Go Organic: Potato harvest needs careful handlingBy James Ashford
August 26, 2011
If you have any potatoes still in the ground you may want to start lifting and storing them.
It is always a balance and every year will be slightly different, but potatoes will start to suffer slug damage if they are left too long.
Lifting the potatoes is one of the gardening year’s really rewarding jobs – it can be quite hard work but immensely satisfying when it is finished.
Check the foliage for tell-tale signs of blight before you start digging.
If your plants have been infected you should cut off the leaves and stems at ground level and then wait for at least three weeks before harvesting.
Any blight spores will die on the surface of the soil leaving the tubers unaffected.
Potatoes are easily damaged so you need to work slowly and methodically.
Start by gently digging the soil around the edges of the plant with a garden fork.
It is all too easy to spear the tubers as you go, so sometimes it is best to dig around with your fingers first to tickle out the bigger spuds.
When people still worked with hand tools it was possible to buy special forks for digging potatoes.
They had wide flat tines with rounded ends and were less likely to damage the crop.
It really is important to get every potato out of the ground, no matter how small.
Any left behind will grow again next year and can spread disease.
Once your spuds are out of the ground you need to get them safely stored.
They need to go somewhere cool but frost-free, dry and preferably dark.
A shed or garage is ideal or a cellar, if you’re lucky enough to have one.
If the potatoes get damp they will start to rot so if the weather holds off, spread them outside for a day or two to get them good and dry before you bag them up.
Use paper bags, or better still hessian sacks, to store your potatoes.
You can buy them from the Organic Gardening Catalogue or you can use Wicks sandbags which are a little smaller but quite a bit cheaper.