Growing Potato

Solanum tuberosum : Solanaceae / the nightshade family

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

(Best months for growing Potato in Canada - Zone 4b Temperate Warm Summer 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
  • 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.


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

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)
20 Aug 23, Anonymous (Canada - Zone 5b Temperate Warm Summer climate)
Look at the guide to harvest time, 12-16 weeks or just dig around the plant a bit to feel how big they are. Also the plant will start dying.
20 Apr 23, Benjamin Chapman (Australia - temperate climate)
I understand that "non specific" potato varieties don't need the soil to be mounded up as they grow. Where can I find a list which shows "specific" and "non-specific" potato varieties.
06 May 23, Celeste Archer (Canada - Zone 5a Temperate Warm Summer climate)
Technically you don't HAVE TO HILL any variety of potatoes. Here's how it works: you plant the seed potato (which is an extra small potato saved/stored from last year's harvest -- or a piece of a larger potato that you stored/saved from last year) -- the DEPTH THAT you PLANT that SEED POTATO determines your LOWEST POINT -- GENERALLY, and I do mean GENERALLY (like 95% of the potatoes) the potato plant will not create tubers LOWER than the depth you planted the seed potato at (so your seed potato is the BOTTOM of the plants tubers/potatoes). Which is why some people think the very bottom potato always rots, when in reality it is the seed potato and is expected to grow and will appear rotten. Which means if you don't hill up as your potato plant grows and you planted the seed potato shallow, there is not that much ROOM for the potato plant to put it's tubers, and larger tubers will usually "pop" out of the soil and turn green due to sun exposure. If you don't want to hill up, plant your seed potato deeper than recommended -- yes it will be fine -- the reason you plant shallow and mound up is because the potato plant will be able to get leaves into the sun sooner if it's seed potato was planted shallow, which means it will grow quicker because it is collecting light sooner -- then you mound up to offset that you planted the seed potato shallow, but you always leave lots of leaves exposed to the sun so the plant can collect sun and grow. It's a lot of extra work work to mound up soil-- and maybe speeds up the process "brings in the harvest" by 10 days or so.... My experience is planting seed potatoes a foot deep ((30cm) is fine -- yes the plant takes a little longer for it's leaves to surface -- but it's fine and you should not experience any problems - provided the soil is nice and loose. (hopefully that makes senses). I think in the future I will plant two potatoes side by side -- one deep, one using the mound method and record the progress and final outcomes... I have never done a tandem planting -- BUT I HAVE had potatoes spring up from deep down Once as I dug out one of these "self planted potatoes" I realized it was down about 30" (70cm) -- it was in a potato planting tower (old full size garbage can full of 3" holes all over) which I dumped and collect the potatoes from the year before, then just put the soil back, week by week, as I composted kitchen scraps directly into the soil... so no surprise that a potato was so deep -- it grew -- it put out potatoes and it's crop was average good... it spent a lot of energy growing up -- and perhaps I harvested too early based on the other potatoes-- but it made it and did OK, good size potatoes, good quantity. I would not recommend placing your seed potatoes that deep, but a foot (30cm) should be fine.
11 May 23, dz (USA - Zone 10a climate)
I live in Southern California Zone 10A and grow potatoes year-round in bags and containers, anywhere from 5 to 15 gallons size. I have found what works well for me is to put about 4-6 inches of good soil in the container, lay a few seed potatoes on top so the slips are pointed up, about 12 inches apart, then cover them with about 4-6 inches of soil, and water moderately or they will rot. These potatoes will only produce new tubers in the soil about 6-12 inches above the original seed potatoes, so when the plants are about a foot above the soil, if I have any new add seed potatoes and the container has enough room, when I add more soil I may consider adding a few more seed potatoes that will produce "baby potatoes" above the older tubers, then cover them with another 6 inches of soil that will also bury more of the new growth of the first seed potatoes. Doing this stimulates more growth, and I may even add even more soil as the plants get taller depending on the depth of the container. I don't always add the second layer of seed potatoes, but doing this produces a few larger potatoes below (Baked Potatoes!) and a lot of smaller potatoes above them, and they are all excellent eating. I am growing Russet, Golden, and Red potatoes in containers, but I think they are all determinant varieties since they are all started from potatoes purchased in grocery stores, and each plant only produces tubers in the area near the seed potato, but do not continue to produce tubers as the plants get taller no matter how much more soil is added. I am still learning as I go, such as "location, location, location!" is making a noticeable difference on how successful my efforts are, and I would like to find an indeterminant variety potato that will grow well in Zone 10A.
06 May 23, Benjamin Chapman (Australia - temperate climate)
I have been told that the terms I used (specific and non-specific) could be wrong. Someone else has said the terms are "determinate" and "non-determinate".
08 May 23, Celeste Archer (Canada - Zone 5a Temperate Warm Summer climate)
I'm not certain if the initial question is using the correct terminology or not... there are so many different ways to categorize things. If it is determinate verses indeterminate -- then it is like tomatoes -- the indeterminate are like a vine, and continue to grow - which means they CAN BE towered ( but don't have to be) and they will continue to put out "layers" of tubers as you hill up. However, indeterminate potatoes can be grown as determinate.... you DON'T HAVE TO tower or hill up -- so long as you plant the seed potato deep enough. You can get more potatoes per square foot of real estate out of the indeterminate type of potato, but it does take longer. So you need to think about - time verses space verses growing methods.
11 Apr 23, Delwyn Bradley (New Zealand - cool/mountain climate)
Can potatoes be growen all year round
Showing 1 - 10 of 797 comments

I just read about Determinate and Indeterminate potatoes. Which varieties of Indeterminate potatoes do well in Zone 10A?

- dz

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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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