Digging Up and Storing Potatoes for the Winter

Remember how I talked about planting potatoes?  Now it’s already time to dig up the potatoes!  It’s one of my  very favorite things to do!

potatoes09sm

Here are a few tips for digging up and storing potatoes:

  • Once the plant turns crispy and brown and dead, the potatoes under the ground are finished growing.  ( I suppose this is obvious.)
  • When the plant is crispy, you can leave the potatoes under the ground for several more weeks and they will be fine.  This will toughen them up a little, which is good.
  • On the other hand, if you’re experiencing a lot of rain, you want to get the potatoes out of the ground so that they don’t rot.  Rotten potatoes don’t make good french fries.
  • Use a big spade or potato fork to dig up your potatoes.  Look for the base of the plant, then dig several inches away from the base.  There are likely to be four to eight potatoes with each plant.
  • Occasionally you will stab a potato with your spade or potato fork.  This is a bummer…and also kind of funny.  Throw those stabbed potatoes into a separate box and eat these potatoes first.
  • Green potatoes can make you sick.  Potatoes turn green when they are exposed to light. Some people say to throw away any potato that has even a little green on it.  I just cut off the green part and eat the rest.  I have lived to tell about it.
  • Russet or kennebec potatoes store the best for a longer period of time.  We usually eat up our red potatoes and yukon gold potatoes first and keep the brown potatoes in storage longer.
  • To prepare your potatoes for storing, lay them singularly on a newspaper or old sheet in a darkish room.  Cover them with another newspaper or sheet and let them sit this way for about a week.  This will help “harden them off”.   Their skins will toughen up, which will help them keep longer.
  • After your potatoes have been hardened off, put them into covered boxes or baskets.  We usually put about 15-20 pounds in each box. 
  • It is VERY important that the containers for your potatoes do not allow any light in.  Light will cause the potatoes to sprout.  Without light, potatoes will not sprout for months.
  • Place your containers in a dark, cool room.  We have a room in our basement that has been great for storing potatoes.  It doesn’t have windows to allow any light in.  It is cool but not cold.
  • Cold potatoes will “sugar”.  That’s why you don’t put potatoes in the refrigerator.
  • You may want to occasionally sift through your potatoes to check for any that may be rotting.  One rotten potato can cause the whole box to rot.  It stinks (literally).
  • Potatoes will keep well for several months if stored correctly.  Ours usually last until about March, at which time we use the remaining potatoes for our seed potatoes!

Sometime in the next few weeks we’ll be dumping out our potato container to see how it did!  I can’t wait to see if we have a whole bunch of potatoes in our bucket (and I’m trying not to get my hopes up just in case they didn’t grow well).  I’ll share pics of that experience when we get around to it!
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This post is linked to Kitchen Tip Tuesdays.

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Comments

  1. says

    Well I’ve got my hopes up for your container potatoes! I think the thing I hate the most about gardening is the backbreaking work of hilling potatoes. If you’ve found a solution for that I think I’ll love you forever! :)

    [Reply]

    Cyclone Reply:

    Plant your potatoes in tires. Cut out the center ring of the tire with a reciprocating saw and then stack tires as your plants grow. I grow my potatoes 3 tires high with 5 plants per tire stack. When it comes time to harvest, just unstack the tires and your potatoes literally fall from the sky.

    [Reply]

    Crystal Reply:

    You can eliminate hill altogether. I have the easiest and very
    productive way to plant potatoes. First if you have animals save the dirty bedding all year long. and poo. It is better if you use sheep, or goats as their poo is not hot. Till up the place you plan to put your potatoes. Prepare you seed potatoes the way you usually would and then just lay them on the ground a foot apart in all directions. Now don’t do ANY digging. Put the saved bedding or just plain straw. See if you can find moldy or old straw or hay that a farmer near you may have that he can’t use. This works really well. Put the straw or old bedding over the top of the potatoes. Be sure to cover them with AT LEAST 4 inches I try to make it closer to 6 inches. I have GREAT yeilds and you can cheat and just grab a potato or two early on without disturbing the plant. So, there you go, no back breaking work!!! Easy and fun. We just pull the potato plant up when they are dead and most of the potatoes come with it. The rest are easy to see. Then just till under the straw and you are ready to plant something else there next year

    [Reply]

    mark Reply:

    You don’t have to hill potatoes when you plant just put them about 12in in ground when plant comes up till and pull a little more dirt in around plant

    [Reply]

  2. Nell Fitchie says

    Question, what does it mean when you say that a potato will “sugar” if kept cold? Thanks! :)

    [Reply]

    Laura Reply:

    When I say the potatoes will “sugar” I mean that they turn very sweet. They are edible, but not great. They aren’t ideal then for mashed potatoes and other regular things you make with potatoes.

    [Reply]

    Kandace Reply:

    Hi there!
    I was wondering can you tell me how to tell when a red potatoe is rotted? Besides smell what does it look like? Is it safe if it’s completely brown?

    [Reply]

    Laura Reply:

    I don’t think I’d eat it if it has turned brown. If it’s simply squishy, that won’t hurt anything, but stinky and/or brown means that it’s rotten.

  3. says

    I’m interested to see how your container potatoes work out too. I tried doing that once…but I was too impatient and didn’t wait long enough for the potatoes to grow. If this works well for you, I may just have to try again!

    [Reply]

  4. says

    We just digged up ours last week and have been enjoying them already ;)

    I did not plant too much this year for storing…but hopefully next year will be bigger!

    Thank you for sharing,

    lady m

    [Reply]

  5. says

    Thank you for the tips! We planted potatoes for the first time this year. I’ve been watching them begin to wither a bit, and was beginning to wonder what I was doing to kill them! I’m so happy to know that they’re supposed to do that.

    And I have a question. What does it mean when the potatoes “sugar?” Because I’ve got several potatoes sitting in my fridge right now, & I’m wondering what they’re actually doing in there. I thought that would be a good place to put them, since they always seem to spoil so quickly in the pantry…(oops!)

    [Reply]

    Laura Reply:

    Potatoes turn sweet when in the fridge. It’s too bad that happens because it WOULD be a nice place to store them. :(

    [Reply]

    patsy Reply:

    I sometimes purposely put my potatoes in the fridge to make them sweet. I then use them for potatoe salad or oven roasts. Everybody loves them this way. It is not overly sweet but sweet that it has a nice taste. I don’t use them for mashed potatoes though.

    [Reply]

  6. says

    I have a question. Do you need a lot of room to grow potatoes? I’ve thought about it in the past, but never did it because in my mind, I need tons of space. Thanks!

    [Reply]

  7. says

    Thank you so much for posting this. I am the worst potato-keeper EVER. I have knowingly broken every potato storage rule and still wondered why my potatoes sprouted while they sat on the kitchen counter of my sunny, sunny kitchen. Oops! I will now try to be more diligent about keeping my potatoes fresh. :)

    [Reply]

  8. says

    Oh no! Am I causing my potatoes to rot by watering them well right now? I thought that was why they were dying off. Now the plants look healthy, but maybe the potatoes are rotten? Do I leave them or dig them up? We still have lots of growing season left here.

    [Reply]

  9. Edward L. Van Cura says

    I see you list a potato fork in your coments. I can’t find any information as to purchase a potato fork. Can you give me any ideas?
    Thank you Ed

    [Reply]

    Laura Reply:

    The potato fork I was referring to looks something like this one at Amazon, but you can find one for less expensive at a hardware store!

    http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B002EX4KK2?ie=UTF8&tag=wwwheavenlyho-20&linkCode=xm2&camp=1789&creativeASIN=B002EX4KK2

    [Reply]

  10. Joan Falkenhein says

    My neighbor grew Kennebec potatoes last year. They are stored in a cool dark place, but are sprouting 4 or 5 inches now. He wants to know how to stop the sprouting.

    [Reply]

    Laura Reply:

    For the first time, I’m having this problem too. They’ve never sprouted this way before. Usually they wait until March to start sprouting. I just pull of the sprouts and eat the potatoes and they are fine. Your neighbor can go through his potatoes and pull off all the sprouts if he wants and leave them in storage, or just pull off the sprouts as he’s ready to eat them.

    I think mine must be in a room that gets too much light, even though it’s still very little. I’m going to try a different room in my basement next year.

    [Reply]

    Joan Falkenhein Reply:

    My neighbor is thankful for your input. He got a lot of helpful
    information from your article. He said his potatoes are in a dark
    place. He is puzzled that they still sprouted.

    [Reply]

    jessica k Reply:

    i know im commenting on an old post but if you put a few apples in with your potatoes they will stop them from sprouting. the chemical in apples that normally makes everything else ripen faster makes potatoes stop from sprouting. and keep onions and garlic away from them, they will make them sprout and spoil a lot more faster. its worked for me.

    [Reply]

  11. Leslie Ringnell says

    what do you think about storing potatoes in sand in a large plastic barrel? There would be little if any air movement but the area would be about 45 degrees and dark. Please respond quickly as we are about to commence our harvest. Thanks, Les

    [Reply]

    Laura Reply:

    I guess I don’t know enough about it, but I lean against storing them this way. Here’s a link I found with more information: http://www.allotment.org.uk/allotment_foods/Storing_the_Surplus_Potatoes_and_Root_Vegetables.php

    We’ve only stored them in boxes in our basement, so I’m not an expert on all the different ways of storing potatoes!

    [Reply]

  12. Barb says

    You mentioned you store the potatoes in covered boxes. Can you use dark-colored plastic totes with lids to store them? Also, the building I’m wanting to use for storage is kept at 40 degrees, would this be too cold to store our carrots and potatoes in?

    [Reply]

    Laura Reply:

    Yes, dark colored totes should be fine. I’ve read that 45-50 degrees is best for potatoes. 40 might be too cold, which would make them sweet.

    [Reply]

  13. says

    The totes sound good. but, I wonder if they should have 1/4″ holes drilled throughout the tote. Then I would place screen over holes. This for ventlation and prevention of bugs.

    [Reply]

  14. Josie says

    I just harvested my first crop of potatoes and have a few questions. I planted Goldens and Pontiac Reds.

    1. The Goldens look pretty good minus a few cracks, but the Reds are funky. The surface of the Reds is irregular (fissures, cracks, dark spots, etc.) and the skin is very rough. Any clues? I guess I won’t be growing that variety again! The Goldens were grown alongside the Reds and did well. What gives?

    2. How do I put the potatoes up for storage? I think I may have done a stupid thing by washing them (I was thinking my poor septic tank and plumbing couldn’t take all that dirt that I would need to get off before preparing them!). I know they should be completely dry before placing them in a cool, dark place. Any other tips?

    [Reply]

    Laura Reply:

    I’m not familiar enough with all varieties of potatoes to know what might be wrong with your red taters – I do know that red potatoes are much more finicky and difficult to grow than brown or gold.

    Here’s a post about how to store potatoes: http://heavenlyhomemakers.com/digging-up-and-storing-potatoes-for-the-winter

    [Reply]

    I Know this is late, but Reply:

    1. Same thing happened to me. It is not the variety. While potatoes are very easy to grow, they do
    need fresh soil every planting. Don’t plant potatoes where strawberries were (and vice versa), the same issues will appear.

    [Reply]

  15. Bruce says

    Should the potatoes be washed after digging or just allow the dirt to dry and brush off? Thank you.

    [Reply]

    Laura Reply:

    Leave the dirt on to dry – it will help the potatoes “harden” – otherwise the skin comes off with the dirt!

    [Reply]

  16. Jean says

    I just harvested some of mine and came across this site when looking for storage tips, thanks for all the great info. I’m not sure where I will do the storage yet, our basement is maybe in the 70s (it is August in Virginia after all) and I’m envious of those with a storage spot in the 50s or even 60s. I must say the growing of the potatoes was dead easy on my first attempt. In the spring I dug some shallow holes in a neglected raised bed covered in leaf litter, and dropped in some nursery bought seed potatoes, mostly Yukons. I never removed the litter, or even bothered much with the false strawberries or English ivy creeping into the bed, which only receives half a day of sun at the most. (It is a raised bed though.) I watered occasionally after the spring rains subsided. This week I brushed aside the leaf litter and discovered the potatoes just sitting there looking at me, only about half in the soil. No digging required. A lot of the plants are still alive, so I haven’t dug those up yet, but I’m eager to get my sweet potato slips in that bed–though I don’t expect much if any yield from the latter since I’m planting so late.

    [Reply]

  17. Joyce Williams says

    Several months ago, you published an article about digging
    potatoes on The Williams Bros. Farm in Newport, TN, with a machine that made the potato digging much easier.
    Can you tell me which date the article ran in in Tennessee Cooperator.
    I have looked my eyes out for that article.
    The guys names were Barnett & Jerry Williams and they had
    found and bought a big machine of some kind to dig potatoes
    without all of the backbreaking work.
    Please help us find the article. Thanks, we rearly enjoy your magazine.

    [Reply]

    Laura Reply:

    Shucks, I’m sorry I can’t help – I don’t have a magazine, so you must have the wrong person here. I’d love to have that information too once you find it!! :)

    [Reply]

  18. says

    Thanks for the timely post. I’m just getting ready to dig up my own potatoes, and had just a vague memory about hardening them off somehow. Thanks again.

    [Reply]

  19. says

    wooohooooo. we just dug our potatoes up. a bunch from our container and many from a potatoe patch in the garden. We had a wonderful successful first crop of maybe 100 potatoes! i made chips of course (french fries tto you americans) as they are my specialty. fabulous. and now am glad for the guidance on storage. i really hope we can keep them for months; that will be grand. thank you and good luck all!

    [Reply]

  20. Steve J. Wilcox says

    I have used my left over red potatoes for seed a couple of times, but they didn’t yield as much nor were they as big as I usually grow. I buy new certified seed each year and I always have a good crop with huge potatoes.

    [Reply]

  21. Patrick Mercado says

    I had potatoes growing out side but the locusts got to them & they all died. I dug up the potatoes that had grown from the plants and put them in plastic containers in my house with topsoil & peat moss mix to grow inside. I bought 2 indoor growing lights & leave the light on from about 7 am to about 8-9 pm every day. The potatoes started growing but then died after about a month. I figured since its winter they might hibernate ?? & left them in the soil. I was wondering if you might be able to tell me if that was a good idea & what I might could do to grow plants inside. thanks :)

    [Reply]

    Laura Reply:

    Oh boy, I guess I’m not sure. I’ve never tried growing potatoes indoors before so I’m not sure if it would work.

    [Reply]

  22. Eileen Pollard says

    Hi, I am a complete novice when it comes to growing potatoes, although they have grown really well, considering the bad weather we had. However, when I dig them up, they are really hard and look really nice but when I cook them, they go mushy, even if I have left the skins on they break and go mushy. Any ideas?

    Thanks.

    [Reply]

    Laura Reply:

    All I can think of is that they need less cooking time than typical store bought potatoes?

    [Reply]

  23. Chris says

    I was told recently by a woman from the Ukraine that you can store potatoes in the ground. Is this true and if so what are the best circumstances in which to do this?

    [Reply]

    Laura Reply:

    I’m not sure, but it sounds reasonable if you did down deep enough.

    [Reply]

    Jamie Garcia Reply:

    I have read about this in John Seymour’s book and another one that I
    cannot think of the name of right now.

    If I remember correctly they lay straw down, mound the potatoes up on
    the straw, cover them with straw and then dirt with a little
    “chimney” through the middle to allow air but not light through.

    Honestly, I try to blanch and freeze all my potatoes ASAP, I have a bushel
    in the hall closet and I know they are fixin to rot/sprout, but we
    don’t have a basement in this house and it’s a ‘solar home’, so LOTS
    OF LIGHT everywhere :) I guess I know what I’m doing this week!

    [Reply]

  24. McKenna says

    Hi I was wondering what kind of container you would recomend for storeing potatoes I was a little consfused Like a tub tote with straw in it and a lid on it?

    [Reply]

    Laura Reply:

    Any type of container with a lid will work. A tub tote with a lid, a cardboard box – anything that has a lid that will keep the light off of the potatoes while you are storing them.

    [Reply]

  25. Emily says

    Hey guys my russet potatoes are sprouting and one already has white flowers on it! But none of the rest do…:-[ is this normal and if it is how long do you think till I can dig em up?:) thanks!

    [Reply]

    Laura Reply:

    Yep, that’s normal. The rest will begin to flower soon too! You need to wait for several weeks to dig the up. The flower means a tiny potato has formed. Now give it several weeks to grow. :)

    [Reply]

  26. Wendell says

    the question I have when storing potatoes for the winter, do you wash them or leave the dirt on them

    One year I diligently hosed them off and left them on the grass for a couple of hours to dry, but within a month or more most of them were rotting.

    [Reply]

    Laura Reply:

    Definitely leave the dirt on them for storage. :)

    [Reply]

  27. janet huyton says

    Hi – thanks from England for your advice!! We have grown our own for the first time this year and have really enjoyed it. We have about 8 plants left with the stalks being withered and were going to dig them all up to store but after reading the above tips would it be OK to leave them till we want them?

    We have also put some in containers last week and hope to have our own grown spuds for Christmas dinner :-)

    [Reply]

    Laura Reply:

    Yes, as long as it doesn’t get too cold (they could freeze) or wet (they could rot).

    [Reply]

  28. LB says

    I would not reccomend that people store potatoes in plastic totes. They need air circulation. A dark breathable cloth could be thrown over a potato bushel/cardboard box-etc. It doesn’t have to be fancy! :)

    [Reply]

  29. julia says

    So i saved some potatoes from the garden last year and stored them in our basement, it stays fairly cold down there. I have them in a cardboard box with a lid on it. Well i went down there tonight and noticed the lid was off and must have been off for a while. I think.out cats knocked it of but the tubers are like 10 to 12 inches tall they are healthy as can be but its december and we dont plant until like march. Are these even going to be plantable now? Or do i pitch them and start over. Or can i stop them from.growing any more? I feel.like if i throw them.away i am wasting a bunch.of plants.

    [Reply]

    Laura Reply:

    Hmm, I think you can try pulling off the sprouts, covering the box, and planting them in the spring. No guarantees that they’ll produce, but it’s worth a try. :)

    [Reply]

  30. sylvia says

    One of my sons is convinced that potatoes which have sprouted are inedible, even poisonous.
    He is not right is he? If he was, I shouldn’t be here.

    [Reply]

    Laura Reply:

    Sprouted potatoes are fine. If they are green, then they could make you sick. But sprouts are fine. :)

    [Reply]

  31. Pat barnes says

    I plant kenebec potatoes every year with good luck. My wife tells me they take longer to cook than store bought ones. Do you Have any reason for this. Thanks

    [Reply]

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