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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 in same bed): Peas, Beans, Brassicas, Sweetcorn, Broad Beans, Nasturtiums, Marigolds
  • Avoid growing in same bed: 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

28 Jan 16, Mary (USA - Zone 10a climate)
I am trying to find a white potato to purchase now. Planting season for potatoes is growing short. Do you sell Zone 10a seed potatoes I may purchase now.
17 Nov 15, Trevor Burford (Australia - temperate climate)
I have some self seeded potatoes growing amongst my tomatoes and pumpkins. Why is this not advised?
18 Nov 15, Chris (Australia - cool/mountain climate)
Tomatoes and potatoes are both in the 'nightshade' family and share many of the same diseases and pests. Something that attacks one (particularly fungii) will probably move on to attack the other.
15 Nov 15, Alexis (Australia - temperate climate)
I'm in brisbane and I'm wanting to try my hand at potatoes in a barrel. is November too late to plant them or am I best waiting till next season?
14 Nov 15, Dave (Australia - temperate climate)
I am trying to grow spuds the same way Pete Cundall did on Patch from Scratch. I put them on newspaper, cow manure, blood and bone and covered with about 18" of sugar cane mulch and watered in. All I have done since is mound leaves.
31 Oct 15, michelle (Australia - temperate climate)
I am moving to tara Queensland and was wanting to grow potatoes could you please tell me what is the best thing to grow there.
29 Oct 15, alan jones (Australia - temperate climate)
I tried growing potatoes from tubers from Bunnings.I grew them in a wall compound 250mm high, as they grew I back filled and put another course of bricks on top giving me 500mm in height. They grew well but later did not come to flower??. In time the plants slowly died off and once dead I set about getting the spuds out. I was dissappointed as there was a little crop and most were the size of a large grape, and only 4 were useable. It looked like they could have spent another month or so to grow bigger, but plant was dead and shrivelled up?? Can anyone give advice what I have done wrong and what to do next season thanks Alan
07 Jan 16, Susan (Australia - temperate climate)
I also am having similar problems , only difference is I used organic seed, but very disappointed with results. Does any one have suggestions cheers
26 Oct 15, Cassie (Australia - temperate climate)
Regarding the potatoes spoiling or dying... They store very well in the ground. The ones that you don't harvest will happily stay there until the following season. When the weather is right they will send out shoots. We planted potatoes in our garden several years ago, and now they grow like a welcome weed... We are always finding them in unusual places. I have one patch of garden that seems to always have potatoes buried for whenever I need them. So you needn't fear missing the harvest window... they will last a long time in the ground.
09 Oct 15, graham paul (Australia - temperate climate)
I have grown potatoes in the past and had good results this time they grew to about 30cm and 1 wilted and died the rest grew to about 40cm which to me seems a bit higher than usual and gradually others are wilting also well before flowering, Can someone help me with problem. Regards Graham
Showing 1 - 10 of 351 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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