I love how easy potatoes are to grow and how hands off they are. Not only are they easy to grow, but potatoes are easy to store and you don't need a extra fridge for doing so! Potatoes were one of the first crops that I was able to successfully grow enough of to supply our family year round. Growing potatoes was only half of the process (check out these tips on how to grow potatoes), learning how to store potatoes over winter was the other half.
Here is how I cure and store potatoes over winter to provide for our family of 5, both for eating and for seed potatoes to plant for next year.
When to Harvest Potatoes
Many people mistakenly think that just because the tops of their potatoes die and turn brown it is time to harvest potatoes. This is in fact, not the case. It does indicate that the potatoes in the ground are done growing. Leaving potatoes in the ground to begin the curing process for up to a month AFTER the potato tops die allows the skins of the potatoes to begin hardening and thickening, resulting in better storage. This works best if the soil the potatoes are in is fairly dry.
Stop watering your potatoes two weeks after they flower. This allows the soil to dry out and the skins on the potatoes to become stronger. Moist potato skins when headed into storage will cause issues like mold and rotting.
A good time to begin harvesting potatoes for me in Alberta is normally around the beginning of October. I try to look for a time in which there is no rain expected during the two weeks before my harvest.
Check out my video on when to harvest potatoes here.
How to Cure Potatoes for Storage
As mentioned above, when preparing potatoes for storage it is important to allow the potato skins to thicken and dry out. This process is called curing potatoes. Find a cool area (like a garage) out of sunlight and preferably in the dark to cure your potatoes. Spread the potatoes out one layer thick and ideally not touching (although I will admit I am not particular about this myself) on something like a sheet, a blanket or in a box. Leave them like this for 2 to 5 days or until the skins can't be rubbed off and look to be dry.
Storing Potatoes Through the Winter
When selecting potatoes for storage, put aside any with scabs, marks or cuts on them that could create an opening for mold and rotting. Plan to use those potatoes up first, or consider cooking and freezing or pressure canning those ones. (Yes, you can pressure can potatoes!)
Potatoes can be stored in crates, bags, boxes or bins. Factors to consider when storing potatoes include light, moisture and temperature.
The darker the better - as light causes potatoes to turn green.
Less moisture is better as a dry environment discourages bacteria growth and the breakdown of the potatoes.
The ideal temperature for storing potatoes is 6 to 10 degrees C (43-50F).
Storing Potatoes in Wood Shavings
My favorite way to store my garden potatoes is in a Rubbermaid bin in wood shavings. We buy a bale of wood shavings for this from the local feed store. You can also use peat moss with this potato storage method. This potato bin is then stored with the lid slightly ajar to allow for some air movement and placed in our garage. We try to keep our garage around 10C (50F).
To store potatoes the longest possible, place shavings in the bin and space out potatoes in a way so as they are not touching. This way, if one potato begins to rot it will not affect those around it as quickly. Once one layer is placed, cover the potatoes with more wood shavings. Continue until the bin is full.
I have successfully stored potatoes for up to 6 months using this method.
Storing Potatoes for Seed Potatoes
When storing potatoes for your own seed potatoes choose potatoes with characteristics you want to see in next year's potatoes. This means you are probably saving your very nicest potatoes for seed potatoes. Avoid saving potatoes with scab or blemishes.
I like to wrap each individual seed potato in newsprint. I place these in the bottom of the same Rubbermaid I use for my regular potatoes, laying newsprint in the bottom of the bin, then placing the wrapped seed potatoes, then finally covering with a layer of wood shavings (you could also use peat moss).
Best Potato Varieties for Storage
My top two potato varieties for long-term storage are Yukon Gold (love this one!) and Russet. Any potato with a thick skin will store better than potatoes with thinner skins. I love the red skinned (like Red Pontiac) for eating fresh, especially because there is no need to peel them, but these potatoes are not great for storage.
Potatoes that store well include:
Don't miss out on reading my blog post on growing potatoes! Here I teach you the difference between determinate and indeterminate and why only some potatoes work well for growing in containers.