Potato Planting Guide

Earthy. Fresh. Richly flavored. Dug-from-the-garden potatoes delight taste buds in ways grocery store spuds can only dream of doing. Add the benefits of oodles of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, and these little darlings are as good for you as they are delicious. Plus colorful - who wouldn't love purple potato soup, pink potato chips or roasted rosy fingerlings with snipped rosemary?

Choosing a Site for Potatoes

Potato plants need full sun to grow strongly and produce abundantly. Scout out a sunny site that drains well, where the soil is light and loose (or where it can be lightened with the addition of compost, leaf mold, coir or similar amendements.) While potatoes love slightly acidic soil (pH 5.0-7.0) they are pretty adaptable and produce a nice crop in a range of soil conditions. It is worth noting that potatoes prefer cool growing regions - perhaps why we tend to think of spuds as coming from Maine and Idaho. When summer temperatures rise above 80 degrees, potato plants stop setting tubers along their roots. 

Soil Prep for Potatoes

Dig soil to about a foot deep to loosen and surface any weed seeds. Pull existing weeds; potatoes do best with little competition for moisture and nutrients. 

When to Plant Seed Potatoes

Potatoes can be planted in the early spring but they won't begin to grow until the soil temperature warms to 45 degrees. Resist the temptation to jump the gun and plant in cold, wet soil. If a late frost is predicted after your potatoes have been planted and are sprouting, cover the plants with a frost blanket, light tarp or bed sheet. 

Plant your seed potatoes before the weather in your area gets hot so the potatoes have time to develop strong roots and sturdy sprouts before summer heat settles in.

How to Plant Drop & Grow Seed Potatoes

Dig straight trenches 2 to 3 feet apart and 7-8" deep. Drop a seed potato into the trench about every 12-15". Add soil to the trench so potatoes are covered with about 4 -6". 

As the potato plants grow, add back more soil, eventually filling the trench. Potato plants sprout roots along the portions of their stems that are covered with soil and these additional roots produce more potato tubers. 

During the Growing Season

Potatoes produce the best crops with a steady supply of moisture, about 1-2" of rain or irrigation per week. During flowering and for 2-3 weeks after, water is important; the plants are setting tubers at this stage. Also, water deeply during dry spells.

Keep weeds pulled from around your potato plants. 

When and How to Harvest Your Potatoes

When the potatoes are ready to harvest, the plant foliage will begin to turn yellow and die back. At this point, stop providing any supplemental water. A little dryness now helps the potatoes cure.  

To harvest, dig gently around the potato plants and use your hands to find the tubers. Let the potatoes dry, unwashed, for 2 to 3 days on newspaper sheets in a well ventilated garage, breezeway or on a covered porch. This allows the tuber skins to dry a bit and improves storage life. Any potatoes that were nicked or cut during harvest should be eaten right away rather than stored for later. 

Insider Tips

  1. Tempted to try planting grocery store potatoes? These are often sprayed with sprout inhibitors so the spuds don't start growing in the store. Anti-sprouting chemicals reduce garden performance significantly.
  2. "New" potatoes that are sometime available at the store in early summer are really just immature tubers. You can gently dig and savor a few new potatoes about 3 weeks after plants have flowered.
  3. Potato plants vary in appearance based on variety. Fingerling potato plants tend to be somewhat vining rather than upright. This is normal and not grounds for concern.
  4. Discard trimmed or end of season potato foliage, rather than composting it. Like tomato foliage, potato leaves can harbor disease spores.
  5. Rotate your potato patch every year to keep the soil free of disease. Experts recommend planting potatoes in the same soil only every third year.
  6. A bag of 10 Drop & Grow organic seed potatoes plants a 10-12 foot row.
shop seed potatoes
shop seed potatoes

Success Snapshot

Light: Full sun

Soil: Average soil

Depth: Cover with 1-2” of soil

Water: Average moisture

Uses: Plant in garden or containers

Tip: Colorful potaotes are fun and healthier (more antioxidants and phytonutrients)

GUIDE: Potato Planting Guide

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