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The garden is slowly being emptied for the season – since the potatoes are definitely ready, here is how to dig up and store potatoes so you can eat them over the winter.
If I get one row of potatoes harvested every day, it doesn’t take long for the potato bed to be emptied.
Every year we grow enough potatoes to eat all winter long, plus enough stored to use as seed potatoes the following year!
They take up garden space, but if you have enough room, it is well worth it.
Potatoes are expensive to buy in winter – often 10 pounds here can sell for $8.
Want to learn our tricks for growing potatoes?
We often get over 3 pounds of potatoes from 1 potato – seriously!
We know how to grow potatoes here.
But it’s not enough to know how to grow them, you need to know how to dig up and store potatoes!
Growing is a lot of the work, but you need to store them properly. If they aren’t, they will start to mold.
Then the mold spreads to the other potatoes in storage – and – you have a big problem.
How to Dig Up and Store Potatoes
One important thing to remember when harvesting potatoes is to start digging with a garden spade about one foot away from the plant. It really does help to avoid cutting the potatoes, which is pretty easy to do.
Potatoes don’t just grow vertically under the plant – the roots spread out a bit and potatoes grow from there. So cut a wider swath and then work your way in!
Potatoes like to hide – it is so easy to miss a few here and there. Once you have dug around your potato plant, get your hands in the loose soil and feel around.
Move the dirt around and go as deep as you need to, to find that original seed potato.
If you leave a potato or two behind, the following year they could easily sprout. Some people don’t mind volunteer potatoes popping up in the garden, but we always pull them.
They can lead to scab so we try to make sure we get them all dug out in the Fall. Then, in the spring, we pull volunteers out wherever they pop up!
After Digging Up the Potatoes
Once we dig up the potatoes, we like to let them sit on the garden for most of a sunny day if the weather allows.
I go down and turn them after several hours – it helps them dry a bit more on both sides.
I can lightly brush off the worst of the dirt that is clinging to them.
We never leave potatoes outside over night. We can’t take the risk of a frost happening, which can happen at almost any point here in the growing season.
Leaving potatoes outside overnight can ruin them; once touched by frost they are no good anymore for eating.
So we dig up as much as we feel we can deal with during the day and leave the rest in the ground for another day.
Here’s a photo of our potatoes that had been hit by a frost. Not much can be done about this, but just because there is frost damage does NOT mean the potatoes are ruined.
We’re thankful there are still plenty of green leaves on the plants. These potatoes didn’t yield as much as they could have, but we still had a harvest!
Sorting Potatoes for Storage and Eating
One of our tips for learning how to dig up and store potatoes is this: Sort the potatoes by size BEFORE you put any potatoes into storage for winter.
We like to sort the potatoes right there in the garden. We bring lots of paper bags and some of our large empty paper feed bags.
These feed bags are nice and thick so we don’t have to worry about the bags breaking. You can see we just keep reusing the bags for several years. Waste not, want not!
The really nice sized and shaped potatoes go into paper bags, one kind to a bag. We write the variety and put right on the bag that they are for seed for next year.
The really tiny potatoes? We toss them into empty canners and cook them up for the chickens or pigs, if we are raising them.
Any potatoes that we accidentally cut into with the shovel get put in another bag. We will be sure to use these up first for fresh eating.
Don’t save cut potatoes – it is too easy to introduce mold by doing that. Just set them aside and use them as soon as you can.
By sorting in the garden, we find we handle the potatoes a lot less. And when we grow enough potatoes to last all winter, that’s a lot of potatoes.
Why handle each potato more than we have to? This way, we don’t have to sort again once we get them all in the house. We have found this to be the easiest way to save and store our seed potatoes.
The really small potatoes? We toss them into empty canners and cook them up for the chickens or pigs, if we are raising them.
Since Valley friends are raising a few pigs this year, they will get all the little ones to be fed off.
You can certainly eat the little potatoes! They are just as delicious as any other potato, they are just a bit more of a pain to wash and prepare for eating.
Our hallway during Potato harvest time – we are overrun with large bags of potatoes ready for storing in our basement Cold Room.
The seed potatoes get put on a separate shelf down in the Cold Room. We have no problem storing fresh carrots and potatoes down there.
We’re always happy when the potato seed sorting is done, as we are assured of having enough seed for a good potato crop next year.
Once the little ones and the big ones are dealt with, all the rest go into the large empty feed bags.
We label them with the variety name and mark them for “eating”. We can easily store 40 pounds in each one, often more than that.
Hauling those bags up to the house and down into the Cold Room is definitely a “blue job” as they are far too heavy for me to handle.
Good Potato Varieties for Winter Storage
Seiglund potatoes – what a fantastic yield and we are super impressed with this variety of potato. Look how big those things are.
They always have a great shape to them as well, which makes them easier to peel or scrub. They are delicious being used for baked potatoes.
Since they are so big, we always have a great supply of them to use for seed.
I dug up the row of Fingerlings (also known as Banana potatoes because of their shape).
As you can see, they are still sitting on in the garden. Later they’ll get sorted and put away.
Fingerling potatoes are very expensive to buy at the store – I have seen them for sale at $3 a pound! But they are very inexpensive to grow.
Do yourself a favour and buy some Fingerling seed potatoes next year to get started.
These are wonderful potatoes to eat in the middle of summer. I love the taste of new potatoes and these are one of my favourites!
Why pay $3.00 a pound when you don’t have to?
We grew a few Yukon Golds this year and here they are. We are not as pleased with them as we find they don’t taste as good as they used to years ago.
I have no clue why that would be, but we have other varieties that we like much better. So we will stick with planting those.
We also grow Russet potatoes, which are a good keeper. A row of Cariboo potatoes was harvested too – these are really good.
They used to be available as a seed potato, but you can’t find them anymore.
The only way you can get some is to beg a few off someone growing them in the Cariboo.
We were fortunate to get a few several years ago and for the first couple of years we only ate the little ones and saved all of the others for seed.
Now we get a good harvest of these as well. These grow so well in this area and are well worth trying to find.