Gardening Resources

How and When to Harvest Your Potatoes

Should you wait until your potato plants are done flowering? What about waiting until the plants are dying back? Timing when to harvest your potatoes can be tricky, but luckily we have all the top tips.

All potato varieties can be harvested as new potatoes — dug up before the plant reaches maturity, while its tubers are still small. By the time that the plants have begun to flower, most of them will have developed at least some immature tubers ready for harvest. At this stage the tubers have thin skins and less dry matter within. They are small, so they can be cooked and served whole. But the thin skins that make them so succulent and delicious also reduce their ability to store well. The thin skins allow easier evaporation of the interior moisture, so they should be consumed shortly after harvest. New potatoes should be harvested and handled carefully in order to reduce bruising and damage to the skins, both of which can cause decay.

New potatoes can be harvested in spring and early summer, but this tends to sacrifice the parent plant so that it will not produce mature storage potatoes later in the season. If the plant is lifted with great care, some of the immature tubers can be removed as new potatoes, and the plant can be re-potted in new soil. This causes some stress to the plant, and is not generally recommended. Usually a row (or container) is sacrificed for new potatoes, and the left rest to mature to full size.

Always harvest potatoes with gentle care. Use a fork to gradually loosen the soil around each plant. Potato Grow Bags and other containers are useful, as they can be dumped, soil and all, into a wheelbarrow or over a tarp to sift through the soil and harvest each tuber by hand.

Storage Potatoes

Storage potatoes are harvested once the plant is completely mature at the end of its growing season. At this time, the foliage begins to yellow and dry, normally from the lower leaves progressing upward. Some late potato varieties may still be green and bushy by the time early and mid-season plants have completely withered. For the best storage potential, mature tubers should not be harvested for at least two weeks after the foliage above ground has died. This waiting period allows the skins of the tubers to thicken, which is key to long term storage. Thick, unbroken skins (just as in winter squash and onions) reduce the loss of moisture from within.

If frost is expected within two weeks while plants are still green and vigorous, many growers defoliate the tops in order to trigger the skin setting process. A weed trimmer can be used to shred the leaves and stems of the plants so that death is gradual rather than sudden. If the plants die suddenly (including death to hard frost), the tubers may be discoloured. It is simpler to just select the appropriate variety for a given growing region in order to avoid artificial defoliation.

Again, all potatoes should be dug with care to avoid piercing the skins or bruising the tubers. In garden beds, it’s a good idea to remove soil methodically, and feel around for each of the tubers as they are uncovered. Keep dug potatoes out of direct sunlight, and preferably out of extreme heat or cold. The ideal range for harvesting storage potatoes is 13-18°C (55-65°F). If dug spuds are exposed to sunlight, the risk of soft rot and sun scald are increased. Just keep them under the cover of burlap sacks or tarps until they can be moved into long term storage.

Want to Know about Rain Gardens?

One of our board members recently attended SFU’s Faculty of Environment’s public talk Imagine 12,000 Rain Gardens on Vancouver’s North Shore with guest speaker Dr. Aaron Clark.

We have posted a link to the video of the talk, as well as a summary of the talk, including his slides, here.

If you would like to keep updated on the details of the SFU rain garden project, please email ( They will happily add you to their mailing list.

So You Planted GARLIC – when do you harvest? Usually in July!!!

How do you know when to harvest garlic bulbs and if they have matured to the right point for harvest?  And what do you do with those weird curly things growing out of the centre of each plant?  Those are called scapes, and you can harvest them and eat them.  They should to be taken off the garlic plant, or else they will divert the plant’s strength and energy away from forming a nice plump garlic bulb.  To cut off your scapes, follow the curly stalk down to where it emerges from the centre of your garlic plant, and cleanly cut it with a sharp pair of scissors or secateurs.  See the following article for garlic scapes recipes, and enjoy!  Now back to the garlic..

Each leaf on the above-ground garlic plant represents one potential papery wrapper around the mature bulb. Having well developed, fully intact wrapper layers means that your garlic will store longer and keep its wonderful aroma and flavour. The trick is to let the plants begin to die back, but harvest before all the leaves have turned brown.

When to harvest garlic

The top-most, green leaves extend down, into the soil, into the heart of each garlic bulb. When the lower two thirds of leaves have dried up and turned brown, your garlic bulbs will be at their best. Because there are still green leaves, there is still quite a lot of moisture left in the bulbs. The process of allowing this moisture to reduce naturally is called “curing” and will increase the storage life of your garlic by months.

Harvest your garlic bulbs gently. Take time to loosen the soil above each bulb. Avoid piercing the bulbs you loosening the soil some distance from each one with a fork. Do not rely on simply pulling upwards on the stem, but rather pull gently and at the same time coax the bulb out of the soil with the other hand. All this fuss will be worth it if you can extract your garlic without damaging the protective layers.

Once your bulbs are dug, lay the plants in a single layer somewhere that is dry, airy, and out of direct sunshine. Leave the plants (turning them every few days doesn’t hurt) like this for at least a week. You want the green leaves to dry up and turn brown on their own. This can take several weeks if a lot of moisture is present in the plants’ tissues, so play it by ear.

When the bulbs are cured, and no green is left showing on the upper leaves, the garlic will be ready for cleaning and storage. We prefer using a toothbrush to loosen and scrub away any soil still stuck to the bulbs, and trim the roots with scissors. This is the time to braid soft-neck garlic. For hard-neck garlic, trim the stem to within about three inches from the bulb. If you notice that the stem is pliant or seems to still have a moist core, it’s worth letting the garlic dry for another week. Garlic netting is the best way to store hardneck garlic bulbs, (and if you have scapes, you have hardneck garlic!) but they can also be tied in small bundles and hung for easy access in the kitchen.

Save your biggest, best looking bulbs for planting in September – or choose some new garlic varieties. Either way, plant lots of garlic. It’s one of the most economical garden crops.



Wondering What to Plant?  These All Do Great in Garden Plots!

  • courgettes – Zucchini or other squashes
  • mange tout – snow or snap peas
Companion Planting – Find Out Which Veggies Make Good Neighbours!

What to do with used Coffee Grounds…!


Here are some resources to aid in your ongoing quest for the perfect parsnip, or the merriest of melons… Happy Reading!

reference books


Link to the West Coast Seeds Planting Guides for BC, including Vegetable Charts, Flowers, Herbs, Cover Crops and Winter Plantings.