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Digging up spuds

Dig and store spuds

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You've grown a lovely crop of potatoes and its now time to dig, and store them for winter. JUSTIN RUSSELL explains how.

With winter now upon us, and gardeners harvesting potatoes across southern Australia,it’s time to think about proper ways to store your delicious homegrown bounty. There’s good reasons to do so.

Beside the fact that you’ve put all that effort into actually growing the things and don’t want them spoiling a decent storage strategy will help the spuds last. In ideal conditions you’ll be able to keen them long enough to replant your own disease free seed spuds in spring.

The two most critical points are that stored spuds must be dry and unblemished. If you put the tubers into storage while damp, or if they have small patches of disease or nicked skins, rot will transfer from one tuber to the next and spoil and entire batch. Let me assure you – dealing with a rotting bag of spuds is not a pleasant experience!

To dry the spuds I always dig on the morning of a forecast sunny day, and lay the tubers on the soil surface. Don’t worry about them immediately turning green and poisonous. They’ll be fine for a day or two, and the sun helps to toughen the skins so that they lock in the goodness. After a day or two in the sun, I transfer the spuds to crates, setting aside any that have nicked skins. These go straight into the kitchen to be used within a week or so. The remainder then go into a cool, dark and dry shed for long term storage.

Rats will happily nibble your crop over winter, so it pays to have some kind of defence strategy. I stack the crates on a non-climbable metal stand, and cover the top crate with chicken mesh to stop any adventurous rodents from breaching my defences. Avoid using potato sacks. The spuds at the bottom are hard to check for signs of rot and rodents will chew through the hessian in less than an hour.

I don’t know about you, but when it comes to potatoes, I’m a terrible sharer, at least with the occasional rat or mouse that takes up residence in my shed.