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

10 Mar 21, Heather Warren (USA - Zone 8b climate)
I live in Squamish, BC. (Zone 8b). When can I start putting potatoes in buckets? :) (Gardenate: Try here /www.gardenate.com/plant/Potato?zone=12 )
14 Feb 21, Chef (USA - Zone 8a climate)
New to container potatoes Looking at Early types Late types Larger the better Thank you all for your time
16 Feb 21, Anonymous (USA - Zone 4a climate)
Look up the internet for varieties in your state/country.
09 Feb 21, Patricia Adams (USA - Zone 8b climate)
I'm a beginner an is really fascinated with patio & container garden.what information can you give to be successful
01 Mar 21, Matt stephens (USA - Zone 9b climate)
My first season growing potatoes was last year. We used the Ruth Stout Method and had no problems. We created the raised bed, turned the dirt and added a layer of compost, then put the potatoes down and laid hay on top. We added a good 6-10 in of straw over the top when the sprout came out of the soil. Best and easiest method I have ever seen or heard of. What is described on here is also interesting, I just don't have enough cardboard or newspaper, so I'll be using straw again this year. Just a side note, we have seen/heard people grow things directly in the straw bale too. Usually when they don't have space in their yard, or no yard at all. This method also works well. Good luck!
12 Feb 21, colleen (USA - Zone 10b climate)
That's a big subject! I'd say it depends on what you're trying to achieve. Do you just want a few really good veggies? Do you want to grow as much of your daily food as possible? Does your garden need to be aesthetically pleasing? There are lots of books on container gardening, you could try browsing your local library online. If space is limited, I say think about which veggies you love the most, which are pricey at the store, and which are most improved by eating fresh. Basil and salad greens for instance, are very easy to grow but very overpriced at the store. Corn and tomatoes are so much better homegrown. Whereas potatoes and onions are cheap at the store and not THAT much better homegrown so they're only worth it if you have plenty of space to devote. My advice for a beginner would be to start small and manageable, and build on that each year. Maybe this year buy a couple of Earthboxes or DIY a knockoff, and just grow a few of your favorite veggies. This will also reveal what some of your challenges might be. For instance my first year raccoons ate all my sweet corn, that taught me I would need a good fence in the future. ;-)
11 Feb 21, Gary Hall (Australia - arid climate)
Patricia you need to find out what the Potato season is for your climate Zone 8b is check with local Nursery or where you buy seed potato don't use culinary potato's as they might have fungus or disease.
31 Dec 20, max (USA - Zone 5a climate)
Some gardeners keep stacking wood boxes and a light soil mix as the plants grow. It is said that potatoes will fill the whole stack of boxes. My attempts at this have failed. Can this approach be made to work?
27 Mar 21, Sarah (USA - Zone 5b climate)
I tried the same last season and it didn't work for me either...kept hauling dirt and leaves uphill to potato tower with no results come harvest time. That was my first year growing potatoes. I just found out this morning that potatoes can be determinate or indeterminate. Determinate types supposedly have a smaller plant,, harvest earlier, and only grow in one layer thus do not require hilling(although they should be covered enough so roots don't show). I must have planted a determinate variety last year. because mine only grew in one layer. Check the variety you are planning to grow. I bought seed potatoes this year and am about to plant them. I have more confidence now that I know. what they are and how they behave!
05 Jan 21, (USA - Zone 8b climate)
Do some research on the internet about how to do it. I wouldn't go more than about 50-60cm high, 20-24 inches. Soil would need to be fertile. Don't over water. Or just do it the normal way and hill the soil up as they grow.
Showing 1 - 10 of 34 comments

Patricia you need to find out what the Potato season is for your climate Zone 8b is check with local Nursery or where you buy seed potato don't use culinary potato's as they might have fungus or disease.

- Gary Hall

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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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