Harvesting Your Potatoes
The very best part of planting potatoes is harvesting them. Its like your personal egg hunt. This season I have battled with Armyworms, Grubs and Stinkbugs on my potato plants so I have been harvesting all along, first to check damage, then to enjoy, new potatoes are delicious. I have managed to get to the 100-day mark, time to harvest the rest. Most potatoes are ready to harvest between 85 and 115 days so keep track of when you planted.
You can either wait until the potato plants turn yellow after flowering and dies or you can cut the plants at the stem. Either way, allow the potatoes to remain in the ground for 2 weeks to toughen the skin. After that, the fun begins, digging and pulling up the bounty. Use gloves, as your nails can damage the skin, and a potato fork, to dig under and crop and loosen the dirt, being careful not to puncture. Once harvested, brush off the dirt and allow the potatoes to dry on the ground but not in the direct sun. Discard any that are green. Keep the tubers in a well ventilated, cool and dark place. Properly stored potatoes can last several months.
What to Plant Next?
What to plant in that now empty potato bed? Potatoes are in the Solanaceae family, along with tomatoes, eggplants and peppers. They all are heavy feeders and deplete soil nutrients. Best gardening practices suggest planting a crop to replenish the soil, a nitrogen fixer, like one from the Leguminosae family, beans, peas, clover or vetch. Elite Cream Cow Peas would be a perfect selection that can handle the heat too. Crop rotation is a better way to keep garden pests and diseases to a minimum.
Want to learn more about growing potatoes? Check out this UF publication, Growing Potatoes in the Florida Home Garden at https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/hs183.
Written by Marian Moss, Columbia County Master Gardener Volunteer