Getting Potatoes Ready for the Root Cellar

Celeste Longacre
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Digging potatoes has got to be one of the most pleasurable aspects of gardening. It’s buried treasure! Will there be lots of them or just a few? Either way, there are some critical steps to preparing them for winter storage in the root cellar.

Take a pitchfork and dig in quite a bit away from the plant. Lift the soil to loosen it. Then, with gloved hands, gently reach around feeling for the potatoes. They tend to grow close to the now-dead vines. They also form above where the original potato was planted. Once they have been located, place them in a basket.

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Potatoes need to be very dry when they go into the root cellar. Let them sit in the Sun for about 30 minutes, then turn them over for another 30 minutes. Keep an eye on them—you don’t want to leave them for too long in the Sun. If you do, they will turn green and become inedible.

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Brush them gently and sort them. Any that are nicked, bruised or partially eaten need to be used right away. Others that look good but possibly have a slight problem, place in a paper bag. The rest go into a crate. Be careful not to pile them up too high. If there is too much weight, the ones on the bottom will mush and rot the entire crop. Place the ones in the bag on top and put in the root cellar.

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These will be good until April. Potatoes are genetically programmed to know that they should be planted in April so they will begin to sprout at this time. Enjoy!

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