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Growing Potato

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 10°C and 30°C. (Show °F/in)
  • Space plants: 30 - 40 cm 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
    An 'earthed-up' row
  • Potato flowers
    Potato flowers

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 1cm 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 - 40cm wide and 10 - 20cm deep. Add a bit more compost/manure to the bottom of the trench and cover with some soil. Put seed potatoes 20 - 30cm 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 30cm 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 - 30cm. 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 - 20cm of mixed compost and potting mix in the bottom of the container and put your seed potatoes on top, about 30cm apart. Cover with about 10 - 20cm 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 solanum 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

14 Oct 17, Carol (Australia - temperate climate)
A friend was advising me when I was planting potatoes. He even dug the trench for me. He then told me to put the spuds on the pile of dirt, not in the trench, about a thumb length down. As I'd never planted potatoes before I duly followed his directions. I now read this info only to find that they should have gone in the trench! What now?
15 Oct 17, Mike (Australia - sub-tropical climate)
If the plants are quite small try transplanting them into the trench. Make sure you keep as much soil around the roots as possible. - like use a shovel and place them in the trench carefully so not to let the soil fall away.
10 Oct 17, Filly (Australia - temperate climate)
Hi, I live in an apartment with a west facing balcony and about to experiment with my "potting Garden" Wish me luck lol. Was just wondering if potatoes would have any problem on my balcony since it is west facing?
11 Oct 17, Mike (Australia - sub-tropical climate)
You will probably struggle growing much if your plants are only going to have sun for half or less of the day. Good luck with it.
10 Oct 17, Darren (Australia - temperate climate)
Do your research on how best to grow potatoes in pots. West facing will probably mean more water for all of your pots, as they will get the hotter afternoon sun. Mulch well.
02 Oct 17, ANTHONY (Australia - temperate climate)
Hello i have heard that when growing potatoes , we need to trim the plant matter that grows above the ground in order to get a better yield . Is this true
03 Oct 17, Mike (Australia - sub-tropical climate)
Doesn't sound right to me. Potato is related to tomato - as the plant grows the potatoes develop up the stem. Best to hill the soil up as it grows but don't cover all the leaves. The leaves are the energy source to grow the potatoes.
01 Oct 17, Denise (Australia - temperate climate)
I would like to grow potatoes from store bought sprouting potatoes in a foam tomato box Can you tell me if potting mix is ok to use alone Do i cut potatoes and which way up do I plant them Thanks
02 Oct 17, Mike (Australia - sub-tropical climate)
If I understand what you mean by tomato box, you may need something deeper than this. If potatoes are large cut in half and leave in the sun for a couple of days to dry the cut section. Then plant with the flat part down. The shoots will come out the top part.
29 Sep 17, Heather (Australia - temperate climate)
I'm growing just a few purple potatoes in a cage following the instructions above. I've never grown potatoes before at all so need some help please. When they sprouted the little plants are not what I imagined. I thought it would be a tallish, narrow shoot but it is a little clump of leaves about 10 cm round (the clump, not each leaf). Do I just bury this whole thing in the next layer of mulch etc? I can't imagine how it will grow through. Perhaps I should have watched more closely and mounded up before the leaves opened, but I didn't notice until they were like this (the leaves are almost the same colour as the compost mix). So, is it OK to bury them now, or should I have done it sooner? I only planted four bits and the first two are as described but the other two are just coming up now, so not too late for those perhaps but they are all together.
Showing 1 - 10 of 505 comments

I put my new potatoes in on the traditional day Good Friday although that will be different for anyone in the Southern Hemisphere lol. As mentioned before they don't like frosts. Anyway, I make sure I plant them on lots of well rotted manure and earth them up when they start showing. I grow new spuds in containers and earth up with a mixture of compost and grass clippings which are free and easily available when I can be bothered to mow the lawn ! Potatoes like water and muck. When you harvest them they taste nothing like shop bought spuds !! Good Luck !

- Emma

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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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