Home gardeners usually plant vegetables like peas, tomatoes, and peppers. But have you ever tried growing potatoes at home? Potatoes are a kind of starchy root vegetable that is considered one of the most staple foods in American cuisine. But beginning home gardeners might wonder how to plant potatoes at home. Well, in this part I will give you some information about when to plant potatoes, how to plant potatoes at home and in pots, and how to harvest potatoes. So, keep reading to prepare for your potato garden.
When to Plant Potatoes
The ideal condition to grow potatoes is cool soil, usually between 45-75 degrees F. This means that the growing season for potatoes will be different depending on your climate, such as:
In cool climates: If your area has really cold winters and moderate summers, then you should grow potatoes right after the last frost date. For example, this weather is usually seen in the northern United States. And people there often plant potatoes in early spring, mid to late April.
In warm climates: If the region you live in has extremely hot summers and moderate winters, in late summer as soon as the weather starts to cool is the ideal time to start growing potatoes. For instance, this usually occurs in September in the southern United States.
How Long Does it Take to Grow Potatoes?
One of the most important factors affecting the time for potatoes to reach their maturity is the variety of potatoes. For example, it will take around 75 to 90 days for early-season varieties of potatoes (such as Yukon gold) to grow and produce. Mid-season varieties (like russet) will take longer to produce, which is around 90 to 135 days. And the late-season varieties (such as French) need more time to grow. Usually, it takes between 135 and 160 days to be ready to harvest.
It’s better for you to choose a potato variety that’s right for your climate. For instance, if you have fewer days in your living space where soil temperatures are between 45 and 75 degrees F, early-season varieties should be your consideration.
How to Grow Potatoes At Home
Here are the 8 easy and practical steps on how to grow potatoes at home that every home gardener can do.
- Buy seed potatoes. While a lot of garden vegetables are planted from seeds, potatoes are planted vegetatively. In other words, new potato sprouts will germinate from the produce on their own. In order to grow potatoes at home, you will need seed potatoes or potatoes covered in “eyes” – red spots will easily germinate for full growth. Besides, you should not use grocery store potatoes for your seed potatoes. This is because they might be treated with an inhibitor to prevent germination.
2. Start your potato seeds. You should put your seed potatoes in a cool, sunny place to stimulate hardy germination around two or three weeks before the time you’d like to grow.
3. Cut your seed potatoes. Cut each seed potato into several pieces one or two days before growing. Make sure that each section should have at least two sprigs or sprouts. Don’t grow these pieces right away. They will need several days to “heal”, or they will rot in the ground.
4. Select and prepare potato beds. Choose a sunny place (make sure it gets at least six hours of full sunlight each day) in a raised bed, well-drained, a little bit acidic soil (pH level between 4.8 and 5.2), ideally rich in organic matter. Then dig shallow ditches (4 to 6 inches deep). Make sure they are long enough to grow each potato about 8 inches apart.
5. Grow your seed potato pieces. Grow the seed potatoes in the ditch so that the buds are facing up (cross section). Freely cover them with loose soil, which is considered an ideal environment for potatoes to grow. So, do not pack in the ground.
6. Keep it moist. You should water your potatoes one to two inches of water every week. To prevent potatoes from cracking, you should water the bed equally.
7. “Pile up” potatoes occasionally. When your potatoes grow, leaves will germinate from the soil, while tubers will develop on individual stems below the ground. If the tubers are exposed to too much sunlight, they will turn green and you can’t eat them. So, make sure you bury the tubers simply by “piling” them. All you need to do is to pile several inches of mulch or soil around every plant’s base, except for the top few rows of the leaves. You should do this around 3 to 4 times during the season.
8. Keep potatoes free of pests. Potatoes are considered one of the most popular targets for Colorado potato beetles, aphids, and fleas. So, make sure you remove these pests from your potatoes or spray them off with water. Besides, you can nourish your potatoes with tea compost, ensuring the soil pH is always under 5.2 to prevent some diseases for your potatoes such as scab or blight. Also, don’t forget to maintain healthy crop rotation practices.
Pro tip: You can also grow potatoes with several plants to improve their tastes, such as yarrow, basil, thyme, etc. Learn how to grow basil from seeds indoors.
How to Grow Potatoes At Home from Potatoes
Ideally, you should grow potatoes from typically planted seed potatoes from a certified garden supply store. The potatoes you buy at the grocery store might have been treated with a germination inhibitor to prevent them from germinating in your storeroom. Nevertheless, if you have some potatoes that are starting to germinate, just grow a piece of germinated potato in a container or in the ground. Make sure you cover them with 3 inches of soil. Green sprouts will appear after 2 weeks. They will develop into shrubs and after 3 months or so, new potatoes will develop under the ground.
How to Grow Potatoes in Containers
If you don’t have a large enough space to grow potatoes in the ground, you can completely grow potatoes in pots or containers. You can start with a large and deep container with plenty of drainages. Fill one-third of the pot with soil, then put your seed potatoes in the container. Then place a layer of potting soil on top. Put the potato containers in place full of sun and water them well. Plant the potatoes in the pot as they grow to about 6 inches and repeat until the container is full.
How to Harvest Potatoes
When you see the foliage starting to die, don’t worry! This means it’s almost time to harvest your potatoes. Potatoes are usually ready to harvest two to three weeks after the plants begin to die again. Once the top of the foliage is completely dead, you can start harvesting your potatoes.
- Softly dig up your potatoes. You can use your fingers or a spading fork to softly lift the potatoes out of the ground. Do not dry potatoes in the sun; otherwise, they will turn green and you can’t eat them. If there are any green potatoes, throw them away.
- Let the potatoes dry in the air. If your soil is really moist, let the potatoes air dry (out of direct sunlight).
- Prepare to store potatoes. Leave your potatoes in a cool, dry, and dark spot for two weeks. This will make their skins harder and make them last longer.
- Store your potatoes. Store potatoes in a cool and dark place. If you don’t have a tuber cellar, you can put your potatoes in the bottom rack of the pantry. They can be kept for up to six months.
Frequently Asked Questions
In this part, you will find out answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about how to plant potatoes at home.
This hugely depends on local weather. However, most home gardeners plant potatoes at home in March, April, and May. And the time to harvest is around 4 months later. However, some places can grow potatoes in autumn and winter if it has a mild winter climate.
In general, potatoes grow best in place with full sunlight. They are strong rooting plants, and also produce the best harvests when grown in loose, light, and well-drained soil.
Usually, potatoes are ready to harvest when the foliage starts to die again. You need to let the top of the potato plants be completely dead before you can start harvesting.
Few things can happen if you don’t harvest your potatoes when they die back. For example, if the soil is too wet, your potatoes will rot. Or they can also die again if the ground starts to freeze. But if you live in a climate that is warm and dry enough, any surviving tubers throughout the winter will germinate again when the spring comes.
Potatoes grow best when given 2-3 inches of water per week without completely drying out. They also need to be watered thoroughly, typically when it is really hot and dry. You should also keep the soil moist 8 to 10 inches underground. Another thing to remember is don’t overwater the potatoes for 2 weeks after growing.
There are few plants that are considered to boost the flavor of potatoes, including chamomile, yarrow, basil, thyme, and parsley. All legumes, cabbage and corn will also help the potatoes grow better and thus enhance the taste of potatoes.
So, that’s some useful tips on how to plant potatoes at home. I hope that all of you learn something and start to grow your first potato garden, either in the ground or in pots. If there’s anything you are still confused about, don’t hesitate to leave your questions in the comment box!