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
  • 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

11 Oct 20, Neil Hjelmervik (USA - Zone 9a climate)
We have hard freezes in our garden, as low as 20degrees. What varieties do you recommend to be planted at what times?
15 Oct 20, colleen (USA - Zone 10b climate)
Not sure what part of the country you're in, but there is a garden blog I love called Homestead and Chill which is based out of California, the San Luis Obispo area, which I believe is also zone 9. As I recall the gardeners who run the blog have talked in detail about growing potatoes in their zone, and which types they've had good success with. You might want to look that up and see what they suggest. Good luck!
12 Oct 20, Anon (USA - Zone 9a climate)
I assume you are 9a zone, and you are on the potato page, then the time to plant is at top of the page. Find out what varieties grow in your area- google it.
19 Jun 20, ace (USA - Zone 10b climate)
Anyone grow True Seed Potatoes in zone 10? Curious when you start your seeds. My seeds are low dormancy and short-day length. Start seeds in August, maybe, to plant out in October?
30 May 20, Laura (USA - Zone 7b climate)
Could I plant certain potatoes in zone 7B in June? I live in Southampton County, Va.
07 Jun 20, Ross (USA - Zone 7b climate)
I live in Zone 7b in Arkansas. It's been an unusually cool and wet spring / summer. I planted four varieties in a prepared bed. (composted manure was tilled in.) The varieties were Pontiac red, Kenebek, Russet and Yukon Gold in roughly equal amounts, purchased prepackaged at a farm store. The seed potatoes were sown in rows 12 -18 inch spacing on Feb 28 by burying shallow, then covering with several inches of composted manure followed by several inches of straw, two bales on roughly 120 sq feet. I did not document when they sprouted but it seemed weak initially but success rate of sprouts was eventually good. The composted manure is weedy and so was the straw, eventually weed pressure was high so I covered with another layer of composted manure. ( I don't remember the date and the plants were 20 inches or so tall, some in blossom. ) Although at the time of harvest the bed was heavy with weeds again that worked long enough to bring in a harvest on June 4th. While harvesting the soil was still quite moist, only two or three potatoes had rotted and the yield was about 2 to 3 nice sized potatoes per plant with up to three small potatoes per plant too. I followed the harvest with a sweet corn. I contemplated a second potato planting but i think it will be too hot. I'm going to make a deep raised bed from pallets manure and straw out in a shady part of my homestead and try a few to see what happens. Hopefully that helps.
22 Mar 20, Gretta (USA - Zone 9b climate)
I have dense clay yard soil with rocks so I may need to get ALOT of mulch to grow potatoes in zone 9b. Right? I'm a total beginner so any tips or feedback for zone 9b would be appreciated
07 Jun 20, Ross (USA - Zone 7b climate)
I like the idea from the gardener in Australia. G'Day to you. I also have soil like you with clay and rock so digging the trench allows a quick easy replacement but drainage can be a problem with the rocky clay soil. Potatoes love water but too much and they will rot. Try choosing a location with a higher elevation if possible. Sometimes rain pooling can be avoided at higher locations by digging a small trench as a drain. Avoid areas that are already wet or are typically wet. At my place the trench filled with water and took more that a week to drain. I back filled the trench and chose another location.
24 Mar 20, Chris (Australia - sub-tropical climate)
You could try digging a shallow trench, put the seed potatoes in this, and cover with straw/mulch and compost or rotted manure. Keep topping up the straw as the potatoes grow. You'll end up with potatoes and some good quality soil.
11 Mar 20, Chuck (USA - Zone 9b climate)
Could you please use US measurements (inches/feet) instead of metric? Gardenate reply: Each plant page has (Show °F/in) about two lines down from the top to change between metric/non metric
Showing 1 - 10 of 21 comments

How much sun do potatoes need.. Can they be planted in the morning shade and evening sun

- Lee Godfrey

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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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