Potato plants thrive best when planted in rows, in full-sun locations that receive at least six hours of daily sunlight. When selecting your plot location, remember this when planting potatoes in rows.
Start with certified disease-free seed potatoes from home improvement, farm, or garden centers. Or grow them in containers using commercial potting soil.
Potatoes are an annual crop that should be planted in sunny, loose soil. Plant them during spring about one or two weeks before your area’s final frost date to eliminate potential pests while taking advantage of warm spring weather to promote strong and healthy plants.
If planting potatoes directly in the ground, work the soil until it becomes loose and sandy. Avoid over tillage, however, as this can seal off parts of the earth that should allow seed pieces to germinate. Potatoes also thrive in containers like large pots, stacks of tires, and old chimney pots.
Before planting potatoes, green sprouting can help promote early germination of tubers. You can also cut each seed piece into chunks with multiple “eyes,” where sprouts will develop, and store them in a dark and dry location (e.g., greenhouse or windowsill). When shoots reach one-half inch in length, it’s time for planting!
If planting potatoes in the ground, dig a trench about 3 to 4 inches deep. Space out your chitted potatoes 12-18 inches apart along rows three feet apart. When planting in containers instead, fill your container with rich compost or soil and gently plant your chitted potatoes with their shoots facing upwards. After your potatoes have been produced, cover them with straw or shredded newspaper to shield their roots from direct sunlight and slugs while watering regularly to keep the compost moist but not waterlogged.
Potatoes require rich, well-draining, loamy soil that drains freely to avoid rot. Their plant can grow up to three feet tall and produce aboveground stems and underground tubers; each branch also bears small leaf scars at its tip, known as eyes.
If your potatoes are planted directly into the ground, work up the soil to a depth of 6 inches before amending it with organic material to promote proper drainage. For containers, ensure the container has drainage holes at its base so excess moisture can drain away quickly.
Smaller seed potatoes should be planted whole, while larger ones should be quartered using a sharp, clean knife to ensure each piece contains an eye from which new sprouts will come. If stored for some time, place them in a bag at room temperature to promote germination.
If using the trench method, hilling (mounding up soil around each plant every few weeks to protect from sunlight, which turns potatoes green and toxic), as well as providing more room for tubers to form, once plants start flowering, hilling should stop altogether, and some layers of straw should be added for moisture conservation purposes. A balanced soluble fertilizer should also be used throughout the season to foster healthy growth and maximize harvest potential.
The ideal soil for growing potatoes is loose, deep loam that keeps moisture at optimal levels and drains well, but they’re tough enough to thrive even in poor soils with poor drainage and structure. A generous addition of organic matter often improves poor soil’s texture and nutrient content.
Once sprouting has taken place, potato plants require constant attention in terms of watering. Too much heat or rainfall could quickly cause their tubers to rot; too little rain may have the same result.
When your plant matures, it must be mulched to protect its roots and leaves from exposure to light, keep the ground cool, reduce weed and pest issues, and keep pests away. Loose straw or compost work best as mulch material, while gardeners may opt for wood chips or soil. Ideally, potato plants should be covered as soon as they begin growing to prevent them from turning green and developing diseases or fungi.
Grocery store potatoes may be suitable for starting seed pieces. Still, they should never be planted directly into your garden as they may contain harmful fungi and bacteria that spread rapidly through the soil and cause damage to future crops. Instead, purchasing certified disease-free seed potatoes from home improvement centers, farm and garden centers, or online retailers is wise to lower your risk of transmitting disease to your vegetables.
Potatoes are heat-sensitive plants, so for optimal growth, they require plenty of direct sunlight – at least six hours each day is ideal – along with well-drained soil that contains plenty of organic matter; sandy soil can encourage root rot. Potatoes should be grown in containers or barrels filled with compost in cooler climates for best results.
Choose disease-free seed potatoes when planting potatoes. Or try “green sprouting,” whereby whole tubers are exposed to light in an unheated dry spot for three months before being buried as sprouts that will mature within three months and give you a crop without needing a garden.
When growing potatoes, layering a mulch layer around each plant can conserve moisture, prevent weeds from growing, and keep soil cool while helping prevent diseases or fungi. Potatoes require regular fertilization with low-nitrogen organic fertilizers such as Miracle-Gro(r) Performance Organics Edibles Plant Nutrition Granules for strong root development and tuber formation.
Once potato plants begin flowering, hilling should begin. With a rake, raise the soil level until it reaches approximately two inches above their top leaves – being mindful not to bury stems that would produce new tubers underground.
In conclusion, growing a potato plant is a rewarding and straightforward endeavor. From selecting quality seed potatoes to providing the right conditions for planting and growth, a little care goes a long way. Embrace the journey of cultivating your potatoes, and enjoy the satisfaction of a bountiful harvest.