prepared for storage and actually stored makes a difference as to how long they last. With the exception of new potatoes, which are eaten within a day or two of harvest, most potatoes are stored from two to six months. Well-cured potatoes will store longer.
How potatoes are harvested will affect how well they cure and how well they store. Important harvesting points include the following:
- Wait three to four weeks after the tops die down before you harvest.
- Dig carefully to avoid damage to the potato skin or flesh.
- Don’t wash after harvest – just brush off loose skin.
- Don’t try to store damaged potatoes; cut out bad spots and use immediately.
Curing Potatoes After Harvest
For best storage place the newly harvested potato in a warm, dry place out of the sun. It doesn’t need to be dark, just shady. Good air circulation is also helpful. Ideal temperatures for curing range from 45 to 60 °F(6 to 16°C). arrange the potatoes in a single layer if possible so air can reach all sides. Roll or turn the potatoes a few times during curing. Be gentle to avoid bruising.
Curing Potatoes Before Planting
Seed potatoes can be small whole potatoes or cut up chunks of larger potatoes. Most gardeners chit, or sprout, their potatoes prior to planting. The whole potatoes can be planted without further preparation. Cut potatoes, however, should be cured. Curing dries the cut sections and helps them toughen slightly. This decreases the chance of disease, especially molds. Just place in a warm dry place for two or three days.