How to Grow Potatoes!

Potatoes are my favorite thing to grow in my veggie garden! Potatoes grow under the ground, when it’s time to harvest it’s like searching for buried treasure! 

Step #1

 Find the perfect location! I have grown potatoes in the ground and in containers; my favorite is in a container. I find it easier and much less digging. More about this in step #2. First, we need to find a place to grow your potatoes that will get them at least 6 hours of direct sunlight each day. 

Boy planting potatoes
(Check out Sam helping plant potatoes!)

Step #2  

 Many people go by the calendar (Planting on Good Friday) to plant their potatoes and sometimes that can lead to trouble. 2 weeks after the last spring frost date is a good rule of thumb, but I like to go by the soil. If the ground you are planting in is too wet your potatoes will rot. Make sure the soil is dry enough to be worked and planted in. This is when container planting is a plus. Using a container and a fresh mix potting soil and dry compost will make an ideal growing environment even when we have had a wet spring. Make sure you are using large enough well drained containers to grow your potatoes in. An ideal container is about 2-3 feet tall and 10-15 gallon capacity.

Soil for potatoes

Step #3

 Use certified disease-resistant seed potatoes like those sold at Treasured Roots. Many people choose to cut their large seed potatoes for more plants; to do so, make sure you use a sharp, clean knife to cut potatoes a day or two before you plant them. Make sure each piece has at least 1 or 2 eyes, and only cut potatoes that are larger than a hen’s egg. Cutting them ahead of time gives the potatoes time to form a protective layer to prevent rot or disease.


Step #4

 In the ground, plant your potatoes in rows 3 feet apart. Dig a trench for each row about 8 inches deep and place your potatoes -EYES UP- every 12 to 14 inches then cover with 3-4 inches of soil. In containers plant 1 seed potato for each 3 gallon container (5 seed potatoes for 15 gal container). Cover your potatoes with 1-4 inches of soil.

Planting Potatoes

Step #5

 In 12 to 16 days, sprouts will appear! Now you will begin the process of "hilling" your potatoes. This is when you gently cover your plants (hilling) with another 3 - 4 inches of soil. This will increase your yield, keep your tubers from getting sunlight, and more depth to grow. Do your hilling in the morning when your plants are standing tall. Leave only a few inches of the plants exposed. Repeat this step as they grow until your trench is ground level. Potatoes grow fast so keep an eye on them. It is very important not to allow potato spuds to be exposed to sunlight, they need depth and darkness. In containers once your plant is about 6 inches tall you will add a couple of inches of soil around your potato plants. Do your hilling in the morning when your plants are standing tall. You will bury about 1/3 of your plant and repeat this step a few more times as your plant grows. Stop this process once your soil reaches the top of your container. Potatoes grow fast so keep an eye on them. Remember, it is very important not to allow potato spuds to be exposed to sunlight, they need depth and darkness.

Potato plant

Step #6

 Maintain an even moisture. Potatoes need about 2 inches of water a week, especially after the flowers bloom. Stop watering when the foliage begins to turn yellow and die off. In containers make sure to water deeply by watering until the water runs out of the bottom of your container. Stop watering when the foliage begins to turn yellow and die off.

Rows of potatoes

Step #7

 Harvest your potatoes when the ground is not wet. “New” potatoes can be harvested 2-3 weeks after plants stop flowering. These new potatoes will need to be eaten a few days after harvest and can not be stored. Large mature potatoes can be harvested 2 - 3 weeks after the foliage has died back. If you leave your potatoes for 10-14 days after the foliage has died then your potatoes will have a thicker skin, which is better for storage. Make sure to cut down the brown foliage and don’t wait too long, as they could rot if the soil is wet. In containers the easiest way after the foliage has died back you can dump your container over in a wheelbarrow and search through to find your potatoes. *Never eat any potatoes with green skins!

Pull up potatoes

Step #8

 After your harvest make sure to let your potatoes air dry (not in direct sunlight) before placing in storage. For up to 2 weeks place freshly dug potatoes in a dry cool place (45-60F) to cure. Do not wash potatoes before storing only brush soil off.

Varieties of Seed Potatoes Sold at Treasured Roots

Kennebec: Kennebec produce high yields of round-to-oblong tubers with white flesh. Kennebec potatoes will keep up to a month when stored in a cool and dry location away from direct sunlight. Starchy potatoes like Kennebec are best for baking and frying.
Potato Plant Image
Yukon Gold: Yukon's flesh is yellow to gold, firm, moist, and waxy. When cooked, Yukon Gold potatoes take on a creamy and tender consistency with a rich, buttery, and earthy flavor. Yukon's have more moisture, making them best suited for mashing, baked dishes, and soups and chowders. They can also be roasted or fried.
Red Pontiac: Red Pontiac are a popular gourmet potato variety with sweet white flesh and thin red skin. This all-purpose variety is excellent for harvesting as new potatoes and also makes fantastic, mashed potatoes. Red Pontiacs are small to medium in size and are round or oval with a somewhat uniform shape. The flesh is crisp, white, and firm. When cooked, Red Pontiacs have a waxy and dense texture and a mild, buttery, and earthy flavor.

Happy planting!

- Elaine Tyler

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