Growing Potato

Solanum tuberosum : Solanaceae / the nightshade family

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 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

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

19 Jul 22, dz (USA - Zone 10a climate)
I just read about Determinate and Indeterminate potatoes. Which varieties of Indeterminate potatoes do well in Zone 10A?
21 Jul 22, Anonymous (Australia - sub-tropical climate)
Check on google what varieties are indeterminate and then see if any in your area.
13 Jun 22, Deb (USA - Zone 10a climate)
How late can you start growing potato’s? My first batch was planted March 20 but plants are already wilting back and I was wondering if I could plant more in June?
16 Jul 22, dz (USA - Zone 10a climate)
I live in Zone 10A and have been growing russet and golden potatoes in grow bags and large containers here for about three years, and I notice I can plant them year-round and they will grow, just slower in winter, and if we get an occasional frost, it may kill the top, and when temps hit around 100 or hotter the potato tops may die off also. No matter what time of year, my potatoes often grow for a few months and then the tops start to die off no matter the season or conditions, but I don't know why, so when that happens, I'll reduce the watering for a couple weeks and then harvest. I try to do "succession" planting, so I always have some potatoes growing, and am still experimenting with what works best, especially trying to learn more about correct watering for the Zone 10A conditions. I do have better success, producing more and larger potatoes, with 10-20 gallon and larger containers than the 7-gallon fabric grow bags.
17 Jun 22, Anonymous (USA - Zone 10a climate)
Check the planting times for your zone.
13 May 22, Kathy Blackburn (USA - Zone 7b climate)
What sweet potato is good for zone 7b Long Island NY
18 May 22, anonymous (USA - Zone 7b climate)
Probably any.
30 Aug 21, Bonnie Hawks (USA - Zone 6b climate)
Can this area plant. Potatoes/sweet potatoes in the fall?
01 Sep 21, Melinda Schwab (USA - Zone 8a climate)
Sweet potato farmers here grow sprouts by “bedding” seed potatoes in March. This is done by placing the whole potato in the ground, covering them with a thin layer of soil and plastic. Sprouts will be cut and transplanted from the greenhouse or bedding field to a different field in May or June. It takes approximately 90-120 days without frost to grow a sweet potato. Sweet potatoes are ready to dig 90-120 days after sprouts are transplanted. Around here in August the rows are plowed and sweet potatoes are flipped on top of the ground. Most sweet potatoes are cured. Curing changes starches in the sweet potatoes into sugar, making it sweeter and the skin tougher. It takes 4-7 days of 80-85̊ temperature and 80-90% relative humidity to cure sweet potatoes. After being cured, sweet potatoes are stored at temperatures between 55-60º F and 85% relative humidity. This special storage process is why sweet potatoes are available 365 days a year here in USA. Here in North Carolina, USA sweet potatoes are shipped all over the world. It is one of our largest farmed food crops. I hope this helps... ~Melinda
14 Dec 21, Celeste Archer (Canada - Zone 7b Mild Temperate climate)
Thank you - excellent information - especially about "bedding" the sweet seed potatoes and cutting the sprouts for transplant!!!
Showing 1 - 10 of 52 comments

Check the planting times for your zone.

- Anonymous

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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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