Planting and Growing Potatoes
Potatoes are very easy and plentiful when it comes to growing them on your own, making them a popular vegetable to grow.
Potatoes are grown from seed potatoes, which are sold in nurseries, that have been treated to yield off disease.
The season for planting potatoes is from February 15 – March 14.
Find an open, sunny area that gets good drainage. Get your soil nice and soft, turning it over a couple of times to get rid of the weeds, grass or old roots. If using a raised vegetable bed, put in the top soil, plus compost, and plant quickly after. Make sure that the soil isn’t too wet, as that can cause the potato seed to rot.
Get a ball of twine or yarn, tie it around a stake and place it at one end of your garden. At the opposite end, line up the twine and make it taut, then hammer in your second stake making a nice, visual guide line. This will help keep your rows nice and straight. (**You can tell that the picture below is our soil during the first season of our first garden and the picture above is after many seasons of rototilling.)
After purchasing your seed potatoes, inspect them for eyes. If you want to induce more growth of eyes, place them in a warm (60-70°) area with good light. Do this about a week or two prior to planting.
When planting seed potatoes, they need to be spaced about 12″ from one another and the rows need at least 2-3 feet of space between.
Large potatoes can be cut in half or thirds, multiplying your outcome, making sure that each piece has an eye from which the plant will root from. Smaller potatoes should not be cut.
Dig a trench or hole at least 6″ deep and place one potato in. Cover the plant with only 4″ of soil. The potato will begin to sprout in 2 weeks, at which point you will cover with another 3-4″ of soil. The potatoes will grow in the space between the seed and the top of the soil. This gives room to grow larger and more potatoes. Be careful not to hill over your potatoes, making too large of mounds, as they could rot before ever reaching the sun.
When the plant starts to flower, make sure that you are supplying plenty of water, as this is the time that the plant is creating new tubers/potatoes.
Potatoes are ready to harvest an average of 90-120 days after planting, around the mid-June to mid-July. You can harvest the potatoes 2-3 weeks after the plant has flowered. Loosen the soil around the edges of the mound and start to remove the tubers. This is like a treasure hunt, finding buried potatoes under the soil. You never how many or what size tubers you will find, making each plant new and different. If using a shovel, be careful not to pierce the potatoes. If the size of the tubers are small, you can leave them in the ground longer to grow.
Let the potatoes dry out for 2-3 days, unwashed, on top of the soil or in a warm place, like a garage, apart from each other. Be careful if your garden is open, as some nosey pests may take off with your bounty. Once they have dried, you can wash & eat them.
Store unused potatoes in a dry, dark, well ventilated area, where they will keep for 3-6 months. You can also store them by freezing them, cut and blanched (cooked in a pot of boiling water for up to three minutes, then immediately placed in an ice bath), in vacuum tight, sealed freezer bag. I like to cut ours into fries or hash/cubes and store them to use throughout the winter.
The most common critter that affects the potato plant is the Colorado potato beetle. They overwinter in the soil, only to come up and feed off of weeds and plants during the warmer temperatures. During this period, the females lay up to 500 eggs on the underside of the leaves, to be hatched and become adults within a 21 day period. The major damage these insects due is eat the foliage off of plant, leaving it to underproduce or die. The best management is to remove the beetle/s when you see them from the plants. Check the underside of the leaves for eggs and tear off the section of the leaf and discard. You can treat the beetles with a foliage or insecticide spray, but they quickly become resistant, or have either laid eggs that will quickly hatch and consume the leaves too. Rotate your crops yearly, not planting potatoes in the same spot back to back, and this can help.