When do you dig potatoes?

  WhiteTruckMan 11:22 05 Jun 2011

About 3 weeks ago I decided to try a small experiment and planted a couple of potatoes in a large plastic stacking box. I covered them in about 6" of soil, about 1/3 the depth of the tub. They started to sprout through the soil, so I covered them again for the next 1/3 of the tubs depth. They are now sprouting through again and I will be covering them again in the next day or two. The thing is, this is new territory for me, as although there are a number of things I am good at, growing things isnt among them. The bit about covering them with soil is something I heard about on gardners question time, but thats about it. What I could use is some idea about when to start digging them up. In this case google has all the answers, but it also has all the different ones too! I've come across suggestions from 8 weeks after planting, to just when they start flowering, to waiting until the plants start dying off. I'm also slightly paranoid now that I've come across some pictures of potatoe blight as I have got my tub off the grount to protect from slugs etc, only to discover that the blight is airborne!

Any thoughts, anyone?


  johndrew 11:38 05 Jun 2011

Depends on how big you want them.

For 'new' (smallish) potatoes leave them until after the flowers have died off. For main crop (largish) potatoes leave them until around the time the haulms start to go over or around 6 to 8 weeks after the flowers die back.

If the potatoes are in a tub (in bagged compost?) you have no need to worry about blight and the odd slug is no more than you will get in commercially grown produce. Make certain to keep them moist (the tub has holes?) as excess water will drain off. Also remember the potato needs the top to grow so don't cut it back.

I have a couple of tubs myself and now the tops are getting bigger I am awaiting the flowers as I really enjoy freshly gathered new potatoes with my salad.

  wee eddie 11:51 05 Jun 2011

WTM, with all your experience and you ask for a definitive answer ~ Here!

I'm sure that Fruit Bat will tell you how to speed them up and Gandulph will tell you just to leave them. I'll not make any more observations, in case I offend.

Sounds a brilliant project. I'd go for the smaller Spuds with a little mint and some butter. Almost a meal in themselves ~ Try to eat, at least, some on the day you unearth them.

  namtas 21:10 05 Jun 2011

If you want them young tender and sweet with a knob butter and a touch of mint sauce use them no larger than pigeon egg size. At this stage they are most tasty, as they increase in size they become less sweet, unfortunately the only way to determine size is too either dig them,(in which case you are committed) or gauge size by digging around with your hand. Another useful way to grow new potatoes for those lacking space is under a black sheet. Simply lay a early strain of potato on the ground and cover it, as the shoot grows make a hole for it to poke through. Usually no need to water. To harvest, lift the cover and take all that you require

  lotvic 21:50 05 Jun 2011

Never ever eat a green coloured potato, they are poisonous. It is sunlight that turns them green so keep them well covered up.

CookbookPotato "If potatoes are exposed to light, they will develop green areas or start to sprout. These areas should be trimmed before using. Sprouts and green parts can be very poisonous, as they contain glycoalkaloids, solanine and chaconine. Although the green colour is caused by chlorophyll and is harmless, it may indicate the formation of the glycoalkaloids, so one should discard any green parts of such potatoes."

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