Growing Potato

Solanum tuberosum : Solanaceae / the nightshade family

Jan F M A M J J A S O N Dec
      P P              

(Best months for growing Potato in USA - Zone 5a regions)

  • P = Plant seed potatoes
  • Plant tuber. Best planted at soil temperatures between 50°F and 86°F. (Show °C/cm)
  • Space plants: 12 - 16 inches apart
  • Harvest in 15-20 weeks. Dig carefully, avoid damaging the potatoes.
  • Compatible with (can grow beside): Peas, Beans, Brassicas, Sweetcorn, Broad Beans, Nasturtiums, Marigolds
  • Avoid growing close to: Cucumber, Pumpkin, Sunflowers, Tomatoes, Rosemary
  • An 'earthed-up' row
  • Potato flowers
  • Potato harvest

Seed potatoes

Potatoes sold in nurseries and produce stores are certified seed potatoes. Seed potatoes are small potatoes (usually fairly dried up and wrinkled) which are free of viruses and other diseases. You are more likely to get a good crop from certified seed potatoes.

Before planting expose seed potatoes to light to start shoots growing. Avoid direct sun as this can burn or par-cook the seed! Let the potatoes grow shoots up to 1 cm long - this can take a few weeks. In hot or dry climates sprout seed potatoes in seed trays of dampened potting mix.

Large seed tubers can be cut into pieces - just make sure each piece has at least one 'eye' or shoot. Let the cut pieces dry for a few days before planting or else they will probably start rotting.

Growing in the ground

Prepare the soil by digging in plenty of well-rotted animal manure or compost (don't use fresh manure as it will 'burn' plants). Dig a trench for the seed potatoes about 30 - 40 cm wide and 10 - 20 cm deep. Add a bit more compost/manure to the bottom of the trench and cover with some soil. Put seed potatoes 20 - 30 cm apart in the trench, shoot-side up. Fill in the trench to cover the potatoes.

As potato shoots start to appear, cover them up with soil from either side of the trench. 'Hill up' the crop this way a few times in the first four or five weeks of growth, which gives the potatoes an nice loose mound of soil in which to grow. Now leave the shoots to develop on to form leaves.

Keep potatoes well-watered. The soil should be damp enough to stick to your fingers.

No-dig and container growing - ideal for home gardens.

If you don't have a ton of space then no-dig and container growing both work well for home garden growing. Using container growing you can produce potatoes in any handy space, even on balconies.

No-dig

Make a no-dig bed of potatoes by layering newspapers (or flattened cardboard boxes) at least six layers thick on an area to be planted. Spread your seed potatoes on top of the newspapers about 30 cm apart, trying to get the shoots pointing upwards.

Cover the potatoes with layers of compost, weed-free straw, rotted animal manure, and other mulch materials, until the potatoes are covered by about 20 - 30 cm. Don't flatten the cover down.

Water well. As the potatoes start to grow through, add more layers of mulch material and keep watered. After about four weeks of growing through and covering up, let the potatoes grow on without covering. As the mulch breaks down keep adding more mulch to keep the tubers covered.

Container growing

Get a container at least 40 - 50 cm deep with holes in the bottom for drainage. Shrub-sized flower pots work well. An old wheelbarrow will work if holes are drilled in the bottom. You can also make a 'container' using loose bricks or chicken wire.

Put about 10 - 20 cm of mixed compost and potting mix in the bottom of the container and put your seed potatoes on top, about 30 cm apart. Cover with about 10 - 20 cm of compost mixed with mulch (straw, grass clippings. Water well.

As the potato shoots start to grow through, cover up with more compost and mulch mix and keep watered. Keep on covering up for about four weeks (but stop if you reach the top of the container!)

For both no-dig and container growing, keep the mulch well watered - wet enough to stick to your fingers but not sopping. If the potatoes dry out they will probably go scabby.

  • The longer potatoes grow, the bigger the tubers will be.
  • Don't grow potatoes in the same place as other solanaceae crops as they share many diseases - for example, don't grow potatoes to follow a tomato crop, or vice-versa.
  • You can start harvesting a few tubers as soon as they are big enough to eat - dig around under the plants and retrieve a few, and cover up the rest to keep growing.
  • Potatoes exposed to light will go green, so keep them covered up with straw and soil as they grow. Green potatoes are poisonous!
  • Potatoes accumulate cadmium and other heavy metals, so avoid fertilizers which contain these elements. Similarly, avoid using tyres as containers for growing potatoes as they can leach heavy metals.

Culinary hints - cooking and eating Potato

Peeled or unpeeled and scrubbed, potatoes can be boiled, baked, fried and roasted. - The only way they are not used is raw.

Keep in a pot of cold water after peeling, otherwise they will discolour.

Your comments and tips

24 Feb 24, Calfred Andawe (Australia - tropical climate)
I Need your assistance on how to plant Potatoes in Large scale in dry and Humid climate, full procedures on planting and harvesting
19 Jan 24, Dot (New Zealand - sub-tropical climate)
I want to get a crop in and I need to grow them in planter bags. Can I grow them in layers or only one layer per bag?
19 Jan 24, Celeste Archer (Canada - Zone 5a Temperate Warm Summer climate)
It depends -- not all potatoes are suitable for towering (layering). Additionally, I have found that the potato plant SPENDS A LOT OF ENERGY GROWING UP, UP, UP, as you cover its leaves with soil (leaves have specialized cells designed to collect light - and why you would want to cover them with soil is beyond me this is not really a good move -- leaves are not roots). My recommendation is: if you have a DEEP PLANTER bag starting at about six inches from the bottom -- in sort of a pattern that looks like the 5 on a die (dice) -- make about 3-4 inch round holes -- and make them on the sides that receive light keeping the holes about 10 inches apart (6 inches away from the bottom and 10 inches away from the top of the bag). Fill the bag with a good soil/compost/manure mix of some kind -- starting from the bottom -- when you are level with a hole, place a seed potato there, level or slight below the bottom lip of the hole, and about 3 inches from the side of the bag (so there is soil between the potato and the hole) -- continue up until the bag is full -- the top layer of potatoes can be planted as usual. Yes, the soil will come out of the holes ... not to worry -- just be sure that the soil covers the topmost holes by at least 6-8inches. That is - each potato planted in the bag should have access to a WINDOW (air and light) OR those planted on the top layer (like a usual planting) should be down about 9 inches or so. The Key to this planting is ALL potatoes need to be able to put leaves somewhere -- they will follow the air and light to find that spot -- all potatoes need water -- so you will be watering from the top of the bag only (like a potted plant) -- but you water DEEPLY, since the water needs to make it to the very bottom potato plants -- so maybe you water every 5 days or so... depends on the soil, temperature, amount of light , amount of wind/air (which whisks moisture away), Additionally, ensure there is drainage at the bottom of the bag .... maybe a two inch hole directly at ground level. It might be better to use a crate of some kind.... rather than a bag...anyhow this set up will work with any kind of potato plant without consideration as to whether or not it can handle towering. Hope this helps. Conversion of inches to cm : 1 inch = 2.5cm
14 Oct 23, Anonymous (USA - Zone 10a climate)
Which varieties of Indeterminate potatoes do well in Zone 10A?
10 Oct 23, Celeste Archer (Canada - Zone 5a Temperate Warm Summer climate)
I forgot to mention -- and kept forgetting to post this additional part. When you are "hilling up" you are actually burying LEAVES. Leaves have specialized tissue to COLLECT LIGHT -- that is to say, they are NOT ROOTS -- so to me, burying leaves is NOT CORRECT. It may help to get the potatoes producing sooner, BUT somehow to me if a potato plant made leaves it wanted to collect light -- roots are different, they are sort of thin and round/tube like and are used to transport water and nutrients -- AGAIN: leaves are leaves and roots are roots -- and when I stop and think about it burying leaves doesn't seem right... and my gut instinct is saying that it is not correct. I have also noticed that roots are thinner, and are probably easier for the plant to make/grow -- leaves look like they take a lot of work/nutrition -- so why bury something that is specialized to be above the ground???....... again, the pros may say otherwise and have lots of data and past successes to prove their view point. I have done it both ways (not sure why I did- but I did) and really have not noticed any differences in OVERALL potato production.... so why bury the leaves and make all that extra work hilling up ??? Also, potato tubers seem to like lots of air flow... so make sure the soil is light or ir your in containers ensure lots of holes near the bottom sides to create updrafts..
19 Oct 23, Anonymous (Canada - Zone 3b Temperate Warm Summer climate)
Pull the leaves off.
24 Nov 23, Faith Celeste Archer (Canada - Zone 5a Temperate Warm Summer climate)
Seem like a waste to have the plant grow leaves just to pull them off.... I'm all for burying the seed potatoes at the correct depth (based on soil conditions -- mine go down about 10 inches) -- it saves me the work of hilling up... seems like it saves the potato plant some work as well. The results are about about the same so why bother with all the extra work ?
16 Sep 23, Mpho Molefe (South Africa - Summer rainfall climate)
Question: Its my 1st time to embark on potatoe planting. What are the common diseases or challenges that may be encountered and how to combat them? The information is top class and straight forwsrd and simple to follow. Thanks a million times.
20 Sep 23, Anonymous (South Africa - Summer rainfall climate)
Just plant them and watch them grow.
04 Aug 23, CANDY (Canada - Zone 5b Temperate Warm Summer climate)
I PLANTED POTATOES IN MAY IN A CONTAINER HOW WILL I KNOW WHEN TO HARVEST - THANKYOU
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Can this area plant. Potatoes/sweet potatoes in the fall?

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This planting guide is a general reference intended for home gardeners. We recommend that you take into account your local conditions in making planting decisions. Gardenate is not a farming or commercial advisory service. For specific advice, please contact your local plant suppliers, gardening groups, or agricultural department. The information on this site is presented in good faith, but we take no responsibility as to the accuracy of the information provided.
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