Apples, Blackberries
Cherry, Gooseberry
Medlar Trees, Pears
Plums, Quince
Red Currants
Beetroot, Broad Beans
Brussels Sprouts
Carrots, Courgettes
Cucumber - Ridge
French Beans
Leek, Lettuce
Planting onion sets
Onions from seed
Peas, Potatoes
Radish, Rhubarb
Runner Beans, Spinach
Swede , Sweetcorn
Sweet Peppers,
Sweet Potatoes,
Swiss Chard, Tomatoes

Basil, Bay Trees
Garlic, Marjoram
Mint, Parsley
Rosemary, Sage

Raised Bed Veg
Build Raised Bed
Picture Gallery
Compare Raised Beds
Raised Bed Calendar

Container Garden
Crop Rotation
Fruit Cages
Insect Mesh Netting
Jargon Buster
Tillers / Rotovators
Water Butts

All Shrub Reviews (30+)
Shrub Finder - select shrubs for your garden conditions

Chinese Lantern plants
Fuchsia, Heuchera
Lily of the Valley
Phalaenopsis orchids


Quality plants and seeds



Early varieties of potatoes do not store well and they should be eaten soon after harvesting but do allow them a couple of days exposed to the sun. Second early varieties store slightly longer but are also best eaten fresh from the ground after a couple of days. Maincrop potatoes store much better and for longer than early potatoes. Some varieties store better than others, see our page on potato varieties to see which we recommend.

Harvesting potatoes is simple, just dig them up when you need them! Maincrop potatoes will store longer if you follow the rules we describe below.


Early potatoes store for about 5 days in a cool, dry and dark position so harvest them when needed. They really do taste best when harvested and then eaten a day or so later. Begin to harvest early potatoes two to three months after planting them in the ground. Generally this is a week or two after the flowers appear.

Some potato varieties rarely produce flowers other varieties produce lots. But flowering is a very unreliable method of determining if the potatoes are ready for harvest, sometimes normally reliable flowering varieties produce no flowers at all. Time from planting is the best method.

For the first harvest, check out if the potatoes are ready by using a trowel or your hand and then gently burrowing around the roots of a strongly growing plant with your hands. You should be able to feel the size of the largest potatoes and decide if harvest can begin.

Three Maris piper potatoes

All potatoes are best harvested when the soil is not too damp. Dig a fork into the ground about 30cm / 12in away from the potato plant stem and angle the fork slightly towards the stem as you dig in. You are trying to get near the potatoes growing under the ground but not so near that you pierce them with your fork.

Gently lever the soil up which should expose some of the potatoes. Burrow around the soil with your hands and harvest the potatoes. Clean up potatoes of excess soil by brushing it off with your hands and let them dry before storing. Don't wash them.


Early potatoes are best eaten fresh, within a few days of being harvested. They taste better and cook better when eaten that way. However, if you simply have too many to eat or give away there are a couple of options to extend the time over which they can be eaten.

Probably the easiest and most successful is to simply leave them in the ground for longer than normal rather than harvest them. Many earlies and second earlies will easily keep in the ground for two weeks past their optimum harvest date. Their skins will tend to harden up and some of the "fresh from harvest" taste will be lost but it's better than simply throwing them away.

When the foliage starts to die down harvest those potatoes you can eat. Remove all the dying foliage from the others to reduce the risk of pests and disease. Mark out where the potatoes are underground, because without the foliage you will soon forget where they are growing. Harvest the potatoes whenever required.

Another method for extending the keeping period of new potatoes is to harvest them and store them in spent compost (or sand if you have it). The potatoes should be stored in dark and cool conditions. We recommend this over simply re-burying them in the ground. One very definite benefit of using spent compost is that it almost excludes the risk of slug and eelworm damage.

The above method should enable storage of new potatoes, in edible condition, for three to four weeks after harvest.

As in many aspects of gardening, the best results come from compromise and here is our five step plan for making the most of a large crop of early potatoes:

  1. Harvest some potatoes before they reach full size. This will reduce the cropping potential but you can start eating your potatoes roughly two weeks earlier than you would normally. It will also tend to increase the size of the potatoes remaining in the ground.
  2. Eat the potatoes when they are ready as you normally would do. This is roughly at the beginning of July.
  3. Cut off the foliage above ground early July and leave the others in the ground for two weeks longer than you would normally. This will cause the skin to harden slightly and in turn increase their keeping potential.
  4. Harvest about half of what you now have in the ground. These should be stored in cool dark conditions. If possible, store them in spent compost (in containers) although storing them loose in well ventilated containers is a good alternative.
  5. Leave the remaining potatoes in the ground and harvest when needed. They will not be new potatoes but with a bit of luck will still taste good. The main problem area is likely to be slug and / or eelworm damage.

Mantis Composters


Maincrop potatoes are ready for harvest when the foliage starts to turn yellow. Much depends on the weather conditions throughout the growing season so gently rummage in the soil to feel the size of the potatoes before harvesting the lot. Harvesting maincrop potatoes is similar to harvesting earlies with just a few differences.

First, it is important to harvest maincrop potatoes on a sunny day. When the potatoes have been dug up they should have excess soil shaken off and then left to dry on the soil surface in the sun for a couple of hours at the very least, a couple of days is best. This will harden up the skin of the potatoes and help them to store much longer and cook without the surface breaking up.

Because maincrop potatoes keep for a relatively long period of time, they can be harvested in large batches and eaten from storage when required.


The ideal storage container for maincrop potatoes will exclude the light but at the same time allow moisture to escape. Hessian sacks are probably the best the container for storing potatoes but they do cost. If you can't find anyone who stocks them try clicking The Gardener's Shop.

Almost as good are large paper bags, the dull type not the glossy ones. And best of all you can get them free! Take a trip down to your local fish and chip shop and they'll gladly give them away - they have several bags delivered each week and just throw the bags away.

Only store potatoes in good condition. If you store some damaged potatoes, they will all become infected. Any damaged ones can be eaten over the next week or so.

Store in cool conditions but never in the fridge or freezer. If the potatoes are stored too cool they will turn sweet and not store for very long. The best temperatures for storing potatoes are in the range 5°C to 8°C / 40°F to 45°F. For the average gardener these "ideal" temperatures are hard to achieve. The basic rule is don't let the temperature drop much below 4°C / 40°F and keep them as cool as you can above that temperature. A garden shed in the shade is often a good place.

Exclude the light. If light gets to potatoes in storage they will turn green and begin to sprout. This "greening" can often be reversed by placing the potatoes in complete dark for a week or two. The storage bags will exclude some of the light but also store them in a dark position such as a garden shed or a cool cellar.

Inspect the stored potatoes regularly. The best method is to turn the bags out once every month and examine each of the potatoes. Discard any which show signs of deteriorating. Again, in practice the average gardener may not have time to do this. At the very least, open the bags once a month and smell the potatoes immediately. Rotting or diseased potatoes can easily be detected by their odour. Remove a few potatoes from the top of the bag and inspect those below.


Date: 26 August 2016 From: Sullivan
QUESTION: After harvesting, how long should you store main crop potatoes before cooking to prevent breaking up?

ANSWER: This is a very difficult question to answer! Firstly, my personal method is to harvest the potatoes on a dry day and leave them in the open (if no rain) for two to three days. Place them in their storage place and start cooking them a day or so later.

The difficulty is that different varieties have different storage needs. Also the conditions throughout the growing season appear to affect how long they need to be stored before using. But I find it impossible to predict the time correctly so i use my rule of thumb in the para. above.

Date: 10 Oct 2015 From: Tracy
Is it OK to leave main crop potatoes in the ground and dig them as you need them even if there have already been frosts please?

ANSWER: Potatoes are unlikely to be damaged by a frost when left in the ground at this time of year. Eventually, a severe frost may reach that far down but it would need to be very cold to do that. The major risk with leaving them in the ground is that slugs or another pest / disease will get to them.

Once the foliage has died down, leave some marker to show where they are. A couple of times in the past few years I have gone out to harvest some potatoes only to forget exactly where they are! One patch of bare earth in December looks much like another.

Date: 8 July 2015 From: Denis B
Is it correct that you can store your early potatoes by re-burying them in the earth until required.

ANSWER: To do full justice to this question we have added a large section in the main article entitled "How Can Early Potatoes Be Stored". Click here to skip to that section now.


Your email address:

Your Name:

Enter Your Comments / Questions below: