Growing Potatoes: Everything You Need to Know
Potatoes seem complicated to grow because you can’t see your progress above ground, but potatoes are easy. Homemade potato chips and herb roasted potatoes could be in your future. All you need to do is learn how to grow potatoes at home.
Requirements to Grow Potatoes
To have the best chance at a plentiful harvest, you have to make sure you understand the requirements to grow potatoes.
- Potatoes need at least six hours of sun per day.
- The soil should be well-draining, light, and high in organic matter. Heavy clay soils make it difficult for tubers to form.
- Unlike other vegetables, potatoes prefer an acidic soil with a pH level between 4.8 to 5.5.
- Select an area where you have not grown potatoes, tomatoes, peppers or eggplants for the past two years. Doing so reduces the risk of soil-borne diseases.
When you purchase your seed potatoes, you will notice a few varieties. Early season potatoes take around 65 days to mature. Midseason potatoes require 80 days to harvest. Late season potatoes take 90 days or longer to reach maturity.
- Irish Cobbler – An early season potato that you can plant quickly in the season.
- Kennebec – Ideal for long-term storage
- French Fingerling – Long, slender, red-skinned potatoes
- All Blue – A fun variety of potatoes that sell well at farmer’s markets.
Planting Potato Plants
To plant potatoes, you need seed potatoes. Official seed potatoes are not the potatoes you purchase in the stores. Using seed potatoes ensures you don’t introduce diseases to your garden. While certain varieties are more popular, such as Yukon Gold, there are over 1,000 different varieties to pick.
Once you have your seed potatoes, it is time to plant them. You can plant them whole or cut into pieces, but each piece has to contain an eye or two. If you cut into pieces, let them callus overnight to prevent diseases.
Potatoes need to be planted in mid to late spring. Warmer climate gardeners should plant in late summer or late winter because potatoes don’t want to grow in the hottest months. Early season varieties can be planted as soon as the soil is workable, which is when the soil temperatures are around 40 degrees Fahrenheit. If you plant mid to late season varieties, plant one to four weeks before your area’s final spring frost.
Each potato plant needs to be one foot apart and planted four to five inches deep. The eye should be pointed upwards when planted. Once your plants start to grow and reach six inches tall, make hills around the roots to protect them. Do so every few weeks as the plant grows.
Trench Method: The traditional method involves digging a shallow trench, around six inches deep, and putting the potatoes into the trench. The eye should face upwards. Then, cover the potatoes with soil. As the potatoes grow, continue to hill up the soil along the sides of the plant. Keep hilling the soil whenever the plant is 4 to 6 inches tall. Once the plant flowers, you can stop hilling.
Container Method: Using a container makes hilling easier. Plant your seed potatoes at the bottom of the container. Put six inches at the bottom of the container. As the plant grows, keep adding soil or peat moss. Peat moss is lighter and lowers the pH level.
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