How to Plant and Grow Potatoes | Spring Garden Tasks
This post will teach you how to plant potatoes, grow and harvest them. This is a fun part of the spring garden tasks!
It’s March and the first day of spring is right around the corner. This weekend we’ll be celebrating St. Patrick’s Day and learn how to build a beehive from scratch. In between the festivities and lessons, I’ll be planting my first succession of potatoes in the market garden. I always plant potatoes on St. Patrick’s Day! I want you to join me. So, here’s a lesson on how to grow potatoes for your spring garden task.
Spring Garden Task List
Be sure to join the seasonal living resource library to download my planting schedule for March and April. You’ll see that this is the week to plant your first succession of potatoes.
I also added my PDF booklet on how to plant potatoes in container gardens!🌱
In the resource library, you’ll also find your first day of spring garden checklist.
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How to Plant and Grow Potatoes – A Spring Garden Task
A good beginning for this spring garden project starts with your seed potato Any organic potato that is allowed to sprout eyes is a seed potato. Giving the potato what it needs to sprout before planting is called chitting. So, as mentioned the good beginning is healthy seed potatoes that are allowed to chit. Good in the middle is all about where you will plant your seed potatoes and how you will tend to the plants. Good at the end is all about the harvest!
Here’s a nice article on potato varieties to help you choose.
Read on to learn how to plant and grow potatoes for your spring garden task!
Chitting, helping the potato to sprout prior to planting, is easy! The potatoes above are from my store of seed potatoes. I put them away last fall in a cool dark cupboard in the basement. They naturally began chitting and are now very ready to go into the ground. I will not cut these seed potatoes because of the amount of chitting. They need all the remaining nourishment in the tuber to get a good start on the growing season.
Here are your four steps to successful chitting:
- Acquire organic seed potatoes. These can be saved from your previous year’s harvest, purchased from an organic seed supplier, or created from certified organic potatoes purchased at your local supermarket (yes, this works!). Non-organic potatoes are coated with a substance that inhibits sprouting. it’s why regular potatoes from the supermarket don’t make ‘eyes’.
- Get a cardboard egg carton and place your seed potatoes with the eyes up in the cups.
- Set on a countertop out of direct sunlight. You will see the potato ‘sprout’ within 2 weeks.
- Cut the potato around the eyes, leaving plenty of ‘meat’ around the sprout. This will be the food source for the potato while it settles into your garden bed for the season.
Check back for pictures. I’ll be doing this for my second succession of potatoes!
There are as many ways to create a potato bed in your garden as there are gardeners. Some like to dig a trench for the seed potatoes that can be filled in as the sprouts break the soil. This is called ‘hilling’ and we will discuss this below. Others plant in a deep hole, cover with soil and then mound straw on top of the entire bed. It is important to keep potatoes from direct sunlight, and the straw does this job without the hard work of hilling. Finally, planting potatoes in containers has become increasingly popular because it requires the least work of all. Let’s explore these methods.
- Dig a long ditch, at least 8 inches deep, a foot is better. Place your cut seed potatoes along the length of the ditch about a foot apart. Cover the seed potatoes with 4 inches of soil, more or less. visit the bed frequently and every time you see sprouts break the soil, mound another couple of inches of soil on top of the potatoes. Continue until the potato plant is at least 6 inches above the soil line, then pack staw around the plants. This will help dampen weed growth and protect the potatoes from direct sunlight.
- Take your shovel dig a hole about 6-8 inches deep. Place one seed potato in the hole and cover with soil back to the original soil level. As the sprouts break the soil, continue to mound with soil at the base of the plant until the plant grows to at least 6 inches above the soil. Again, I recommend mulching with straw as described above.
- Any deep container that drains from the bottom can be used to grow potatoes. The potatoes will be smaller, but this method requires half the work of planting in a raised bed. You can plan to use one seed potato per gallon of soil. Layer soil about 6-8 inches deep and place seed potatoes at least 8 inches apart on top of the soil, add another layer of soil and then seed potatoes. Repeat until your container is full. You do not need to mound containers. You do, however, need to water this planter regularly to be successful. It will dry out quickly and potatoes like water!
Get the PDF Download How-to Plant Potatoes in Containers in the Resource Library!
Potatoes can be planted as late as June for a summer harvest. My St. Patrick’s Day potatoes are ready 4th of July weekend, just in time for the picnics!
How to Plant Potatoes: Mounding Potatoes
Potatoes are tubers.Tubers are enlarged structures in some plant species used as storage organs for nutrients. ~Wikipedia
Learning how to plant and grow potatoes as your spring garden task requires learning how to mound, or hill, your potato seedlings. We mound to protect these tubers from sunlight. Get this…potatoes exposed to the sun turn green and create a poison call solanine. They produce this color and poison to keep animals and bugs from eating the plant’s energy source. While you would have to eat a bushel of green potatoes to get sick, the symptoms are not pleasant: a headache, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Green potatoes are bitter so they will also ruin your meals if used in recipes.
As mentioned above, simply use soil, straw, and/or mulched leaves to layer around the potato plant to protect the tubers from the sun. Once the plant gets 6-8” above the soil line, I stop mounding, mostly because my garden is so big I can’t keep up with the work. If you continue to mound your potato plants as they grow, you will get a bigger harvest.
How to Plant Potatoes: Water
It’s a given that the better irrigated your garden, the more beautiful and productive. This is especially true of potatoes. My personal experience is that the more consistently moist you keep your potato bed, the larger the potatoes produced and the greater the harvest. I do this with irrigation tape, but hand watering is fine.
How to Plant Potatoes: Bugs
When learning how to plant and grow potatoes as your spring garden task, you’ll need to become familiar with garden pests before they introduce themselves to you! The Colorado Potato Beetle is voracious and can move through your potato bed at lightning speed if left unanswered. I’ll give you this description of the Colorado Potato Beetle from the University of Minnesota Extension Service:
“The Colorado potato beetle, Leptinotarsa decemlineata(Say), is a major potato pest throughout North America. It was first recognized as a potato pest in 1859 in Colorado when the beetle switched from its normal host, buffalo bur, a relative of potato, to cultivated potatoes brought into the region by early settlers. Once beetles began feeding and reproducing on cultivated potatoes, they were able to migrate eastward feeding on potatoes grown on farms and in gardens throughout the Great Plains and Ohio River valley. On average, the Colorado potato beetle expanded its range eastward approximately 85 miles per year, reaching the East Coast by 1874.”
In my experience, the best organic protection from the Colorado Potato Beetle is to spray weekly with an OMRI approved pesticide called Pyrethrin. It is a concentrate that is diluted and easily applied with a garden sprayer. I spray in the morning when there is no rain in the forecast.
When the potato plant begins to blossom, you know that it will soon be time to harvest. Some gardeners pick the flowers from the potato plants, but I have not seen the flowers impact the harvest. When you see the blossoms it is the best time to harvest new potatoes. You DO NOT pull up the entire plant. Rather, you put your fingers gently into the soil around the plant and pull out the potatoes you need for your meal. Firmly repack the soil around the plant and allow the remaining potatoes to grow to maturity.
Potatoes take ten weeks to go from seedling to harvest. The plant will get large and gangly, blossom, and then die back. When you see the plant die back, it is time to harvest mature potatoes. It is an easy harvest. Take your pitchfork and place it about 6 inches away from the base of the plant. Using pressure from your foot, slide the pitchfork into the soil at an angle under the plant. The art of the harvest is to learn how to place the pitchfork so that it loosens the soil without piercing the potatoes. Don’t worry if you do accidentally pierce a potato or two at harvest. Simply eat the damaged ones first!
The best way to prepare new potatoes ~
After learning how to plant and grow potatoes as a part of your spring garden checklist, it is time to reap the rewards of your labors! Make an occassion out of eating freshly harvested new potatoes.
New potatoes are very tasty. Their sugars have not converted to starch, so they are not heavy on the stomach like mature potatoes. They are flavorful, and you can taste the difference between varieties when new potatoes are prepared simply. Here’s my method:
- Harvest the number of baby potatoes you will need for your meal. Gently wash them under tepid water from the tap. The new potatoes have fragile skin, so don’t scrub or you will lose the best part of your harvest.
- Place in a heavy bottom pot and cover with cold water. We use cold water so that the potatoes and water come to the same temperature at the same time when boiling.
- Boil for 5 minutes and drain. Coat the potatoes with your best butter. Salt and add chopped parsley.
- Serve warm.
Be sure to check out my perfect potato harvest supply suggestions!
There are affilaite links in this post. When you choose to shop using these links, I get a small percentage of the sale at no additional cost to you. If you’ve been following the blog long enough, you know I use these proceeds to feed the chickens. So, thanks!
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I’ve also added a PDF Download for planting potatoes in a container. Best used with my recipe for making your own potting soil.
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