Best Time to Dig Potatoes

January 29, 2006

Cindy who grows her garden in Apopka, Florida recently raised a question regarding the best time to dig potatoes:

“Yesterday we discovered that all three of our plants now have produced potatoes. My question is when is the right time for us to dig up our crop? We have noticed that we still have a few babies that have yet to form into larger spuds.”

“We live in Florida and so I know that if we were in the Northern States that we’d be digging our crop up towards the fall. This is like the end of January and so my question would be… when do we dig them up? We have both red and white potatoes.”

Potatoes can be dug up and harvested whenever they reach the size that you wish to use. Some gardeners sneak a few of the small ones to enjoy as baby potatoes. Just keep in mind that the more baby potatoes harvested earlier, means you’ll find fewer full-sized ones to dig up later in the season.

Here in the north the potatoes can be left in the ground until after the potato vines stop growing and begin to die back in late summer or fall. That’s a sure sign that the potatoes have finished growing and are ready to be harvested.

Prior to harvesting keep any tubers that become exposed covered with soil to prevent the sunlight from turning them green, and don’t leave the potatoes in the sun for long after they’ve been dug up from the garden.

After the potatoes have been dup up and harvested brush the soil off, but don’t wash them until you’re ready to use them. Washing can reduce the storage life and encourage mold. Store potatoes in a cool, dark area after harvesting but avoid refrigeration.

Other Related Vegetable Gardening Posts:

  • I dig potatoes after the vine is all dead. No green is left in it. I lay them out on the lawn on a good dry day and dry the dirt off if they are wet and muddy at all. I then brush the dirt off and put in a heavy duty card board box. I put the white potatoes in one box red in another one etc to seperate them. I keep them in a cool dry place in the winter other wise they will sprout to soon and get soft. If I have any left by planting time I replant them out.

  • marge

    My plants are now about a foot tall. can I dig a few new potatoes anytime. I think I remember that they have to bloom first I live in Dallas TX

  • Michael Bodiford

    I just dug mine up a few days ago. The plants had started turning yellow but they never did bloom. I live in Fort Worth.
    We had several good sized potatos only after a couple of months in the earth.

  • kendall

    I planted 3 rows of kennebec potatoes, which is a fairly lightly colored white skin potato. These were in the ground a while and plants grew before I planted 2 rows of red skin potatoes beside them. I just recently dug up all 5 rows. I have no white potatoes, all 3 rows of white potatoes, and they were white when i planted them, but all 3 rows came out of the ground red. I have talked to several people that say they have never heard of something like that happenning. The potatoes are all good. We canned 14 quarts of the small ones and have a bushel left to fry and stew.

  • Kenny Point

    I have never heard anything like that either! There’s no way that I know of that the white potatoes could just turn into red potatoes at harvest time.

  • micah

    two years ago I planted white potatoes and they harvested red??? Nobody had heard of it when it happened to me either. I only planted white so I don’t even know where the reds came from.

  • Ann Watson

    I have another question. My potato vines are completely dead. Some potatoes have grown to full size (both Yukon Gold & Norland Reds) but there are still a lot of tiny ones. If I leave them for a few weeks longer, will the small ones continue to grow even though the vines are dead? I’m thinking that, because potatoes grow because they’re storing the food produced in photosynthesis, that once the vines are gone, they won’t grow anymore.

  • Kenny Point

    Ann, If the vines are completely dead the potatoes will not continue to grow, but the smaller spuds are perfectly fine to use also. It’s normal to harvest potatoes in an assortment of sizes.

  • Sherri

    I dug up my red potatoes and they are nice size but they have tiny white bumps all over them, not eyes but fine raised white bumps, are they ok to consume? This is the first year I have grown potatoes.

  • Kenny Point

    Hi Sherri, I can’t say what the bumps you describe are without seeing them and can’t imagine that it would be anything that would hurt you… but I’m going to speculate and tell you that they are ok to eat either. Is there a local cooperative extension office or Master Gardener program in your area where you could take a sample potato in and let them tell you exactly what it is that you are dealing with? Please let us know what you find out… thanks.

  • Pam

    Some of my red potatoes have crusty spots and some have split areas, the split is on the outside of the potato and are firm, I am just wondering if Ive done something wrong with planting or the ground is missing something.

  • Heather

    Sherri, I also have this problem I looked this up: “Swollen Lenticels
    Lenticels are the small specks on the surface of the tubers. These specks are organs used by the plant to “breathe.” When potatoes are subjected to soils that are saturated with water, the lenticels may swell as their function is impeded by the water. Swollen lenticels may appear as white bumps on the potato surface. This condition may reduce the storability of the potato by increasing susceptibility to soft rot.” This seems likely.

  • Shirley Smith

    Planted potatoes for first time. I bought 50 lb bag of Kennabec for $5.00 at Piggly Wiggle that was sprouting and they wanted to get rid of. This was the first of June. I didn’t know if they would grow or not. I didn’t plant them very deep but used straw when they started growing. At the end of August the tops died (I thought I had killed them). I started pulling the straw out and all sizes of potatoes was in the straw. We couldn’t believe it when we weighed them there was 75 lbs. Talk about good tasting potatoes. I gave our kids half of them. They already ate them. I plan next year to plant some early then plant a lot more in June. I was really tickled that they grew like that in the heat.

  • Kenny Point

    Shirley, congrats on the great harvest of potatoes!

  • sandy nelson

    Broke my one ankle & badly sprang other ankle, when started digging potatoes, they’re still in the ground. Have red potatoes and sweet potatoes out there. Would they still be alright? Ground has not froze yet and I live in central Indiana.

  • Kenny Point

    Hi Sandy your potatoes should be fine but I wouldn’t leave them in the ground too much longer.

  • maria avila

    I planted gold potatoes but don’t really know the best time to dig them up… Can any one help me?

  • Kenny Point

    Maria, potatoes are usually dug after the vines have stopped growing and turn brown as the plants die back.

  • Kim Nich

    I planted yellow potatoes too and all mine came up red. It was a blast though …like digging for gold (red)..really enjoyed growing the potatoes and look forward to starting this year…

  • It is the 24th of March here in Haughton, Louisiana. I have a staggered crop of Yukon Gold potato’s from 1″ to 6″ tall. When would you think that they will be ready to harvest?

  • Cynthia

    I planted over 100lbs of different varieties last year. Red, blue, gold and white. All my potatoes come up white. Why did this happen? Thanks

  • Kenny Point

    Cynthia, I have no idea how your potatoes could have all turned out white. When you planted them you could actually see the various colors? Do you know the names of the specific varieties that you planted?

  • Bruce

    I have read the suggestions regarding digging for new potatoes and leaving the plant to develop more. Do we have to wait until the plant blooms before starting this?

  • Kenny Point

    No you don’t have to wait, if there are new potatoes that have developed already you can harvest them lightly.

  • I have always heard as a young boy that you should dig potatoes during a certain phase of the moon so they will keep longer. If this is true what days in late June or early July is the best time to dig.


  • Farmer John

    I just dug some La Sodas out of a potato cage and saw the little white bumps also. After I read the note about lenticels above I realized that the spuds higher up (above ground level) in the cage had few, if any, of the bumps. I used compost to fill in the cage as the potato greenery grew and it definitely drains better than the original garden soil. One of the spuds grew at the transition point and the bumps were only on the bottom side. I would have to agree that overwatering is a probable cause of my issue. I have two other cages and will be watching them closely.

  • Kenny Point

    Some gardeners swear by both planting and harvesting particular crops depending on the phases of the moon. I’ve read a little about it but don’t really practice it in my garden so I can’t comment on how effective the technique is or which particular days are best for harvesting potatoes. A book or website on Biodynamic gardening may offer detailed information regarding the influences of the moon’s phases upon the garden.

  • Kimberly

    I planted red potatoes mid March and they will be ready for harvest in a few weeks. My Husband and I wanted to plant a crop of white potatoes and the local nursery told us it was too late in the season. Has anyone had any luck growing them late in the season?

  • Karen

    The vines on our red potatoes have died. My husband thought he heard that you can leave the potatoes in the ground until you are ready to eat them. What is your opinion?

  • kelly

    i don’t know what the bloom looks like on a potato plant. can someone direct me to a picture. i have several weeds growing up in the area therefore i am unsure as to which one is the from the potato.

  • Faye Lee

    I live in NW Louisiana. We planted Irish Potatoes in mid February and just dug them this past weekend (June 4). It has been an abnormally hot and dry spring–temps for the month or so the temps have been in high eighties and nineties. When we dug our plants, the vines were dead (completely). There were a lot of rotten potatoes and they are continuing to rot. Did I wait too long to dig them? Should I have dug them when the vines first started to die?

  • Kenny Point

    Hi Faye, sorry to hear about your potatoes. I’m not sure what caused them to rot but it probably wasn’t that you waited too long to harvest. I’ve seen potatoes remain in the ground all winter and they were fine when eventually dug up. Did you start with certified seed potatoes when they were planted? Was there any flooding or extended periods of heavy rain during the season?

  • April

    How deep will the potatoes be? I dug trenches about 4 inches deep, then mounded up some, 4-6″, as the plants grew. I just tried digging around for new potatoes and found nothing. Guess I put the potato pieces in the ground in mid-May, plants are big, but I’ve seen only a few flowers. Are the potatoes probably there, just deeper than I dug, or am I probably too early. BTW, these are Rose Finns … an expensive experiment from Burpee that I don’t want to fail. I’m in the Twin Cities in MN.

  • Kenny Point

    April, there should be something there by now but they could be deeper considering your planting depth and the fact that you mounded the plants as they grew. Not much that you can do at this point, I would just wait and leave the plants until they die back or you are ready to harvest. Good luck and let us know how your potatoes turn out.

  • Kyle

    First time potatoe grower. I planted red potatoes in the middle of April, and it is July now. The plants are starting to brown and die. They are about 60% green, 40% brown. The problem is I was looking at them one day and noticed some new growth coming up from the ground. I thought it to be odd so I dug up a plant and found that the potatoes on the vine were sprouting new eyes and starting to grow themselves. Is this normal. The potatoes are rather large for a red potatoes. Toledo OH

  • Kenny Point

    Kyle, that doesn’t sound normal to me. If the potatoes have sized up as you indicated I would be tempted to go ahead and harvest the crop now. Maybe first start by checking a couple other plants to see if those were sprouting and growing also.

  • amy

    I’m just wondering how long to leave potatoes in the ground after the plant has turned yellow and brown. Its been about 5 days and my husband thinks its too soon but I’m anxious to see them. Thanks.

  • Kyle

    I did go ahead and harvested them, and a grwaet crop. I did find roughly 10 or so of the potatoes had actually sprouted eyes and were starting to grow. It was only a very small percentage of the potatoes, so i do not know what happened. Thanks for your input.

  • Kenny Point

    Amy, you can go ahead and harvest them now. If the plant has died back the potatoes are finished growing.

  • i planted my potatoes the last of may ihave 2rows of early potatoes and 6 rows of later potatoes. i have dug sume with my hands from the sides of the row they are small to medium. but the tops are dieing down and my tomatoes 2 rows up from the potatoes, the stalks have all went brown and the leaves have all died, the tomatoes all got brown spots and started rottening, i think it might be blight or i gotthe miricle grow mixed to strong. i don,t know if i should dig my potatoes or wait and let them grow some more i don,t want to lose them all like i did with the tomatoes.

  • Kenny Point

    Hi Joyce, I would dig the potatoes if the tops have died back but you should be okay and able to harvest perfectly good potatoes even if the are on the small side. They will be fine to eat but don’t use them as seed stock to grow more potatoes next year. Also don’t plant your potatoes in the same place next year. Good luck!

  • Sue

    My yield was very small this year. Did I not water them enough? Generally
    I get lots of really good sized potatoes, fingerlings. My Kennebecs were the size of lemons. I also have a scab problem even though I rotate them.

  • LK

    1st timer also growing potatoes. When is the best time to harvest? My plants are still green, have bloomed and have some small pods that almost look like green tomatoes. I live in NW Oregon

  • Stan

    Hi, LK.
    I suppose you know that potatoes are closely related to tomatoes, and those pods are the fruit containing seeds. I think they are poisonous. Anyway, as long as the plants are green and healthy you can let the potatoes keep getting bigger. When they start dying back, wait for a dry spell and dig them up. But be sure to start scratching around the edges of a few plants to get some fresh new potatoes, boil them skins and all, add salt, pepper and butter — a nice seasonal treat!

  • Michael

    I planted 100 pounds of Kennebec seed potatoes and fertilized them with my own blend of fertilizer and raised over 2400 lbs of potatoes.

  • I’ve grown potatoes three years running, in a garbage can. I had the same thing happen this year as Sherri (July 13 comment)–just harvested (Sept. 24) and potatoes look healthy but have surface bumps on them (white). I don’t remember this in previous years. I live in the Pacific NW and it was a cloudy, rainy, cold this year.

  • Kaye

    Hi, We planted Yukon Golds this year (our third year for them). Last summer was very hot and dry here in NW Arkansas and we didn’t get a bumper crop. This year we moved the potatoes and planted them across the garden from where they were last year. The plants never bloomed. This is a first for us! We only got maybe 50 pounds of spuds from our plants. Most are medium to large size and look fine. Does anyone know why the plants didn’t bloom??

  • cassie

    I planted potatoes in cages in the fall in N. California, and the vines just died in may. I dug them up, left them to dry in the sun too long and they started turning brown. Are they safe to eat? They are a light skinned potato.

  • Sugar Snap Mama

    A bit late to be responding to this thread, but in case someone has stumbled onto it like I did today… In response to Joyce Pike’s question above, about her tomatoes dying, (which were planted near her potatoes)- In case it may help someone who is currently planning their garden when they read this- DO NOT plant tomatoes and potatoes together. Keep them well away from each other. They are from the same family, and susceptible to many of the same diseases and pests. Therefore, if they are planted closely together, they not only will do more poorly, as they don’t grow well together- but also, if one gets a disease or pest, it will quickly spread to both crops and you may lose both your tomatoes AND your potatoes. No fun. Also rotate both of these plants around your garden each year. Do not plant tomatoes or potatoes in the same place two years in a row, and do not plant one where the other was the previous year.

  • Tom

    My red and white potatoes have been planted since march 15th (now 1st june), only a couple of plants have flowered, 95% have not, but 75% of the vines are turning yellow and dying. Is this normal or is something wrong? will I have potatoes and should I see if I have a harvest? I live in middle tn zone 7a

  • Graced

    I didn’t realize that I was supposed to plant my potatoes very deep and maybe put them in about 4-5″. I’ve been trying to mound the soil up as the tops are growing, but having a hard time as the watering washes away the mound. I see above where one gal had good results using straw. I just planted about 3 weeks ago and the leaves look healthy, but am concerned I won’t get a good harvest. Should I dig them up and replant deeper? Suggestions?

  • Kenny Point

    No, I would not try to dig them up and replant! Just do what you were doing and hill them with soil or mulch with straw as they grow and to keep the potatoes covered.

  • RICK

    Colorado. Planted 8 russets in mid may. It is late August now and the potato bushes are huge, green and flowering still. Are they still growing at this point? The plant does not seem to want to die back–an indication of harvest readiness I am told. The mounds are 24 inches high. Should I stop watering or dig some up to see if they are big enough. This is my first attempt to grow spuds. I am growing them behind our office building and hope to have a harvest that we can have an potato bar day for all employees.

  • S S Mella

    I planted the “eyes” of russet potatoes in pots around the last week of March. I started mounding dirt as the greenery appeared. However, I didn’t think they would really grow and the pots are only about 1-2 gallon size. Now, there is large green foliage but no more room to keep mounding dirt. I’m thinking the potatoes have no room to grow in the pots. Is is possible to somehow remove them from the pots and replant in to larger, deeper pots?

  • S S Mella

    I live in Southern California where summer temperatures easily reach into the 100s. I planted Brussels sprouts in very large pots and put tomato cages around them around the last week of March and have kept them in under the shade of my back porch. They are now around 1 1/2 to 2 feet tall; however, something is eating holes in the leaves and sometimes whole sides of the leaves. I have been removing these leaves and occasionally sprinkling them with a mixture of water and Dawn soap. I’m not having as much trouble with the leaves; however, the stalks growing from the ground are not producing any sprouts – only little “bumps. Is it too soon for them to start producing? I am a novice gardener!

  • S S Mella

    I planted strawberries in pots around the last week of March. One of the plants has produced about four small berries. The other plant has large, lovely leaves but no berries or flowers. However, it has produced several very long “stringers” – some reburying themselves in the planter. What is going on?

  • Kenny Point

    That is normal and the way that strawberries spread, multiply, and renew themselves by sending out runners that turn into new plants.

  • Carol Jackson

    I never go to my garden until I consult The Old Farmers Almanac. I always garden by the phase of the moon and also the Zodiac signs. All found in the Almanac. The moon makes a difference in everything living. Ever go to a place where they sell lumber and notice the cut boards being warped, they were cut in the wrong phase of the moon. Also if you have ever dug post holes for a fence, you need to consult the Almanac. If you dig in the wrong phase and put that post in, the moon will actually pull it back out of the whole to a certain point. I could go on and on about different things, so it does make a difference.

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