How to Plant Potatoes

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Potatoes are perennial favorites among gardeners and are considered one of the easiest crops to cultivate. You can begin planting your seed early each spring and harvest after their plants die back later that fall. Check out the potato how to grow.

One way of planting potatoes is to dig a trench and lay your seed potato tubers with their eyes facing upward. As the plants develop, mound the soil up around them until you bury half their stems.

Preparing the Soil

Potatoes thrive best in loose, deep loam that provides adequate drainage but retains moisture, though they’re adaptable and thrive even in complex soil types. When planting potatoes in hardy, acidic environments (compost, well-rotted manure, cover crops, or our vegetable concentrate soil), add lots of organic matter (compost, well-rotted manure or cover crops for cover cropping purposes or our veggie concentrate soil), while limiting nitrogen fertilizer applications as this could encourage foliage over tubers.

If your garden soil is heavy and poorly drained, consider growing potatoes in raised beds instead. Loosen the soil until its depth reaches 6 inches before planting seed potatoes with their eyes facing upwards 12 to 15 inches apart in rows that are 3 feet apart. As they grow, mound soil around them, halfway burying shoots to avoid field mice eating the harvest.

One approach involves layering straw and potato, starting in a long cylindrical container like a tire or wheelbarrow and waiting until they sprout to take further steps. This method can produce young potatoes for immediate consumption but won’t yield as many yields compared with hilled row planting. Furthermore, this approach requires additional watering to maintain moist conditions in the straw layering process and may take more time before giving you full harvest potential.

Soil Preparation

Potatoes thrive in well-draining soil that’s rich in organic matter. If your soil tends to be heavy clay or sandy, amend it with compost and aged manure for best results. High-nitrogen fertilizers tend to encourage too much foliage growth at the expense of tuber growth.

To grow potatoes in containers successfully, select a deep container such as an old cooler or half wine barrel for optimal results. Make sure that it receives full sunlight (at least six hours each day), away from any tree limbs that might channel water to its planting site.

When planting in the ground, dig a trench with enough depth for your spade and add well-rotted compost or aged manure as the bottom layer. Next, lay down straw or well-aged mulch over the bed before sowing seed pieces approx 30 cm apart. As plants emerge and start growing, keep adding additional straw or soil as cover so your potatoes remain safe from sunlight exposure.

As your plants begin to flower, reduce watering to prevent scab formation. After several weeks, you may harvest “new” potatoes by gently scratching the soil with your finger or garden fork or wait until all tops die and dig the entire plant with care as soon as its tops have fallen over to harvest all at once using a fork without damaging or puncturing any potatoes.

Seed Potatoes

Potatoes flourish best in soil with an acidic pH range between 4.8 to 5.5. Use a home kit to test and adjust your soil before planting potatoes; if your pH levels are too alkaline, consider adding garden compost or organic matter. Potatoes need plenty of moisture but don’t like soggy conditions; water them regularly when the top inch of soil feels dry.

For optimal plant health, “chit” your seed potatoes one month prior to the outdoor planting date in a relaxed environment with light. Chitting involves setting them in an enclosed environment for several days so the cut edges are callous over. Use seed potatoes with at least two or three buds (“eyes”); larger varieties should be cut into pieces no more significant than ping-pong balls for this step.

Once it is warm enough to plant outdoors, prepare holes 12 to 18 inches apart and four inches deep (for early varieties). Next, arrange rows 24 to 36 inches apart so as to allow room for hilling.

Once plants reach 8 to 10 inches tall, mound soil or potting mix halfway up their stems to protect developing tubers from sunlight and prevent them from turning green, turning into bitter tubers that will turn bitter over time, keep hilling as needed until flowers appear.

Planting

Potatoes thrive in all climates, though their ideal environment is cooler temperatures (but not frosty). Potatoes are one of the world’s most widely produced primary crops and are especially important in developing countries as they yield twice as much food per hectare while using less water than grain crops.

Potato plants are perennials belonging to the Solanales family of plants. Potato tubers are highly commercialized parts of these perennials that also propagate new plants (via seed). When grown from seeds, true varieties tend to produce wide genetic variation; when grown from tubers, however, clones will form.

Potatoes differ from most other vegetables in that they grow below ground rather than having above-ground stems with leaves, instead a shoot develops from each tuber which later swells up and forms the potato itself. Each tuber also features two to ten “eyes,” or buds, which may produce new shoots under favorable conditions and even new potatoes altogether.

When planting potatoes, make sure their eyes face upward and produce two to four weeks before your average last frost date. Place in either your garden or a container filled with rich soil. For added support as they grow, Miracle-Gro(r) Shake ‘N Feed(r) Tomato, Fruit & Vegetable Plant Food 10-5-15 can be applied beginning one-month post planting.