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Wondering how to plant potatoes? All you need to know is right here.
Home gardeners often plant potatoes every year. If you’ve haven’t grown potatoes, you may be surprised at how easy it is to grow your own.
Potatoes are probably the most common vegetable eaten in North America. So if your family is like most, you eat your fair share of potatoes. Some stats say the average person eats more than 30 pounds of potatoes each year.
Potatoes get expensive in the grocery store. As the weather cools down and winter comes around, the price of potatoes keeps going up.
If your family eats a lot of potatoes over the course of a year, then why not plant some?
Potato plants are easy to grow and they are a great first crop for a new garden bed. Planting and growing potatoes will help break up the soil for future years.
As long as the soil is not too wet, you can plant your potatoes in very early Spring. As soon as you can get into your garden, get some potatoes planted.
You’ll also want to rotate your crops yearly to avoid things like pests like the Colorado potato beetle or other harmful potato beetles. Purchasing disease-free seed potatoes is another way to prevent diseases like potato scab.
Potatoes are one of the most versatile vegetables you can grow. Find yourself some great potato recipes and discover delicious new ways to serve them.
You can find lots of delicious potato side dish recipes over here.
Make homemade french fries if you have a deep fryer. Or make a homemade potato salad.
Put a chicken in the oven, add some potatoes, carrots and onions and roast the whole thing for dinner. Serve with peppers, eggplants, or tomatoes. Baking potatoes to serve with any meal is easy and delicious!
How to Plant Potatoes
Potatoes can be planted early in the year. If you can get in to the garden to work, you can plant your potatoes. Soil temperatures are not that critical when it comes to growing potatoes, so they can grow in a variety of climates.
The only thing they don’t like is an abundance of moisture in the soil – if your garden soil is still mucky and soaked, delay planting for a week or two to avoid rot.
They do love full sunlight and their growing season here in Zone 3 is from May – October. Generally, you’ll want to aim to plant around a month prior to your last frost date.
There are several different ways to grow potatoes, but here is how we plant ours. I like to use a string line to mark my rows while I plant.
Once my row is planted, I move the string line and I mark the end of the planted row, either with a stake or even a larger rock.
Be sure to dig the holes as deep as possible. You may want to mix some compost or other organic fertilizer into the soil. If you can dig 12 inches deep, that is fantastic.
Keep your plants spaced about 1 1/2 feet apart. (You’re going to need that extra soil later). Some gardeners prefer digging a trench instead of holes; either way works just fine.
Planting the Potato Seed
You want your potato to have at least 3 eyes on it. They do NOT have to be in full sprout like in this picture, but they should have 3 buds started at least.
Some people cut their potatoes, or put two in the same hole. As long as I have 3 eyes or more, I toss that baby in the hole.
Plant them sprout/stem (or eye) pointing UP. Many growers chit their potatoes for several days prior to planting, but I don’t bother to do that.
The sprouting action tends to happen naturally with ours, by the time April rolls around.
How Do Potatoes Grow?
An important thing to know! And here’s the secret to getting over 3 pounds of potatoes from 1 potato.
ALL the new potatoes you will get off of one plant will grow between the seed potato and the surface of the soil. This is important to keep in mind.
This is why you want deep holes and a good layer of soil, straw, or mulch to hill over the plants later.
Do You Have to Hill Potatoes
No, you don’t. Should you hill the potatoes? Yes, you definitely should.
Remember where those potatoes are going to grow? Potatoes grow between the seed potato and the surface of the soil.
So the more dirt you can get up to the plant, the more potatoes you should get at harvest time. Remember, the more inches of soil you can hill onto the plants, the more potatoes you will get.
Above is a picture of hilled potatoes. The ONLY thing that will need to be done with these plants is to hill them (we try to do it 3 times) as the green leaves grow.
To hill them, just use a hoe and bring the dirt up tight around each plant. Remember, the more and higher you can hill, the more yield you should get. If in doubt, add more soil – as much as you can.
A bonus is that hilling usually takes care of any weeding that needs to be done too! So take the time and get those potatoes hilled.
It’s the hilling that ensures you get lots of potatoes per plant. So the more soil you can heap around your potatoes, the bigger the potatoes will grow.
How to Harvest Potatoes
Several months later, once the tops die down and turn yellow and brown, you can harvest them.
You can also cheat and steal a couple potatoes while they are growing.
After they flower, I sometimes just feel around in the soil and grab a couple. They taste awesome when they are fresh out of the garden and have a better texture than store-bought.
Don’t disturb the plant too much, and it will just keep on growing. Take a few potatoes for dinner from several plants instead of taking them all from one.
Using your hands instead will ensure you won’t stab any potatoes. Make sure you get all the potatoes, they are great at hiding! Dig deep to ensure they have all been harvested.
Bonus points if you can always find that original seed potato! It’ll be the mushy, soggy one at the bottom of the hole.
Leave them laying in your garden for a few hours, then turn them all over and let the sun dry the other side.
Harvesting on a sunny or at least windy day will help. Do not harvest if it is raining if you can help it.
Never leave your potatoes in the garden overnight. After you have gone to all the trouble of digging them up, why chance a cool night which will be detrimental to the tubers?
Sorting Potatoes for Seed and Storage
We sort our potatoes right in the field. They go into groups:
- Stabbed or cut potatoes go into one bag – We will use these one first for fresh eating.
- Beautiful shape and nice size go into large paper bags – We will use these for seed the following year.
- Small, misshapen go into boxes – We will cook these up and feed them off to our chickens and pigs.
Once we get all the potatoes up into the house, we like to leave ours upstairs where it is warm and dry.
After a couple of days upstairs, it is time to move them down into our Cold Room.
We make sure we label all the bags, and the Seed Potatoes for the following year are put in a separate spot in the Cold Room.
Want to read about about how to store potatoes for the winter?
If you don’t have a lot of garden room, why not try growing potatoes in growing bags like these? You can get a very good harvest using these. You could also grow potatoes in any deep container.
Here are some varieties of potatoes that are good to start with:
- Yukon Gold – buy Yukon Gold seed potatoes online
- Red Potatoes (Red Gold, Carolina, etc.)
- Russets – buy Russet seed potatoes online
- White Potatoes (round white and long white)
Bottom Line: Now that you know how to plant potatoes, be sure to plant some in your garden or in containers this year!
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Originally published 2011; latest update July 2022.