When deep winter snows cover the ground, many of us tend to dream of harvesting succulent fresh vegetables and fruits.
Potatoes taunt us because they are a staple food in many people’s diets. As the eyes start to sprout, we are reminded of the gardening season that lies ahead.
For some, the temptation of passing up something that is sprouting life is just too much of a temptation, so out comes the flowerpots and potting soil. Why not plant those sprouting potatoes?
You want to know how to grow potatoes and you want to start off in the best way possible. You could need information for the following reasons:
Reason A: You’ve been thinking about gardening for some time and wondering what to grow. You recently came up with the idea of trying to grow potatoes (Solanum tuberosum). The only problem is, you’re not sure how to go about it.
Reason B: You’ve grown potatoes before, but you want to try something different this time.
Reason C: You’re a seasoned farmer or gardener looking for more information. You want to learn how to best grow your potato crops.
Whichever reason brought you to this page, you’re in luck. Here you’ll find what you need to get you started on growing potatoes from store-bought taters.
Seed Potatoes vs Store-Bought Potatoes
Experts disagree on whether store-bought potatoes should be planted. While some say store-bought potatoes are grown to be eaten – not planted – others report that they have grown fine tubers from the store-bought variety.
Many potato enthusiasts, on the other hand, will tell you you should grow your crop from seed potatoes. They’ll insist that it’s a safer choice compared to planting the store-bought kind. But what exactly separates the two?
Seed potatoes are, in the simplest terms, potatoes that were grown to be replanted. These tubers are supplied to gardeners and farmers with the intention to grow more from them.
When buying seed potatoes, it’s important to get certified disease-free ones. These have been tested for defects and given the government’s stamp of approval.
The main reason why these potatoes are encouraged is that they reduce the risk of crop and soil damage. Without guaranteed treatment, you could unintentionally introduce dangerous, long-lasting diseases.
They’re also meant to produce high yields and superb quality plants. Garden centers usually offer a variety of certified seed potatoes to choose from. These are cultivated in 15 states which have the ideal conditions for potato farming:
- North Dakota
- New York
“U.S. No. 1 Seed Potatoes consist of unwashed potatoes identified as certified seed by the state of origin by blue tags fixed to the containers or official State or Federal State certificates accompanying bulk loads, which identify the variety, size, class, crop year, and grower or shipper of the potatoes, and the State certification agency.” – United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)
Store-bought potatoes can be treated as well, however, their treatment involves the application of sprout-inhibitors. These prevent the development of a potato’s eyes while stored or put on shelves. This blockage can then inhibit the growth of new crops and minimize yields.
Keep in mind that if you store your potatoes at a higher temperature they may sprout sooner and faster. A typical length dormancy period is around 2 to 3 months depending on storage method, potato variety and storage temperature. Inhibitors used include ChloroIsopropyl-N PhenylCarbamate (CIPC), Ethylene, Carvone and Maleic Hydrazide.
At the very least, use organic potatoes because they have not been treated.
Can I Grow Potatoes from Store Bought Potatoes?
If potatoes you buy from the store do manage to sprout, you should plant them. Not only are store-bought spuds readily available, but you also don’t have to wait weeks for them. Unlike certified seed potatoes for which you have to go through a long process and wait for delivery.
There is no real advantage to growing potatoes from store bought ones (those soft, sprouting grocery store potatoes will make good compost). Seed potatoes are no more expensive than the ones purchased for eating.
The Potato Planting Process
The Right Quantity of Potatoes to Plant
Deciding on the number of potatoes to plant can be difficult. Your decision will depend largely on two factors:
- How many potatoes you wish to sell or consume.
- How much space you have to plant crops.
Some gardeners cut their potatoes into chunks before planting them. This should be avoided as the exposure of the inside of the potato can make them perceptible to disease, rot and pests.
These factors vary depending on the type of potatoes you have, but there are averages you can use.
To help you determine the number of tubers – and feet apart – when planting in your garden, here are a few facts to consider:
|Weight of average potato (ounces)
Cut large potatoes into different chunks but keep small ones as they are.
|Space between each standard potato (inches apart)
Space determines the size of your potatoes. The closer they’re planted, the smaller your tubers come out.
|Minimum number of eyes per potato or chunk
Always grow your potatoes with eyes upward.
|Average yield ratio of seed to crop cultivated (pounds)
Higher yields mean you have healthier soil to plant in.
The Ideal Fertilizer to Use
Before fertilizing your soil with anything, it’s important to conduct a soil test and see how healthy it is. It’s the best way to know what your soil needs without adding any unnecessary or harmful elements.
The ideal soil environment for your potatoes to grow in includes:
- Soil mixed with compost and a combination of macronutrients. Potatoes consume nutrients such as nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus.
- pH levels of 5.0 to 6.5.
- Soil that hasn’t been in heavily treated turf over the past year.
- Soil that doesn’t contain any decaying green matter.
Keep controlling the quality of your soil through soil tests even after planting.
What is the Best Time of Year to Plant Potatoes?
Planting new potatoes isn’t a quick process. The process starts at the beginning of the growing season.
You need to give the soil time between preparing the bed and planting. Generally, 2 to 6 weeks is an acceptable amount of time between the two procedures.
The best time of year to plant is in the early spring with temperatures of at least 45°F, after the cool weather is mostly finished and the soil temperature begins to rise.
How to Plant Potatoes
Planting potatoes takes a few simple steps. Laura at Garden Answer provides a step by step guide in this video.
Prepare the planting area by loosening the soil 10 inches deep to 12 inches deep.
Mix a fertilizer high in nitrogen with your soil.
Make trenches in the soil about 4 inches deep and plant your potatoes about 4 inches apart.
Cover the potato pieces with about an inch of soil.
Water your potatoes plant, especially during the flowering stage when they’re producing tubers.
As the plants emerge, mound the soil by pushing it up around the stem. Eventually, it will look as though you planted the spuds in hills. Dig potatoes from the raised bed rows, removing any vines. Begin to harvest potatoes and place into bags.
Taking Care of Your Potato Plants
Every farmer and gardener understands the best way to plant potatoes is to hill the soil around your planting potatoes. This is the process through which you create small mounds of soil around your tubers. You should always hill your potatoes because it allows you to:
- Keep your potato plants safe from weeds in the spring by uprooting unwanted, wild plants.
- When you seed potato plants create an effective drainage system so that your new potatoes aren’t submerged in water.
- Protect potatoes from sunlight. This leads to photosynthesis and the greening of your plants. This is when your potatoes turn green. The formation of green stains beneath the potato skin is harmful to anyone who eats the tater.
- Enhance the yield of your plants. When you plant tubers, they create two kinds of stems. Those that grow foliage above the ground, and those that grow new potatoes below it. By wrapping the stem above ground in soil, you increase your yield of potatoes.
Watering Your Crop
Making sure your potato plant gets one to two inches of water on a weekly basis should suffice. Water needs become more important for different reasons throughout the first 90 days:
- First 30 days: Your potatoes need water but not critically.
- Between 1 and 2 months: Their water needs are important for crop growth.
- Between 2 and 3 months: Potatoes need water to expand.
- Between 3 and 4 months: Water is still needed but not in the same quantities as before. This is the period right before the harvest when the top of the plants turn yellow and die out.
Typical insects that feed on your potatoes include:
When it comes to cultivating potato plants, ensure your crops are protected from pests:
- Before they appear.
- Throughout the growing process.
- Beyond the harvesting phase.
To achieve adequate pest management, you need to:
- Rotate your crops often.
- Stay vigilant and look out for any eggs, larvae, and adult insects.
- Gather as many insects as possible and put them into water or squash them if they appear.
- Treat your yields with safe insecticides, depending on the type of pest you’re dealing with.
When to Harvest
Different kinds of potatoes mature at different times. The best way to know when to harvest your potatoes is to know their variety and their Days To Maturity (DTM).
Most varieties will mature within 90 days and it’s best to plant those that won’t take more than 4 months to grow. Otherwise, you risk growing disappointing batches because of the summer heat which affects the soil.
How to Harvest
When harvesting potatoes in your garden, you can collect them from the soil using three tools:
You want to start digging near your bed’s boundary so that you don’t accidentally pierce the tubers you can’t see. Remove the soil along the mounds you created through hilling so that you can clearly see them.
Once that’s done, wait for your tubers to dry for half an hour before picking them and storing them. You want to keep them in a cool, dry place away from sunlight until you sell or consume them. Remember, light leads to your potatoes greening and becoming toxic for consumption.
Learn More About Potatoes
There’s more you can learn about the wonderful world of taters online. This article from Good Housekeeping, for example, provides ways of growing potatoes in different yards.
Click on the links below to get answers on frequent potato planting questions:
- What are the best ways to plant potatoes?
- When is seed potato growing season?
- Are potatoes easy for a beginning gardener to grow? What are some tips?
- How do potatoes grow? How many feet apart?
- Why can’t you grow potatoes in the same place each year?
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