Growing your own potatoes is wonderful way to provide for the family table. Not only are potatoes a simple crop to grow, but the return is a substantial one. In this tutorial, I’ll show you the easy way to grow potatoes at home!
Benefits of Growing Your Own Potatoes
Potatoes are one of those crops that I always make lots of space for in the garden And here’s why!
Supermarket potatoes are a highly sprayed crop and are also chemically treated after harvest to prevent sprouting. Home raised is much healthier!
Growing your own potatoes opens the door to far more variety and options than you’ll find at your local grocers.
Home grown potatoes taste amazing and most have a rich, buttery flavor.
If you use the technique I show you here, it takes very little effort to grow potatoes.
The return and reward is high!
The Difference Between Potato Seed and Seed Potatoes
There are two ways to start and grow potatoes: from potato seed or from seed potatoes.
Potato seeds are literal seed that you sow in the earth like a tomato or pepper. Because potato seed takes a long time to mature, they’re usually started indoors 2-3 months before the planting date in your area. They are similar to onions in this respect!
I’ve never tried growing potatoes from seed, because I’m content with using seed potatoes.
Seed potatoes are nothing more than potatoes that have been overwintered and are replanted again in the spring. It’s easy to save your own potatoes for replanting. And much like garlic, they quickly multiply.
How to Find Seed Potatoes
In spite of the fact that it’s easy to source potatoes at your local grocery store, I wouldn’t recommend using these potatoes for planting.
As previously mentioned, supermarket potatoes have not only received lots of spray on the field, but they may be slow to sprout, thanks to the anti-sprouting treatment they receive.
And there is no guarantee that these potatoes are free of disease that could infect your garden soil and planting rows. No gardener wants to take that risk!
Instead, I recommend sourcing seed potatoes directly from an actual seed company or from your local greenhouse/garden center. These potato sets are guaranteed to be disease-free and will produce well for you.
Trust me. It’s the easy way to grow potatoes at home!
Companies to Buy Seed Potato From
USA seed potato companies include (and are not limited to) the following:
My CA readers can find seed potatoes here (along with many other places):
What to Expect If You Order Seed Potatoes Online
If you have a particular potato variety you wish to grow, be sure to place your order 4-6 months in advance. This ensures the seed company has stock.
When you place your order, be prepared to enter your growing zone, so the company can ship to you at the proper time for planting in your area.
They know not everyone has good storage conditions. So don’t expect to receive your potatoes until you’re nearly ready to plant!
What Type of Potato Should I Grow?
When it comes to choosing and growing seed potatoes, you need to understand the 3 key categories that varieties fall into: early, mid season and late season.
Early Season Potatoes
Irish Cobbler (brown potato for baking/boiling)
German Butterball (yellow all purpose potato)
Red Pontiac (red potato for baking/boiling)
Warba (white potato for baking/boiling)
Yukon Gold (yellow, all purpose potato)
Early season potatoes are usually planted in early spring, when soil reaches temps of 43F (6+C). These varieties grow quickly and often (climate provided) folks plant them in the fall, heavily mulching the garden beds. And when spring comes, potatoes began growing when ready.
They mature 75-90 days after planting.
Mid Season Potatoes
Chieftan (oval red potato for boiling or fries)
French Fingerling (slender, red potato for roasting/baking/steaming)
Gold Rush (early maturing russet for baking/boiling)
Masquerade (multi-colored, all purpose potato)
Red Gold (red potatoes for baking/boiling)
What’s the difference between mid-season and early potatoes? Not much! Many times the same variety ends up in both categories. Mid season potatoes can also be planted in early spring, at the same time you put in early season spuds.
They typically mature between 90-110 days.
Late Season Potatoes
Kennebec (brown, all purpose potato)
Kahtadin (buff, baking/boiling potato)
Red Pontiac (red, all purpose potato)
Russian Blue (purple potato for baking/frying)
Russet Burbank (russet, all purpose potato)
Warba (white potato for baking/mashing)
Yukon Gold (gold, all purpose potato)
While you can grow some early and mid season potatoes into the fall, they tend to have thinner skin, making them less suitable for winter storage (unless they’re dual purpose). Late season potatoes are often your winter keepers and if stored properly, you’ll be eating them until spring or even early summer.
They mature 120-135 days after planting.
All Purpose Potatoes that Span the 3 Seasons
German Butterball (yellow, all purpose potato)
Red Pontiac (red, all purpose potato)
Warba (white potato for baking/boiling)
Yukon Gold (yellow, all purpose potato)
There are quite a few potato varieties that make excellent early, mid summer and late season potatoes. You might call them all purpose potatoes. While these varieties put out excellent, tender young potatoes in the summer, the skins will toughen as the tubers mature, making them winter keepers as well.
The Warba potato is a perfect example.
When I first discovered the Warba at a local strawberry u-pick, I was intrigued. The farmer told me it was a dual purpose potato, that in zone 6 he planted in the fall, heavily mulched his beds and left things to grow as they pleased in the spring.
The Warba is an early producer, but it also makes an excellent winter keeper as well. With it’s white skin and pink eyes, it was unlike anything I’d ever seen before.
We’re in the middle of experimenting with the Warba. If I can get spring, mid-summer and a winter storage potato all from the same potato type…I’m in!
How to Plant and Grow Potatoes
Let me walk you through the easy way to grow potatoes at home! Here’s a guide you can follow, step by step, for successful planting and harvesting!
Step 1: Loosen the Soil in Your Garden Beds
If you have heavy or clay-like soil that tends to settle, loosen the soil in your garden bed before planting potatoes. They’ll grow better for it.
You can use a shovel, a pitchfork or better yet, a broad fork. As you loosen the soil, be sure to pull any weeds that may be growing.
Step 2: Prepare Your Potatoes for Planting
There are three ways you can prepare your potatoes for planting and potentially increase your harvest. Here’s a detailed description of how to chit, divide and cure potatoes for planting!
Step 1: Chit your potatoes if they don’t show signs of sprouting
If your seed potatoes are smooth without any sign of developing sprouts, leave them in a warm, dark room for 2-3 weeks before planting, as this will encourage growth.
Some gardeners claim that chitting gives you a quicker and more bountiful harvest.
Step 2: Divide large potatoes to stretch your seed supply.
Large seed potatoes can be cut into halves or even quarters to stretch your seed supply.
When dividing, make sure there is 1-2 oz (28-57 gm) of potato per division to ensure they actually grow (potato should fill the palm of your hand, as pictured below).
Also ensure there is 2-3 potato eyes per division so that the plant can put up the foliage needed.
Step 3: Let divisions harden over before planting
After dividing potatoes, leave them in a warm place for 2-3 days.
This gives cut edges time to harden over and potatoes are less likely to rot in the ground during wet weather.
Step 3: Plant Your Potatoes
Potatoes are planted quite deep compared to other vegetable types. Because the tubers form underground, you want to bury your seed potatoes approx 6-8 inches deep.
I like to space seed potatoes 16 inches apart. Some gardeners recommend no more than 12 inches, which reveals that potatoes aren’t particular! However I have found that less space usually means a smaller harvest and so, I error on the side of giving my potatoes plenty of room to grow!
If you are planting in a wide bed, space your potato rows 16-20 inches apart as well.
Step 4: Mulch the Soil
Want to know the secret to growing low maintenance potatoes? Use mulch!
After planting your garden beds, apply a 3-4 inch layer of mulch. Not only does it help hold moisture when planting in fast draining soil, it will act as additional covering for your potatoes to thrive and grow in.
I recommend using old straw or hay bales for mulching your potato beds. But make sure the bales are indeed rotting. Otherwise seed heads will likely sprout and grow in your garden, leaving you with a big mess!
Ask your local farmers if they have any old, molding, rotting hay that you can have. Many will be glad to let you take it off their hands!
Step 5: Water and Weed Your Potato Beds
If you apply a heart layer of mulch to your potato beds, you shouldn’t have to water as often because the soil won’t dry out as quickly. And better yet? Weeds shouldn’t be an issue, apart from a tough, stubborn one here and there.
Here in my fast draining soil where summer temps can reach 85-100F (30-38C), I water potatoes 1x per week.
Step 6: When to Harvest Your Potatoes
Much like onions, potatoes can be harvested at any time, regardless of whether they’re an early, mid summer or late variety.
Most gardeners start harvesting early and mid-summer potatoes when the plant begins to put out blossoms. These potatoes are small (because they’re immature) and have tender skins. Most of the time, these delicious, creamy nuggets are roasted whole!
Late season potatoes can be harvested at any time as well. But most gardeners let these beauties mature for winter storage. These potatoes are ready to be harvested when the tops yellow, wilt and die back.
Step 7: How to Harvest Potatoes
Some gardeners use a pitchfork or a shovel for digging up their potatoes. But I prefer to use my hands. Fewer potatoes are damaged using this method and I do enjoy getting in there and hunting for the harvest!
For me, the anticipation is high. Until you harvest potatoes, you don’t know how well your plants produced. I always feel like I’m hunting for treasure when I grub around in the dirt. It’s a good feeling!
As you collect potatoes, you can place them in buckets, baskets or or even in a wheel barrow.
Step 8: How to Cure Potatoes for Winter Storage
Late season (or even mid summer potatoes) will last longer in storage if you properly cure them first. I wrote a more detailed blog post on how to do that here.
To cure potatoes, simply spread them out in a warm, dark place. The warmth gives them time to heal any scratches or nicks that occurred during harvest. And the darkness prevents skins from turning green and bitter.
Give them 7-10 days to heal and your home grown potatoes are less likely to rot in storage. If you come across any damaged potatoes (if you cut one with a shovel or bugs got into one), they’re unfit for storage and should be used immediately.
One bad apple potato can spoil an entire batch. And and for they record? Rotten potatoes smell terrible!
Step 9: How to Store Potatoes for Winter Keeping
Potatoes like to be store in a dark, cool place. Humidity is encouraged, but it isn’t absolutely necessary. Here in the Mountain Cottage, I store my potatoes in plastic gunny sacks on the cold room floor. They keep well into the spring months.
To discourage sprouting and also to keep the skins from turning bitter and green, they need to be in darkness. If you have a window in your storage room, be sure to cover it up.
And your potatoes will have a long and happy storage life!
The Easy Way to Grow Potatoes at Home
Potatoes are a wonderful crop to grow in the vegetable garden. Not only are potatoes easy to grow, but they keep well with minimal effort on your part.
And better yet, you can save your home grown potatoes for replanting year after year! What’s not to love in having a self-sustaining crop?
It’s the easy way to grow potatoes at home. And I wish you all the best! If you have any questions or comments, you can leave them below and I WILL get back to you!
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