How To Plant Potatoes

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There is nothing quite like growing your own fresh vegetables and homegrown potatoes taste far better than any store-bought varieties. Not only do they taste better but growing your own spuds can be an incredibly fun experience. And, if you are new to gardening, planting potatoes will certainly enhance your knowledge and skill to grow your very own vegetable garden.

The taste and texture of homegrown potatoes are far superior to those of store-bought spuds! Garden “taters” also provide a bounty of nutrients. Here’s how to grow and harvest potatoes in your home garden. Learn more about gardening guides with us including how to grow strawberries and the best shade plants for your garden.

how to plant potatoes

Step-by-Step Guide to Growing Potatoes

As is the case with most vegetables, fruits, or even flowers and other plants, there is a certain process that is involved to grow potatoes. The process is quite similar to growing sunflowers or growing peppers and other species of plants and fruit to a certain extent. Here, we guide you through each step in planting your seed potatoes and growing them into nutrition-packed potato plants.

Planting Potatoes

Plant seed potatoes in a sunny place and ensure that they receive at least 5-6 hours of sunlight every day. These potato tubers thrive in warm climates and require fertile, well drained soil. Hard soil can interfere with the growing process and lead to misshapen tubers.

For your home potatoes to grow, your soil would ideally be slightly acidic (approx. pH 5.9 – 6.8) and the soil temperature should be between 45º to 55ºF. Finally, when it is time to plant your potatoes, mix compost with organic matter into the soil and begin planting the seed potato.

Planting seed potatoes

What is the best time to plant potatoes?

The most crucial element to consider when growing potatoes is the timing and whether you can work your soil around that time. Most gardeners plant potatoes approximately two weeks after the spring frost but this isn’t the most fool-proof way of checking whether your soil is ready. Early crops can be ruined by damp soil resulting in the seeds to rot. This is why it is more important to keep an eye out on the soil condition and temperature instead of counting through days after the spring frost.

To determine whether the soil is ready, make sure that it isn’t too wet or sticking together which will make it harder to work with. Wait until the soil has dried a bit and then begin planting potatoes in containers. In case of a wet spring, you can plant your potatoes in late April or even June.

In cooler climates, farmers and gardeners plant their first crop of early-maturing potato varieties in early or mid April as they can withstand frost. On the other hand, in warmer climates, potatoes are seen as a winter crop and can be grown around September to February. This is because winters are milder in hot climates as in the case of Florida or Georgia.

What is the process of planting potatoes?

Potatoes are root vegetables, which means that they are planted in the ground. Alternatively, they can also be grown in large containers or baskets.

Remember to invest in certified seed potatoes that are free of any diseases or infestations. Do not mix seed potatoes with potato seeds or grocery store potatoes.

  1. Use a sharp paring knife to cut large potatoes into 3 inch balls with 1 to 2 eyes each. Make sure that you do this 1 or 2 days ahead of planting. This is to ensure that the cuts have enough time to heal and create a protective layer over the surface that keeps them front rotting and improves moisture retention. Make sure that you do not cut up seed potatoes that are smaller than a large egg. Instead, you can plant them whole.
  2. Using a hoe or a round shovel, dig trenches that are approximately 6 inches wide and 7-8 inches deep. For ideal results, always ensure that your potatoes grow rows that are 3 feet apart. Now, spread the manure, compost, mulch, or leaves into the hole.
  3. Next, place a seed potato slice side down in each trench every 15 inches and cover them with 3-5 inches of soil.
  4. In about 15-16 days, you will notice tiny sprouts appearing from the ground. This is the ideal time to fill in the trench with another 3-4 inches of soil with a hoe. Be gentle and leave a few inches of the sprouts exposed. Keep repeating this process until the trench is finally ground level and several weeks have passed.
  5. To control weeds and keep the soil cool, remember to mulch between rows.
  6. Once the flowers bloom, it is crucial to maintain even moisture as potatoes require 1-2 inches of water a week to grow. An excess of moisture after planting and insufficient amount as they grow can also lead them to become misshapen. If the foliage begins to turn yellow or die, stop watering immediately.

watering potatoes

Why is hilling potatoes important?

The process of “hilling” potatoes keeps them from getting damaged due to sunburn which can also otherwise cause them to turn a light shade of green and release toxicity.

Since potatoes are root vegetables, they thrive in depth and darkness which is why once the plant grows and protrudes out the surface, you will need to “hill up” or cover it with soil and compost so that only the flower is sticking out. If the potato spuds are exposed to direct sunlight, this can cause them to turn green and release solanine which can make them taste bitter and is also toxic.

Before you start hilling, keep the following in mind:

  1. Hilling should be done in the early hours of the day when the plants are at their tallest. Once the hours pass, the plants begin to droop and sag.
  2. Gather and hoe the compost around the base of your potato plants to cover the tubers and give the sprout ample support.
  3. You should always keep an eye out on your potatoes periodically in case they need hilling.
  4. When the potato plant grows 6 inches tall, you can stop hilling.

Hilling potatoes

Popular Varieties of Potatoes

There are hundreds of potato varieties and types that are consumed all over the world. There is a type for every dish and cuisine out there. Whether you want them baked, mashed, in a salad, etc., there is a type of potato that you can use. Tan-skin or red potatoes are often the most common types consumed and grown in home gardens.

If you want to grow a specific variety of potato, the easiest way to figure this out is by the way you wish to consume them.

  • Long white potatoes and russets are best for boiling, frying, and baking.
  • Round white potatoes are especially good for preparing chips.
  • Red-skinned potatoes are commonly used in potato salads.

potato varieties

Harvesting Potatoes

Potatoes should be harvested on warm, dry days. Simply start by digging them up carefully so you don’t damage the tubers and avoid slicing, cutting, or rough-handling the potatoes.

At this point, your soil should not be compacted, making it easier to dig up. If the weather is chilly, the potato plants can withstand it, but if it is becoming frosty, then you will have to dig them out as soon as possible.

For new, small potatoes, you can harvest them 2-3 weeks after the plants have stopped flowering. These should be consumed in a few days as they will not keep for long.

For larger and mature potatoes, you can harvest them 2-3 weeks after the foliage has died. Remember to remove the brown and dead foliage.

How to Cure Potatoes Effectively

To cure your potatoes, simply dig them out and place them in a dry and cool place that is between 45° to 60°F. This can take up to 2 or 2.5 weeks and it helps the potato skin to cure and sustain for longer.

If you want to cure potatoes, just brush off the clinging soil from the freshly dug potatoes but do not rinse or wash them as this will shorten their lifespan considerably.

Frequently Asked Questions

What month is best to grow potatoes?

The best months to grow potatoes depends on your location and local weather. In the US, most gardeners will grow potatoes during March, April, or May. They will harvest potatoes in approximately 4 months. For some gardeners, potatoes grow and are planted in the fall especially in areas with mild winter.

What happens if you plant potatoes upside down?

If you plant potatoes upside down, there is nothing to worry about. A golden rule is to plant them with the eyes facing upward towards the sky and this will ensure a smooth and easy growth if the spuds.

How do I know when my potatoes are ready for harvesting?

You will know when your potatoes are ready for harvesting when the top vines of the plant begin to drop. The second you notice these vines are dead, that is the best sign to know that your potatoes have fully finished growing.

Abigail Clemente

Abigail Clemente

To say that Abigail is passionate about gardening and landscaping would be an understatement. Abigail came to Your House Your Garden team with an already exceptional portfolio as an experienced writer.

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