Potatoes: Dig 'em or leave 'em?

bart1(6/7 Northern VA)July 2, 2012

Some of my potato plants are starting to die back and I was wondering if I should dig them up or just leave them in the ground until I need them.

I normally leave them in the ground and use as needed until very late in the season (Nov/Dec) and dig them just before the ground freezes. They seem to do fine this way, but the skin gets scabby on most of them.

The ones that I'm digging up now are absolutely beautiful and I'd love to have the entire crop look that good, but I don't want to effect the storage life.

If I were to dig them up now, I'd store them in the basement of our air conditioned house which is very cool, but I wonder how that dry air would effect them?

All of that was a long way of asking, should I keep them in the ground and deal with scab, or dig them up and keep them in the basement?



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wayne_5 zone 6a Central Indiana

I vote for keeping them in the ground. You could try digging a few for trial and store them in the basement, and... likely see them shrivel up after a little while.

    Bookmark   July 2, 2012 at 1:57PM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

Agree about leaving them for now. If the plants are just "starting to die back" it is too soon anyway.

but don't leave them so long as you have in the past. They will cure well in the ground if left 10 days to 2 weeks after the vines die off completely. If you get a heavy rain during that time then just leave them a few days longer until the ground dries again and then dig them.


    Bookmark   July 2, 2012 at 2:57PM
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It really depends on the weather. Too wet, and they'll start to rot or to sprout.

If you do store them, try to add some moisture to the enviroment.

    Bookmark   July 2, 2012 at 4:27PM
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Yes to what Dave and everyone else said.
I've always read that in order for the skins to cure, they need to be left in the ground at least a couple weeks after complete die back. If you dig them now, they are essentially new potatoes, and they won't keep.

    Bookmark   July 3, 2012 at 2:45AM
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bart1(6/7 Northern VA)

Thanks folks!

    Bookmark   July 3, 2012 at 7:56AM
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jas4141(Zone 5)

Had same question for zone 5. Put our potatoes in end of March and they are already dying back. Have dug quite a few but will leave the rest for awhile. Been a crazy growing season for potatoes. Will refrigerate the ones out of the ground. Thanks for the input.

    Bookmark   July 3, 2012 at 11:27AM
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My potatoes have been slow this year, but I just went out and robbed a bunch of new reds for summer potato salad.

    Bookmark   July 3, 2012 at 12:07PM
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jas4141(Zone 5)

Harvest has been strange this year. When I thought it time to get a few small new potatoes, lo and behold the ones I dug were the size of baseballs....what a surprise. Now after digging several hills, the weight is greater per potato but smaller in number of potatoes.

    Bookmark   July 4, 2012 at 5:34AM
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I've had just the opposite experience of jas141-larger quantity but smalled sie on the reds I've dug. About half of the reds are done, but the whites are still growing strong. I did accidentally till up a couple of white that were growing out of their row and they had nice size.

    Bookmark   July 4, 2012 at 6:33AM
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I have nice tall green healthy plants (after a LB scare - I think I agree with my great-uncle that it was drought stress), reds started flowering mid-June, Yukons still not there yet, but I'm not finding any tubers when I poke around??

    Bookmark   July 4, 2012 at 6:54AM
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I'd say just wait. I wasn't seeing anything a couple of weeks ago, now nice red tubers. Also, they tend to grow further away from the stem than you might suppose. Look for stolons.

    Bookmark   July 4, 2012 at 10:26AM
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I have potatoes! Some Norlands are bigger than I expected, others are tiny nubs. Yukons are almost full-sized though not flowering yet (I see some buds so assumed they would). Pontiacs aren't quite there - I pulled 1 plant the potato beetles were getting to (they came over 1 row from Norlands) and they were OK size for new potatoes but I still have flowers coming and felt around a few more plants just found tiny ones (maybe size of the knobby Norlands in the picture).

So, should I dig all the YG and most of the Norland now? Was going to wait til Friday market since I have no room to store 20+ lbs of new potatoes til then. Will pink marks on YG go away if I leave them longer? How much longer should I leave them (plants show no signs of dying back, even in the heat/dry weather, and this week is supposed to be more moderate)? I know Norlands and YG aren't supposed to be good storage potatoes, so just wondering how much longer I can keep them in the ground?

    Bookmark   July 8, 2012 at 1:35PM
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the pink eyes of the yukon golds are what tells you you have yukon golds and not another yellow....

    Bookmark   July 8, 2012 at 4:45PM
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I know that's a characteristic, just didn't know if they'd fade if I let them mature. Will people buy them with the pink spots? I can't say that I've ever noticed the pink in store-bought YGs.

Think the Norland and YG will be OK til Friday? I don't want them too big for market. Need to keep in the dark (brown paper bag?)? Refrigerated or cooler?

Cooking new potatoes for dinner tonight - grass-fed beef tenderloin, zucchini, maybe some yellow straightneck and some beet greens (pulled beets to give others room to grow) along with the potatoes. Gotta love summer. Too bad I sold the 4 ripe tomatoes I had on Friday, and others aren't ready yet.

    Bookmark   July 8, 2012 at 5:19PM
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If you refrigerate them, unless you like sweet, and I mean sweet, potatoes do not do that.

Why would people not buy them with pink spots?

Most people are not fussy as long as they do not have the dirt taste long stored potatoes can get.

    Bookmark   July 8, 2012 at 10:34PM
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The unusual heat in VA this summer might be a problem for leaving in the ground until freeze-up. If the vines are died out now you might try covering with a thick mulch to insulate the ground from the sun.

    Bookmark   July 9, 2012 at 6:45AM
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I was just wondering if people would buy the YG with pink spots since I've never noticed them on grocery-store potatoes. I find that people are fussy when you're selling stuff at farmer's market - they expect perfect-looking produce at grocery-store prices (or less!), but without the chemicals.

It will take some education, people aren't used to true new potatoes, they think any small potato is "new".

    Bookmark   July 9, 2012 at 8:22AM
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