With a little knowledge and preparation, you can plant your very own potatoes in your home or community garden.
Photo by: Mint Images RF/Getty
Mint Images RF/Getty
Potatoes are vegetables many of us may take for granted. After all, “meat and potatoes” is usually a term used to describe basic yet fundamental foods. However, when you look at the over 2,000 varieties of potatoes grown in the spud’s native home of Peru, you quickly realize that this hearty vegetable can be much more exciting than the few varieties you find at the supermarket. In North America, we also have a wide variety of heirloom potatoes that boast a dizzying array of colors, flavors and textures, and you can plant all of them yourself. What’s best is that potatoes are just as hardy in a garden as they are hearty in a soup or stew, meaning that even a novice gardener can get a handsome crop of spuds. So, if you’re a potato fanatic or simply wanting some variety in your veggie garden, read below to learn how to plant potatoes yourself.
Best Conditions for Planting Potatoes
Planting potatoes requires a little bit of preparation, but they’re nothing to get anxious about. As long as tubers have access to decent soil, sun and water, you’re sure to get a good crop. The first thing you need to know about planting them is that they won’t start growing until the soil temperature reaches 45 degrees Fahrenheit. You can typically start to plant potatoes in the spring as soon as the soil is workable (i.e. not frozen solid). However, they won’t start growing until the soil warms up.
Potatoes like lightly packed, loose soil that is well-drained and slightly acidic (pH of five to seven). If you’re not too sure about how well your soil drains, make sure to put rocks or gravel down first before adding soil and be careful not to pack your soil too tightly. Your soil should be moist but avoid over watering. Really wet soil can cause the potatoes to rot.
Potatoes love full sun, so make sure to plant them in an open area where nothing is blocking the rays. Potatoes are pretty resilient, but you should still protect them from frost with insulation, such as mulch. If you plan to plant potatoes early in the spring, pay attention to the weather forecast and make sure to cover up your spuds if the weather is going to drop.
You can also opt to plant your potatoes as late as early June and still be able to harvest later in the winter, although you will still need to pay attention to frosts and protect your spuds. If you get hooked on growing, remember that soil they’re planted in needs to be rotated. This means that you should not grow potatoes in the same spot for at least two to three years to let the soil regain its nutrients.
Photo by: © Jackie Bale/Getty
© Jackie Bale/Getty
Prepping Your Potatoes for Planting
The potatoes you use to plant are referred to as seed potatoes. There’s nothing that differentiates seed potatoes from eating potatoes except for a bit of preparation. Any type of potato can be a suitable seed potato, although you will want to use a natural potato, like what you get at a farmer’s market. While supermarket varieties may yield a satisfactory crop, those types of potatoes may have been genetically modified to prevent replanting.
At least a week before you intend to plant your potatoes, leave out your whole potatoes somewhere warm (ideally 60 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit). This can be in your kitchen or on your windowsill. The reason for this is that you want your potatoes to start sprouting, and you’ll notice little buds forming on the eyes -- the little pinpoints or divots that cover a potato.
Once your potato sprouts, take a sharp knife and carve little chunks of potatoes about two square inches thick. Each little chunk should have at least one eye or bud (two are better, but no more than that). If a potato is smaller than a golf ball, it’s okay to plant it whole. After you’ve cut your seed potatoes into smaller sizes, let them dry out for a couple of days. The cut parts of your seed potato pieces will form a hard skin, which will help prevent the potatoes from rotting. Don’t skip this step, especially if it’s your first time planting spuds.
How to Plant Potatoes
For thousands of years, our ancestors have planted potatoes in neat rows directly in the ground, and that’s still the most recommended method for planting potatoes. However, you don’t need to grow rows upon rows of these tubers if you have limited space (or don’t want a lot of potatoes). Planting potatoes directly in the ground, however, is recommended because potato plants need room to expand their roots and grow in size. While potted potato plants can work out, you may not get the same yield or size of potatoes.
Whether you’re planting a row of potatoes or a single plant, first start by digging a six- to eight-inch hole or trench in your garden bed. Make sure that the soil is tilled and loose, as this will help the potatoes grow much more easily. Place a potato chunk (or whole small potato) in the hole with the eyes facing up. If you’re planting a row of potatoes, space them out about 12 to 15 inches apart. If you’re planting multiple rows, space each row about three feet apart from each other. Cover your seed potatoes with no more than four inches of soil to begin with. As you see the plants growing, add more soil as needed.
Photo by: Westend61/Getty
Caring for Your Potato Plants
Once you have planted your potatoes, make sure they get between one to two inches of water each week. As a general rule, it’s good to have a rain gauge in your yard so you can keep track of how much rain your plants are getting and adjust the amount and frequency of water you give all your plants.
Once your potato plants start to flower, you need to be on top of watering and make sure that the soil is moist. This is a crucial time when the plant is creating potatoes underground and needs sunlight and adequate water for the potatoes to form and grow. Once the flowers turn yellow and the plant starts looking like it’s dying, don’t freak out! Your potatoes are still alive and well underground, but need time to cure to develop their flavors and textures. Do not water your plants during this time.
Harvesting Your Potatoes
You can harvest the potatoes you planted in different stages depending on how you want to enjoy them. Two to three weeks after your plants have stopped flowering, you’re ready to harvest baby potatoes, which are small, soft and tender. Carefully dig around the base of your plant and pick off the larger baby potatoes. Leave the small, marble-sized (and smaller) ones to grow a little bit more. Just take what you need to eat. You can leave the rest in the ground to continue growing. Be sure to cook them the same day.
Two to three weeks after the potato plant dies and dries out, you’re ready to dig up your mature taters. Use a garden fork to gently dig around your potato plants. Tap off any excess dirt. As with the baby potatoes, let the smaller potatoes mature a little bit longer if you wish. If you live in a dry place, leave the potatoes out on the ground for a couple of days. Alternatively, you can leave them inside your home, preferably under a fan. This drying process helps the potato skins to toughen up a little, which will help your potatoes last longer when you store them.
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To begin with, dig a trench that is 6-8 inches deep. Plant each piece of potato (cut side down, with the eyes pointing up) every 12-15 inches, with the rows spaced 3 feet apart. If your space is limited or if you would like to grow only baby potatoes, you can decrease the spacing between plants.What is the correct way to plant potatoes? ›
Plant seed potato segments cut-side down (eyes up) in a 6-inch-deep hole or trench. Space each segment 12-inches apart on all sides. Between each segment, sprinkle 2 tablespoons of a low-nitrogen, high-phosphorous fertilizer. Then cover both potatoes and fertilizer with 2-inches of soil, and water the soil well.What month do you plant potatoes? ›
Most gardeners plant in March, April or May, and expect a harvest about four months later, starting to dig new potatoes about two to three weeks after plants flower.How do you plant potatoes roots up or down? ›
Potato sprouts should be planted cut-side down, sprout-side facing up. You'll want to plant each sprout 3-4" below the surface of the soil. Plants should be spaced out at least 12" apart so the plants have room to grow both below and above ground.Do you grow potatoes in sun or shade? ›
Light. To bolster top growth, which will support the growth of the roots, plant potatoes in full sun. They can handle part shade, but it's the lush top growth that feeds the tubers underground. The more sun, the better—at least six to eight hours per day.What not to do when planting potatoes? ›
- Planting too close. ...
- Planting too shallow. ...
- Planting too early. ...
- Planting potatoes without eyes. ...
- Overwatering after planting.
As a general rule, if the plant is healthy, you can expect to dig up about five or six full-size potatoes. Every potato plant will most likely have a bunch of smaller, baby-size potatoes as well.Do you plant potatoes up or down? ›
Plant each piece of potato (cut side down, with the eyes pointing up) every 12-15 inches, with the rows spaced 3 feet apart. If your space is limited or if you would like to grow only baby potatoes, you can decrease the spacing between plants. To begin with only fill the trench in with 4 inches of soil.What's the secret to growing potatoes? ›
Grow in Full Sun: Grow your potatoes where they will receive full sun (6-8 hours per day) planted in an acidic, well-drained soil. 4. Plant Potatoes in Early Spring: Potatoes prefer cooler weather. They can be planted as soon as the ground can be worked in the early spring, once the soil temperature reaches 45˚F.How late can you plant potatoes? ›
If you have a late and wet spring, you can plant later—through April (depending on location) or even June, especially in containers. In cooler regions, the early-maturing potatoes are usually planted early to mid-April.
Keep the soil moist after planting potatoes but avoid heavy watering before the plants sprout. Once the plants emerge, water regularly to provide consistent moisture. Provide extra water while the plant is flowering, and shortly thereafter, as this is the time when the plant is producing new tubers.Can I plant potatoes that have sprouted in my cupboard? ›
If they've started to shrivel, sprouted potatoes are fair game for my earliest planting, which is started indoors. A sprouting potato is a marvel of reproductive botany.Can you plant just the eyes of potatoes? ›
Growing Potatoes from Eyes in Containers
You can start with as few as two eyes in a container or up to four or five. Fill a container about half full of soil and plant the eyes about 1-2 inches below the surface. Cover it with more soil and pat it down gently. Water it well and keep the soil moist but not wet.
How much water do potatoes need and when? Potatoes need different amounts of water at different times in order to produce to the best of their ability. Generally, potatoes need between 1-2 inches of water per week; this could be provided by rain events or you to make up the difference.How long do potatoes take to grow? ›
You can grow many different types of potatoes. They usually take 12 to 20 weeks to grow depending on the potatoes you choose, so if you want to eat potatoes in the summer, plant them in early spring. Did you know? Unlike other plants, potatoes grow downwards so the part we eat is at the bottom with the roots.What is the spacing for potatoes? ›
Spacing: 8" - 12" in-rows x 24" - 36" between row. If you would like to mainly harvest new potatoes, space plants 9” apart. If large storage potatoes are your goal space plants as far as 20” apart. Plant potatoes in furrows cut side down, 3- to 5-inches deep.What do you add to soil before planting potatoes? ›
Adding organic matter (compost, cover crops, well-rotted manure or leaves) is a good way to improve soil before growing potatoes. Go easy on organic matter sources high in nitrogen (such as manure) and nitrogen fertilizer as too much nitrogen can encourage lush foliage at the expense of tuber production.What grows well next to potatoes? ›
Among the good potato companion plants are crops in the cabbage family. Growing broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower and kale, which all have shallow root systems, means they won't compete for the space or nutrients that deep-rooted potatoes will need. Correspondingly, potatoes also make good kale companion plants.How many potatoes can I grow in a 5 gallon bucket? ›
You can plant five seed potatoes into a 10-gallon bucket and about three into a 7-gallon. If you've only got 5-gallon buckets, plan on using only two potatoes.How many potato plants do I need to feed a family of 4? ›
|Vegetable crop||Plants per 1 person||Plants per 4 People|
|Potatoes||4 to 6||12 to 24|
|Radishes||10 to 15||60|
|Spinach||4 to 8||16 to 32|
|Squash (Summer & Winter)||1 to 2||2 to 4|
You buy a bag of potatoes and before you can use them, they begin to sprout. Rather than throwing them out, you may be contemplating growing grocery store potatoes in the garden. Will store-bought potatoes grow though? The answer is yes.Is Epsom salt good for potatoes? ›
Add 1-2 teaspoons of Epsom salt to the planting hole to help boost magnesium that will help build the cell walls of the potato, resulting in better yield and quality of the harvest.
When planting, an NPK ratio of 15-15-15 is ideal. A month or two after they've been planted, potatoes need lots of nitrogen, so a fertilizer with an NPK of 34-0-0 is the best choice. An NPK of 12-12-17 or 14-7-21 is best for the last couple of months before harvest when the plants require more potassium.What makes potatoes grow big? ›
To grow larger potatoes the plants need to be spaced at a larger than normal distance apart. This allows the plant to absorb more nutrients and water. One option therefore, to enourage larger potatoes, is to plant the seed potatoes 24in / 60cm apart compared to the normal recommended distance of 15in / 45cm.How long after potatoes flower are they ready to harvest? ›
Most early potato varieties will produce flowers in June, quite pretty ones too. Many are white, but they come in purple and pink too. Once the flowers start to go over, or the unopened flower buds drop, you know that the potatoes are ready to harvest. This will take anywhere from eight to twelve weeks after planting.Can u plant potatoes in July? ›
Second Crop Potatoes
Potatoes planted in summer are called second-crop potatoes. Seed potatoes for second cropping are sold by garden suppliers and potato merchants anytime from mid to late summer.
Potatoes are a cool season crop, so planting is done starting in early April. Growing potatoes is not as popular as many other vegetables due to large space requirements, long maturity dates and proper storage facilities. The ideal storage temperature is around 40 degrees.Can you plant potatoes too deep? ›
This is a great question as planting depth is important. If seed potatoes are planted too shallow, the tubers can turn green and taste bitter. Potatoes planted too deep can rot before they have a chance to grow.Why did my potato plants not produce potatoes? ›
Temperature and Crop Development
They needed lower temperatures to induce tuber development. The optimal temperature for tuber growth is said to be about 59°F, while for leaf it's about 75°F. A diurnal temperature cycle, with cool nights and warm days, is ideal for potato production.
Sprouted potatoes that are still firm, have relatively small sprouts, and don't show any wrinkles or shriveling are okay to eat, as long as you cut off the sprouted parts and soft spots. However, there's still a chance you could get sick. If your potato is sprouted and shriveled up, then it's too far gone. Toss, it.
Place your potatoes into the pot, burying them slightly into the soil. Try to allow about 6 inches between each potato or piece of potato that you plant. Plant them with the sprouts facing upward out of the soil. Then, cover them with more soil as needed until they are completely buried under 1-2 inches of soil.What is chitting potatoes? ›
Home-grown potatoes taste heaps better than the ones you buy in the shops. Early and maincrop potatoes can be sprouted inside before planting in the garden, this is known as 'chitting'When should you not eat potatoes? ›
Check for soft spots, dark spots, sprouts, or green color. If the potato has little sprouts remove them, then prep potato for your dish. If there is a little green cut that off. If the potato has long spouts, is soft, wrinkled, or has lots of dark spots get rid of it.How big do eyes on potatoes need to be to plant? ›
Prepare seed potatoes for planting: If your seed potato is golf ball size or smaller go ahead and plant it whole. Larger than that and you'll want to cut it into pieces that have 2 or 3 eyes each.How do you encourage potatoes to sprout eyes? ›
Place your seed potatoes in a not-to-dry place at a temperature of between 45-60F (7-15C) and lay them out in trays where they are exposed to indirect sunlight. To speed up the sprouting process, place onions or apples alongside the potato tubers. The gases released by the fruit encourages the potato to sprout.Do you have to hill potatoes? ›
One of the most important tasks when growing potatoes is hilling up soil around the plants. Once you have the seed potatoes planted, the potato plants will grow pretty quickly. After the plants reach about eight to twelve inches tall, soil or straw needs to be hilled around the plants for the potato tubers to grow in.What happens if you overwater potatoes? ›
Risks of over-watering potatoes
This slows plant growth, increases the likelihood of rot, and can be highly detrimental to yield and quality. Early in the season, over-watering can result in misshapen tubers. Later in the season, it increases the likelihood of powdery scab and lenticel growth.
Most potatoes are grown annually as subsequent seasons will produce poor quality crops. In most climates where the soil freezes, potatoes grow as an annual. In climates where the soil never freezes, a potato plant could be thought of as a perennial that spreads via the tubers, if they are left in the soil.What's the quickest vegetable to grow? ›
Radish. Radishes are probably the fastest growing vegetable in your garden, being ready to pick in as little as 30 days from planting the seeds. Their peppery flavor is a hit on the vegetable tray or added to a fresh lettuce salad.How many potatoes do you plant in each hole? ›
One pound of seed potatoes yields about 8 to 10 seed pieces for planting. That's enough for a 10 foot long row if the pieces are spaced 12 inches apart.
Put several inches of soil in the bottom, then plant three or four seed potatoes and cover them with 3 inches of soil. Continue to add soil as the potatoes grow. To harvest, lift the cylinder and pull the soil back to expose the tubers.Do potatoes need to sprout before planting? ›
If you sow seed potatoes directly into the ground without chitting / sprouting them, they will grow perfectly well. After a week or two the eyes will develop sprouts and these will grow towards the soil surface and appear above the soil as potato plants.Why do you cut potatoes before planting? ›
Each eye has the potential to grow into a whole new plant. Because of this, seed potatoes are typically not planted whole. Instead, they are cut up into pieces prior to planting to yield more plants from each seed potato. Cut seed potatoes into pieces that are about the size of a golf ball.How deep should you plant potatoes? ›
To begin with, dig a trench that is 6-8 inches deep. Plant each piece of potato (cut side down, with the eyes pointing up) every 12-15 inches, with the rows spaced 3 feet apart. If your space is limited or if you would like to grow only baby potatoes, you can decrease the spacing between plants.How long should potatoes sit before planting? ›
To cure them you simply need to let the cut potatoes sit in an airy, dry place that is out of the sun for 2 or 3 days. The cut side of the potato will dry and harden and get a leathery texture. This “hardens” up the cut side of the potato and helps keep soil born diseases out of the potato plant.What makes potatoes grow best? ›
Potatoes grow best in well-drained, sandy soil. A poorly drained soil is more likely to produce diseased tubers. Have your soil tested. The ideal soil pH level for potatoes is somewhat acidic, between 6 and 6.5, but they will tolerate soil with pH as low as 5.Do potatoes like Miracle Grow? ›
Miracle-Gro Water Soluble Plant Food
While it works well for potatoes, it's also versatile enough to feed the other vegetables, fruit, and herbs in a garden. Miracle-Gro recommends applying this fertilizer every 1 to 2 weeks during the growing season. The 2-pound bag should feed 800 square feet.
Why Do Potatoes Sprout? Potatoes sprout when temperatures reach around 68 degrees F. In other words, that nice, stable temperature inside your house tricks potatoes into thinking it's spring — and time to sprout.Can I just plant a whole potato? ›
Small potatoes can be planted whole, but larger potatoes (anything bigger than a golf ball) should be quartered with a clean knife before planting. Make sure each piece planted includes an eye or bud, which is where the new crop will spring from.What do you soak potatoes in before planting? ›
When you cut a potato for planting each piece should have at least 2 eyes. In a perfect world, I will cut potatoes 5 to 10 days before planting. Before planting some folks will soak the cut potatoes in water. Some will roll them powdered sulfur or wood ashes before planting.
Vegetables as potato companion plants
Among the good potato companion plants are crops in the cabbage family. Growing broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower and kale, which all have shallow root systems, means they won't compete for the space or nutrients that deep-rooted potatoes will need.