Harvesting potatoes at Matariki

Here in New Zealand we have just celebrated the first official holiday of Matariki.  This is traditionally a commemoration of the start of the new garden year for Māori and a time to get together, finish harvesting the previous seasons root crops, remember those who have passed on, and prepare our hearts and thoughts for the new year.  The name refers to the star cluster Matariki –  known by the name of the Pleiades or the Seven Sisters in other parts of the world –  which makes its first appearance as it rises over  the eastern horizon just before dawn.    We’ve had a great show for months already as the planets have been lining up daily so lots to see if you are out early. As Matariki is close to the shortest day, it is a good time for us all to pause, tidy up the old year and look forward to the new one.  For me, it is the start of the new garden year as I begin the new crop rotation cycle by planting garlic in the next bed.


It’s a hurry up for me to finish harvesting my potatoes. I know it is late for the south and we are starting to have some pretty good frosts!  I actually got 2 rounds of potato harvests this year. Once my garlic came out of the beds in January, I whipped in a bit of potato fertiliser and planted another crop of spuds.   I have been digging them for the past month or so for dinner but time to get them into storage now. To store your potatoes, let them dry out or cure for several days in a dark dry place.  This will harden off the skins to provide extra protection – make sure you treat them carefully when you harvest them – you don’t want to bruise them or damage the skins.  Eat those ones first. Once cured then store them in layers in box with layers of straw or newspaper in between.  They will need some air circulation.  It’s a good idea to go through and check your stored crop about once month and throw out any that have gone off.  You can also use hessian sacks, brown paper bags or wooden bins.  It’s important that you keep them dark though to avoid going green.   There are other storage options such as earth clamps but I have never done that. I would love to hear from you if you have – or any other tips on storing root crops.

Seed Potatoes

You can use your own potatoes for seed.  I know it is a good idea to purchase seed that has been certified free of disease but if your potatoes are disease free and good and healthy then there is nothing to stop you doing so.  We are seeing a bit of scarcity out there at the moment so be prepared in case there is a seed shortage.   Choose smallish potatoes – around the size of a large egg, wrap up in newspaper and store in a single layer tray.  As above, keep in a dry dark place until late winter when you can start chitting them in trays on the window sill.

Enjoy your long weekend and keep growing!

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