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Growing Potato

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

(Best months for growing Potato in South Africa - Summer rainfall regions)

P = Plant in the garden.

  • 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.


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

22 May 17, Mdumiseni Patrick Khawula (South Africa - Semi-arid climate)
can i p lough potatoes in June ?
17 May 17, Suzanne (Australia - temperate climate)
The information you have here is helpful, but what i need to know is the average growing time to harvest please. The plants are flowering and I'm wondering if that is an indication? We live on the Sunshine Coast and the potato's were planted in October, 7 months ago.
18 May 17, Mike (Australia - sub-tropical climate)
In Qld we plant potatoes in Autumn and Spring. St Patrick's Day is the general start time March 17th for Autumn. Spring is probably Sept. They take 12-20 weeks to grow - probably the warmer the climate the quicker. You can pick potatoes any time but to have mature spuds to store for awhile you wait until they flower and then start to die off. Have a little feel around to see how big they are.
19 May 17, Mike (Australia - sub-tropical climate)
I was talking to a friend today who planted certified potatoes about 8 weeks ago (the last of the hot summer weather) in sandy soil. The last ones to shoot out of the soil had stunted curled up leaves - like the leaves had not unfolded and grown bigger. He took them to a commercial grower to find out why. This fellow said it happened because the soil was too hot. Being sandy loam it probably retained the heat more in the soil. Out of about 35 potatoes about 8 had this problem. The commercial grower has only just planted his crop - Bundaberg Qld. He waits until the potatoes eyes start to shoot and then plants. Hope that helps.
17 May 17, Ken (Australia - sub-tropical climate)
Potatoes can take 14 - 20 weeks, when the tops die down to be ready for long-storage harvest. 'New' potatoes can be harvested about 4 weeks after flowering. These potatoes should be 'raided' without disturbing the plant too much so that others can mature.
15 May 17, Harare (South Africa - Semi-arid climate)
I'm in eastern cape (engcobo) how much watering does potatoes need for a favourable harvest,and what time must I plant?
15 May 17, John (Australia - temperate climate)
To produce good potatoes the plants need a consistent supply of water. In dry soils the potatoes will still form but will be small. Mulch can be used to save water. If the plants are wet then dry then wet again you will get irregular growth and knobbly potatoes with likely hollows inside them.
13 May 17, Ian (Australia - temperate climate)
hi, just wondering if I can plant cucumbers after a potato crop. my potatoes are in a raised bed
15 May 17, Darren (Australia - temperate climate)
Hi Ian, While they don't make good companion plants, there's no reason you can't grow them in the same bed afterwards. Don't forget to enrich the bed with plenty of compost first.
15 May 17, Giovanni (Australia - temperate climate)
You should be able to. Cucurbits, which include cucumbers like well manured soil and a consistent water supply. Put a trellis up, this will keep you plants tidier and the cucumbers cleaner.
Showing 1 - 10 of 467 comments

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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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