Potato Harvest Day

Today was officially "Potato Harvest Day" here at The Wine Box Garden. I wish I could say that this day was chosen because of my careful planning and amazing insight into the growth of the potatoes in the ground. I wish I could say that I just knew THIS was indeed the perfect day for harvest.

But, no....The real reason today was "Potato Harvest Day" was because:

  1. I had time today, and 
  2. My potato plants look like this:
Ugly on the outside, beautiful on the inside.

Ugly on the outside, beautiful on the inside.

As I wrote about back in June, the leaves started to turn yellow. I figured it was due to all the recent rain we had been experiencing, and that it would correct itself somehow. To be honest - some of them continued to be yellow and others flowered nicely. It was really a mixed bag. My poor neighbors had to look at those awful-looking things for a while. I wondered if maybe I planted too many potato tubers in those sacks. Maybe I got a little greedy? Maybe there wasn't enough room for them to thrive. Probably, but not sure...I imagine I'll be just as greedy next year....

Looking good in sacks!

Looking good in sacks!

When to Harvest?

When do you know it's time to harvest? It's always a little tricky when the produce is in the ground instead of above it. I've read that as soon as potatoes start to flower, you can pull them, but honestly, that's never been the case for me. That's always too early. So, my plan with potatoes is to leave them in as long as possible. As the OSU Extension Service states, "Let the vines die all the way back before you harvest them." Well, they were looking pretty dead, so it was time. (I probably could have waited a little longer, but sometimes you just have to do these things when your schedule allows.)

I had 4 containers and although some of the potatoes were near the surface, I wasn't really sure what to expect when I dug in. I grew 3 different varieties this year -- Rose Finn Apple & La Ratte, which are both fingerlings, and Yukon Golds. I don't grow potatoes in wine boxes because it's not enough space. I use larger aerated sacks and this year, added one deep 16" pot. To learn more about growing potatoes in containers, read about it this post

Tip: Add supports before they start growing above the rim of the containers. They grow very fast and very tall.

Harvesting from Containers

To harvest the potatoes, I removed the dirt with my hands from the containers and sifted to grab the potatoes. I continued doing this with each container until they were all done. You can also dump the dirt out and sift through, but I didn't want to miss any. 

As I dug, more and more potatoes revealed themselves

As I dug, more and more potatoes revealed themselves

The potatoes really varied in size - some were the normal fingerling size and others were the size of my thumb. There were some very large Yukon Golds, but most were medium in size. In the end, I got about 15 pounds of potatoes! Keep in mind that I only planted about 25 potato tubers and it yielded all of this. 

Tip: Stop watering the plants about a week before harvest. It's easier to harvest when the soil is dry.

Storing Potatoes

As you may have read in my post A Day at The Farm Cooking School, we're having our kitchen renovated. So, we're not doing a whole lot of cooking right now. I will likely grill some of these but I'd like to store some of them for future use as well. Storing them properly can help you keep them all winter. So, I'll take these recommendations and give it a try:

  • Cure the potatoes for a 2-3 weeks by laying them out on a newspaper in a well-ventilated bag. Store them in a dark, cool place (between 50-60 degrees Farenheit), This toughens up the skin for storage.
  • After curing, pull out any that look damaged and eat those now.
  • Store the potatoes in a ventilated bin or burlap bag. I love all the ideas on motherearthnews.com for storing them. They get really creative and describe ways to use a dresser drawer, newspapers, put them in garbage cans, and more. 
Postscript: I wrote more about storing potatoes in this post.

I hope seeing this will influence some of you to give it a try. If you get a few potato tubers and put them in even a garbage can, you can have some healthy fresh food. A garbage can fits on a balcony or even a driveway. With just a little bit of space and care, these are very easy to grow.

Try this delicious and healthy Swiss Chard & Potatoes recipe.

The Benefits of Containers

One other thing I did on Potato Harvest Day was relocate some of my other plantings. I've got some lettuce and peas that I don't think were getting enough sun, so I was able to put them in the place where the potatoes were. That's the beauty of the wine box/container approach - move things around as you need to. 

If you're wondering why I put trellises where they're not needed (I'm not expecting the lettuce in those wine boxes to start turning into vines), they're to protect the plants from the basketballs that can sometimes fly into our yard during a game in the driveway of the neighbors next door. I also line plastic lawn chairs in front of the containers to hopefully catch a flying ball. When I say this is "small space gardening" I mean it. We don't have much property and are very close to our neighbors. Some people say fences make great neighbors, but for us, it's trellises and lawn chairs.

Now, start planning where you'll grow those potatoes!

Relocated plantings where the potatoes used to be

Relocated plantings where the potatoes used to be

I'm Catherine, a small-space urban gardener in New Jersey (Zone 7a) who started gardening out of upcycled wooden wine boxes. For years, I wanted to try gardening, but didn't know where to start. I got up the nerve to give it a try - starting small with a single wooden wine box that turned an idea into reality. That reality quickly turned into my filling every sunny inch of space of my postage-stamp size lawn and turning it into a garden oasis. I grow mostly vegetables and herbs with some exception for fruits (when the squirrels and rabbits don't get to them first). I love learning from gardening communities (and lots of trial and error).

I hope one day to take all that I'm learning and apply it to a larger plot of land. To help me get there, I'm extending my learning through the University of Massachusetts, Stockbridge School of Agriculture's, Sustainable Food & Farming program. (I'm addicted to learning as much as I am to gardening.)

This blog isn't just for gardeners (although I hope it inspires some of you to try growing a plant or two). The recipes (food & cocktails) in theRecipes section of this blog contain ingredients that don't have to come from your own backyard. If you like visiting your local farmer's market(or even your grocery store) and would like to get some new recipes you can use with the fresh produce and herbs you get from your local growers, this blog will have plenty for you too.

In addition to gardening and cooking, I also love to visit and photograph my surroundings. I feel fortunate to have so many amazing places here in New York/New Jersey, where I live and work. Visits to local farms, farmer's markets, and cycling through rural farming areas help me feel connected and refreshed. share these experiences in theExploring section of the blog so that you might visit through proxy or be inspired enough to visit yourself. 

With very few exceptions, all of the photographs on this site are ones I have taken myself. (For the photographers out there, I shoot with a Canon 7D and sometimes with my Lumix  DMC-ZS15 compact camera.) 

I hope this blog inspires you to grow, create, explore, and try something new. The best way to stay up-to-date is to follow me using the social buttons above, or click Subscribe and sign up for my email newsletters.    

Happy Gardening and Healthful Living!

- Catherine