How to Grow Potatoes | Guide to Growing Potatoes

 
How to Grow Potatoes | Guide to Growing Potatoes  

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A nutritional mother lode, potatoes are easy to grow as long as they have full sun, moderate temperatures, and light, rich, acidic, well-drained soil. Try varieties with colors, shapes and flavors you won't find in the supermarket.

 
   
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Growing Guide
GROWING NOTES
Requires at least 6 hours of sun each day.

Prefers well-drained, light, deep, loose soil, high in organic matter. Unlike most vegetables, potatoes perform best in acid soil with pH 4.8 - 5.5. (Scab is less of a problem at low pH. If pH is more than 6.0, use scab-resistant varieties.) Needs plentiful, consistent moisture.

An herbaceous perennial grown as an annual in areas that receive frost. Late spring frosts can damage foliage, but growth will usually rebound quickly from underground parts.

Growing is easy if you have the right site and soil. Pests aren't usually as bad in garden settings as in commercial fields. Fun to grow with kids, especially if you use the deep mulching method.

Flowers relatively inconspicuous.

MAINTAINING
Potatoes perform best in areas where summers are cool (65 F to 70 F), but are widely adapted.

Potatoes require well-drained soil. (They will rot under prolonged cold, wet conditions.) If your soil is poorly drained or a heavy clay, consider using raised beds. Adding organic matter (compost, cover crops, well-rotted manure or leaves) is a good way to improve soil before growing potatoes. Go easy on organic matter sources high in nitrogen (such as manure) and nitrogen fertilizer as too much nitrogen can encourage lush foliage at the expense of tuber production.

Unlike most vegetables, potatoes perform best in acid soil with pH 4.8 - 5.5. Use scab-resistant varieties with pH above 6.0. Because most other garden vegetables perform best at near-neutral pH, it’s usually not feasible to grow potatoes in their preferred pH range, unless you dedicate one section of your garden to growing just potatoes in rotation with cover crops.

Buy certified disease-free seed potatoes from garden centers or through online or mail-order catalogs for best results. If you save your own seed potatoes, discard any that show any signs of disease. Avoid planting potatoes from the supermarket because they may have been treated with sprout inhibitors. They may also be less vigorous and more prone to disease. If you must use supermarket potatoes, use round, white Maine-grown potatoes, not russets or long white potatoes grown in California or Idaho. To see if they'll sprout, take three potatoes and put them in a paper bag and place the bag in a warm location (about 70 F). They should sprout in two weeks if they haven't been treated with sprout inhibitors.

Cut seed potatoes that are larger than a chicken egg into pieces about 1 inch across or slightly larger. Each piece should have at least one “eye” (the bud where the stem will grow from) -- preferably two eyes. Egg-sized and smaller tubers can be planted whole.

Traditionally, cut seed potato pieces are allowed to cure for a few days to a few weeks before planting. This is because the cut potatoes need high humidity, plenty of oxygen and temperatures between 50 F and 65 F to heal quickly. If you have excellent, well-drained soil that meets those conditions, you can plant the seed pieces without curing. But if conditions are not right, the seed potatoes will rot in the ground.


 

 
   
 
 
   
 

Harvesting Guide
HARVESTING
Ensure the tubers are always covered with soil. Light will cause the tubers to produce chaconine and solanine which can make the potatoes bitter and is poisonous in higher concentrations.

Remove a small new potato on each plant if you don't wish to reduce the overall yield. Harvest the entire plant if you want more than one potato per plant.

Harvest potatoes for storage through the winter after the tops have died. These potatoes will have a thicker skin than new potatoes that were dug before the tops died. The thicker skin is needed for a long storage and you will know the skin is thick enough if it does not slough off easily when you rub it.

Leave the potatoes in a shady spot to dry for a few hours before storing them in a dark place. Peel off all the green portions when preparing potatoes for a meal.


SAVING SEEDS
Like many root vegetables, potato plants can be grown from cuttings of the seed tuber, more commonly known as the potato. The tuber contains growth eyes, from which the potato plant will spring in the early summer when planted. As the plant grows, the tubers multiply underground, creating more potatoes. Most gardeners cut seed potatoes into sections that contain 2-3 eyes per seed, maximizing the possibility for a successful plant. Seed potatoes must be stored carefully to prevent rotting, which will prohibit the plant from seeding in the next planting season.

Select small potatoes from the garden, or purchase seed potatoes from a nursery or garden supply store. Clear the potatoes of surface dirt with a dry towel.


Inspect seed potatoes for discoloration of the flesh or skin, rough scars in the exterior of the potato, or abnormal bumps on the skin. Discard any potatoes with these blemishes, as they can produce a diseased potato crop.

Handle seed potatoes carefully to avoid scraping of skin or bruising the flesh, and place them into a bin for storage. Bruised or cut potatoes may rot in storage, and may not produce once planted. Place the potato container in a basement or cellar.


Take care to cover any windows or sources of light, or drape a thin, opaque sheet over the potatoes. Do not seal container completely as potatoes need adequate airflow to prevent rotting.

Store the potatoes in temperatures no higher than 40-45 degrees Fahrenheit, as higher temperatures will induce secondary growth of the potato plant. Do not allow the potatoes to freeze as this will damage the potato and may cause rotting.


Maintain humidity by storing in basements or cellars, but do not allow potatoes to get wet. Wet seed potatoes will rot or grow mold. Spread water or place water containers near the potatoes if the climate is particularly dry, as water will evaporate and keep the air in the vicinity moist.

Store potatoes for three to five months in these conditions, checking and rotating them once or twice a week. Discard any potatoes that appear moldy or rotten immediately to prevent decay of neighboring seeds.

Bring potatoes to temperatures of 50-55 degrees Fahrenheit seven to ten days before planting. Move potatoes outdoors in an opaque container, such as a trash can, once spring temperatures have reached 50-55 degrees. Temperature change will help the potatoes to heal from storage and to begin the growth process.
 

 
     
 
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