How To Know When Potatoes Are Ready To Harvest?
Potatoes are eaten almost all around the world, in so many ways. It can be fried, cooked, boiled, baked and mashed. It is an essential part of the dining tables in all parts of the world. Potatoes can be and are being grown in almost every part of the world. While Maize is the largest grown crop in the world, potatoes are the fourth largest crop, after Maize, Wheat and Rice.
It is a unique crop that simultaneously comes under the Plant and the Tubers. solanum tuberosum is the botanical name of potatoes, which comes under the family Solanaceae.
Nutritional analysis of potatoes reveals that it is quite a rich energetic food, containing mainly the carbohydrates (starch, sugar, dietary fiber) with ample fats, proteins, vitamins and minerals. That makes it the favorite food all around the world. Additionally, being a versatile food item, it can be cooked in hundreds of ways.
These are herbaceous and perennial plants. Attains a height of almost two feet. Once the flowering starts and tubers are formed, its leaves start dying. Its flowers are mostly white or red but blue and purple flowers having yellow stamens is also very common.
Tubers of the varieties of potatoes having white flowers are characterized by white skin, while all other colored flower varieties have pinkish skin on tubers.
The potatoes are the most favorite food of almost everyone, you may like to grow it in your home garden. But often, when you think of growing potatoes, one question instantly arise in your mind, how would you know that the potatoes are ready for harvesting.
In this article, we will provide you with useful information on potatoes with special reference to their time of harvesting so that you may know when potatoes are ready for harvesting.
Production / Cultivation
Potatoes are cross-pollinated by the insect known as bumblebees. After flowering, small green fruit is produced. Each fruit contains around 300 seeds. This fruit is highly toxic and is not meant for human consumption.
These seeds are then utilized by the scientists to evolve new varieties of potatoes. For home garden, potatoes can be grown by planting tubers or small pieces of tubers with a couple of eyes. It can also be grown at home through cuttings.
The most common way of growing potatoes in your home garden is through seed potatoes (tubers). In developed Countries, seed potatoes are produced professionally in the greenhouses under the supervision of qualified scientists. But in most parts of the developing and underdeveloped countries, there is no such arrangement in place.
Farmers segregate their crop in these countries in three parts, largest, medium and small potatoes. The largest potatoes are then sold in the market, a medium is stored for their own consumption and the smallest ones are separated and stored as the seed potatoes for next crop.
As said earlier, it can be grown in almost every weather condition, either temperate, tropical or subtropical. It needs a temperature ranging from 10 to 30 degrees Celsius for the sharp growth of tubers. However, a temperature of 18 to 20 degrees centigrade is the ideal for the optimum growth of tubers.
Therefore it is recommended to plant the potatoes as under, depending on the climate conditions:
- In temperate regions, potatoes should be planted in an early spring season.
- In relatively warmer areas, it should be planted in a late winter season.
- In tropical conditions, potatoes should be planted during the coolest part of the season.
- In some subtropical areas (mostly hilly areas), where the temperature remains mild but plenty of sunshine is available, it can be grown throughout the year.
In general, the potato is quite a friendly plant that can adapt itself under any circumstances and need no special type of conditions to grow. The best way of planting potatoes is through seed potatoes, sown around 5-10 cm deep in the soil.
Make sure that the seed potatoes are healthy and disease free. You may also add fertilizers if required, depending on the status of the soil in respect of available nutrients in the soil. Good watering the required for successful potato crop, especially during the latter part of the growth period.
When To Harvest?
Depending on the usage, potatoes can be classified broadly into two types, the new potatoes and the mature potatoes.
New potatoes have very small sized tubers with softer skin that can be peeled off with hands. These are meant for instant consumption and are not suitable for storage. Mature potatoes, as the name suggests, are the ones, which are bigger in size and fully matured. Normally, you can get mature potatoes, around 3-4 weeks after the harvest of new potatoes.
Scientifically, potato crop becomes ready for harvesting within a period of 120 to 150 days after the seed potato is sown in the field. But knowing exactly when the crop is ready for harvesting is somewhat tricky, especially in your home garden, as you may not be an expert. For that matter, follow the pattern as under:
- New potatoes can be harvested after around 10 weeks after the date of plating the seed potatoes. Otherwise, you can start harvesting the new potatoes once the flowers start blooming for the first time.
- Mature potatoes can be harvested after a few weeks of harvesting the new potatoes. Or otherwise, you should harvest the mature potatoes once the entire leaves of the potato plant have died and withered.
- Harvesting the new potatoes is somewhat tricky. Don’t dig out the entire plant, as it is required for the production of more potatoes in coming weeks. Just remove soil from the base of the plant to expose the young small tubers. Remove only a few small tubers from each plant and leave the rest to get matured.
- While picking the small tubers, be careful not to damage the roots. Handle the new potatoes carefully as they have a delicate soft skin. Replace the removed soil back around the base of the plant, once you have harvested the new potatoes.
- Harvesting the mature potatoes is relatively easier but again, here you need some expertise to know exactly, whether the potatoes are ready for harvesting. Normally, after a few weeks of harvesting the new potatoes, mature potatoes are ready for harvesting.
- Once the foliage is completely withered you can dig up the whole plant to get the mature potatoes. To get an exact idea about the maturity of the crop, first, you should dig up a couple of plants and examine the potatoes.
- If you notice that the skin of the potatoes is still soft and can be removed by rubbing the fingers on it, don’t harvest the crop; it is not yet completely matured.
- Wait for another week or so and then do the same practice. Once you come across the potatoes with quite a firm skin, it is the time to harvest the mature potatoes. Dig out whole plants and get the potatoes separated from the plants.
- Before storing the mature potatoes, you will have to remove the entire soil and dirt from them. Wash them and let them dry up at their own in open. Once cleaned, you can store them properly.
- Check your store after a couple of weeks and discard away the potatoes that have become soft. Store the potatoes in dark place.
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