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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 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
    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

08 Dec 17, PATRICK FOLEY (New Zealand - temperate climate)
Hi I would love to get some of those Maori potatoes any chance ?
06 Nov 17, stephen lavell (Australia - temperate climate)
all my potatoes are growing in the same soil mix sandy loam ,mushroom compost general mulch etc and ive followed your planting tips . Some are doing really well and some are stunted and look a bit sad. The best ones are producing some potatoes but im worried that the others are not going to be much good. Any ideas.?
07 Nov 17, Mike (Australia - sub-tropical climate)
I tried to keep hilling up with a 1/2 compost mulch and probably soil was too wet. I did get much of a crop. Use good soil with completely composted material. I would say you probably have some disease.
26 Oct 17, Christine Thyne (Australia - temperate climate)
I've in Wheatbelt Wa can I grow potatos in tubs now as summer is so very hot in Merredin
26 Oct 17, Mike (Australia - sub-tropical climate)
Better to grow them into winter. Plant about May. The hot sun during winter sucks a lot of water out of the plants during the day. You would have to water them 2-3 times a day.
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.
02 Nov 17, Filly (Australia - temperate climate)
Thanks for your reply Mike. ! I'm gonna try anyway :) Can't keep this woman down lol.
Showing 1 - 10 of 512 comments

where do I get potato seedlings in free state rsa am in Lesotho

- masasa Binns

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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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