This post may contain affiliate links, my full disclosure can be read here. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.
Learn how to grow potatoes in your garden to enjoy the best tasting, organic potatoes you can get!
Growing your own potatoes is so rewarding
You may not think it’s worthwhile because potatoes are a pretty cheap vegetable to buy
We’ve been enjoying growing organic potatoes for 20 years and anytime we’ve bought potatoes in the summer before our harvest is ready, well let’s just say we avoid doing that because we’ve been spoiled by our own homegrown spuds.
If you are a new gardener then potatoes are one of the best vegetables for you to start growing. They are so easy to care for and can be grown in the ground, in containers, in rows, or by the square foot.
When To Plant Potatoes
Potatoes can be planted in the fall, but are most commonly planted in the spring. You can start planting seed potatoes as soon as the ground can be worked in the early spring.
Potatoes will not start growing until the soil temperature has reached 45 F (7 C).
Potato plants can tolerate a light frost, but a hard frost will kill the foliage. If you are expecting a hard, late-season frost make sure to cover the plants to protect them.
If your potatoes do get hit by a late frost and look like they’ve been killed, don’t worry they will normally start growing back from the original seed potato within a few weeks.
Selecting Seed Potatoes
Before you start growing your own potatoes first you need to decide what type of potatoes you would like to grow. Start by deciding when you want the potatoes to be ready to harvest.
Potatoes are broken down into 3 groups, early season, mid-season, and late season.
- Early season potatoes are ready to harvest in 70 to 90 days.
- Mid-season potatoes are ready to harvest in 90 to 110 days.
- Late season potatoes are ready to harvest in 110 to 130 days.
Once you know whether you want early, mid, or late season potatoes decide what color you’d like to grow.
The two most common potato colors are whites and red.
The red potatoes are normally only red on the skin, the flesh inside is still white. But potatoes come in many colors from ones that are red/pink inside to blue, like the Russian Blue Potatoes!
Once you’ve decided what type of potatoes you want to grow, make sure to buy good quality seed potatoes.
You can find seed potatoes for sale in local garden centers and farm stores in the mid-spring. But the varieties available are often limited to about 5 types.
If you want a better selection check out seed catalogs and online sites.
How Many Seed Potatoes Do You Need To Buy?
On average you can expect to get back 10 pounds of potatoes for every 1 pound that you plant.
So if you plant 5 pounds of seed potatoes you can expect to harvest at least 50 pounds of potatoes. Yields can be higher in good weather and with proper care.
To figure out how many seed potatoes you need to plant a row in your garden, measure the length and divide it by 10.
For example, if you have 1 row that is 20 feet long, it will take about 2 pounds of seed potato to plant it.
Cutting Potatoes Before Planting
When you are ready to start planting potatoes it’s time to start cutting up the seed potatoes.
If you’re wondering if you can plant the whole potato, the answer is yes!
In fact potato plants grown from whole, uncut potatoes are often more vigorous and produce larger potatoes than ones that have been cut.
However, this does take a lot more seed potatoes to plant your garden, especially if you are growing a lot of potatoes.
To get the most out of your seed potatoes you need to cut them. Each piece should be about 2 inches (5 cm), ruffly the size of an egg or golf ball.
Make sure that each piece has 1 to 2 eyes (buds) when you’re cutting them.
Potatoes smaller then an egg should be planted whole or they won’t have enough energy to grow a healthy plant if cut.
Do Seed Potatoes Need To Sit After Cutting?
Many times it’s recommended to let seed potatoes sit exposed to the air after cutting for a few days. This lets the cut area dry and forms a thick callous, to help prevent them from rotting.
Honestly though, in all the years we’ve grown potatoes we have never done this and always have great success.
It may be practical to have a tray of seed potatoes sitting in your home to dry but we plant hundreds of pounds of seed potatoes each year and just don’t have room to let them sit out.
They have always grown just fine, but if you live where you get a lot of spring rain it may be a good idea to try this.
How To Plant Potatoes
If you are planting potatoes in rows start by digging a trench 6 to 8 inches deep. You can do this with a hoe or shovel, or make a homemade row maker like this one that makes the job really fast.
Place each piece of seed potato, cut side down, 6 inches (15 cm) apart in the trench.
We’ve experimented with different spacings and found that 6 inches worked the best for giving us both large yields and fitting as many plants as possible into our garden, as long as the soil was very fertile.
If you prefer you can use the more common spacing of 12 to 15 inches (30 to 38 cm) apart. This will give you larger sized potatoes overall.
Cover the potatoes with 4 inches (10 cm) of soil or compost. As the plants start to grow, continue to fill in the trench.
How To Grow Potatoes
When growing potatoes it’s very important to hill them. As the potato tubers grow and swell under the soil the dirt is lifted up around the plant.
Soil being fairly heavy will fall away from the tops of the potatoes exposing them to sunlight.
This causes the potatoes to turn green. You can prevent this from happening by hilling your potato plants.
At least twice during the summer, you’ll need to pull up soil or mulch around the sides of the plants. Start doing this when the plants reach 1 foot high.
The easiest way to hill your potatoes is too till between the rows and then use a hoe to pull the loose soil up alongside the plants.
If you have a lot of potatoes to hill try our homemade potato hiller, it saves us so much time!
How To Water Potatoes
Potatoes love growing in moist soil but take care not to leave the soil soggy as that can cause root rot. 1 to 2 inches (2.54 to 5.08 cm) of water per week is good for potatoes in normal growing conditions.
Keep your potato plants well watered during the summer, but especially when they start to flower and a few weeks after they stop.
During the flowering growth stage, the plants are creating the potato tubers and having a steady supply of moisture will help increase your crop.
Once the plants start to turn yellow and die back in the later summer stop watering them. It will help the potatoes start to cure for harvest.
When To Harvest Potatoes
If you want baby or “new” potatoes you can start harvesting these 2 to 3 weeks after the plants have flowered.
You can either dig up the whole plant or gently dig through the dirt to pull off the larger tubers. Then recover them so the smaller ones can keep growing.
To harvest storage potatoes you’ll want to wait 2 to 3 weeks after the foliage has died back. This helps the potato skins to dry and thicken for storage.
Use a garden fork to carefully dig up the potatoes being careful not to pierce any. Then root through the soil to pick up all the potatoes you can find.
Be thorough there are often large potatoes hiding near the bottom and edges of the planting hole.
We try to time our potato harvest to follow a week of dry weather so the potatoes come up nice and clean.
If you fall weather has been wet, then it’s best to let the potatoes dry a bit before packing them up.
If it’s a warm and cloudy day you can let the potatoes sit on top of the garden soil for a few hours to air dry. If it’s sunny then place them in a shady area instead.
If it’s raining than spread them out in a covered porch or garage, just keep them out of the sunlight.
Storing Home Grown Potatoes
It’s very important that you do not wash your newly harvested potatoes! Washed potatoes will not last long in storage and will quickly rot.
You can brush off any large dirt clumps with your hands but that’s it.
Place the potatoes into storage sakes, bushels baskets or boxes, and place in a cool dark place. The ideal storage temperature is 40 F (4 C) and 85 to 95 percent humidity.
We use our root cellar to store potatoes, but a basement or garage can work too.
Saving Your Own Seed Potatoes
You might be wondering if you can save your own seed potatoes and the answer is yes you can!
We’ve saved our own potato seed for years with success.
Potatoes are very susceptible to viruses and fungus problems though, so take care to only save good potatoes from disease-free seed.
To save your own seed potatoes pick out good quality potatoes from your storage crop. Don’t use any that have cuts, dings, or bites taken out of them.
The most common advice is to save your smaller potatoes the size of an egg for seed potatoes. This certainly works well
Potato Pests And Diseases
Potato plant’s don’t have many pests but the few they do have are common and can cause a lot of damage quickly.
Scab on potatoes can be a common problem that makes the skin of the potato look like it has scales or scabs all over it. It’s caused by the bacteria Streptomyces scabies.
These bacteria prefer to live in alkaline soils so raising the soil pH can help eliminate this problem
Colorado Potato Beetles
Colorado potato beetles are one of the most common potato pests
Aphids are small, soft-bodied insects that can quickly multiply on your garden plants. They suck the sap out of the leaves, stems, flowers and sometimes the fruit and roots of plants.
Use these natural ways of controlling aphids in your garden.
Flea beetles are tiny black beetles that jump like fleas when disturbed. The larva feeds around the roots of plants while the adults eat the leaves, leaving many small round holes.
They can cause a lot of damage but controlling flea beetles isn’t hard.
Early And Late Blight
Blight is a fungus problem that gardeners growing potatoes and other nightshades dread. But there are natural ways to prevent and control blight.
Recommended Potato Varieties To Try
Norland: This is an early season red potato that is resistant to scab. It’s been one of our favorites to grow for new summer potatoes.
Irish Cobler: This is an early season white potato. It yields well and makes great mashed potatoes. The tubers are round in shape but irregular.
Chiften: This is a red variety with bright red skin. It produces high yields of oval to oblong potatoes. It stores well and is resistant to scab and late blight. A great choice for french fries or mashed potatoes.
Red Pontiac: Is a high yielding red potato that makes tubers oblong to round in shape. It’s normally smoothed skin but can sometimes have slight netting.
It’s one of the most popular grown potatoes and adapts well to most soil types. It’s especially good to grow if you have muck soil (heavy peat and spongy).
Kennebec: This potato variety is sometimes classed as a mid-season but more often a later variety. It produces high yields of white potatoes oval to oblong shaped.
This variety actually grows better when planted 6 inches apart because it keeps the tubers from growing too large or getting rough skin. Kennebec is a great storage potato and also resistant to late blight.
Russet Burbank: These are a great choice for baking and boiling potatoes.
This variety stores very well and produces medium to high yields of long cylindrical shaped potatoes that are sometimes slightly flattened and have a netted pattern on the skins.
If you want extra large potatoes from this variety space the plants 12 to 18 inches (30 to 45 cm) apart. They are moderately resistant to scab.
This might seem like a lot of information but growing your own potatoes is really very easy! Just keep these simple tips in mind.
- Use good quality seed potatoes that are disease free.
- Plant them whole or cut into 2-inch sized pieces with 1-2 eyes on each piece.
- Plant them in a trench that is 6-8 inches deep, 6 inches apart. Increase the spacing to 12-15 inches apart for extra large potatoes or soil that isn’t fertile.
- Cover the seed potatoes with 4 inches of soil, continue filling in the trench as they grow.
- Hill the potatoes to keep them from turning green.
- Keep the potatoes watered with 1-2 inches of water per week.
- Harvest 2 weeks after the leaves and stems have died back.
Kim Mills is a homeschooling mom of 6 and lives on an urban homestead in Ontario, Canada. Blogging at Homestead Acres she enjoys sharing tips to help you save money, grow and preserve your own food.