When planting potatoes, always start with certified seed potatoes. These are more expensive than potatoes
purchased at the grocery store, but are certified disease-free so there's no risk of introducing disease organisms
to your garden. Also, they're not treated with sprout inhibitors that limit their reproductive abilities, as
supermarket potatoes often are. Seed potatoes may already have begun sprouting at the time of purchase.
These sprouts should be left on - they're the start of new vines and tubers.
Large seed potatoes may be cut into pieces for greater production. Using a clean knife, cut them into pieces
of 2-4 ounces (about 2" cubes), making sure each piece has at least two "eyes." It's a good idea to dust
freshly-cut potatoes with a fungicide such as sulfur dust to help prevent infection by bacteria and fungi.
Many growers also allow the cut pieces to heal over for a day prior to planting. Do not allow the pieces to dry
out or shrivel. Smaller seed potatoes may be planted whole.
Potatoes like a soil that is deep, light, loose, and well-drained. They prefer a slightly acidic soil with a pH of
5.2 to 5.5, although they will tolerate 4.5 to 6.8. Maintaining the proper pH helps prevent scab. Do not
to apply lime to potatoes, as it can induce scab. If lime absolutely must be applied to control strong acidity,
it's best to do so the year before potatoes are planted.
When fertilizing, limit the amount of nitrogen, which promotes lots of vines but few tubers. Organic fertilizer
options include cottonseed meal applied at a rate of 1-2 gallons per 100 feet of row (cottonseed meal also
maintains soil acidity) or alfalfa pellets or chicken compost at 2-4 gallons per 100 feet. Potatoes are a very
adaptable crop and will usually produce well in less than ideal soil conditions.
Potato vines are very susceptible to frost, so plant late enough to avoid a late frost. Optimum soil
temperature is 55 to 70 degrees F. Sprouts generally emerge about two weeks after planting, depending on
soil temperature. When stems are about eight inches high, hill soil around them to cover about halfway.
Alternatively, instead of hilling soil, mulch with straw or wood shavings. As vines grow, continue to hill or mulch
higher. Potatoes will form on buried stems.
Instead of hilling, some gardeners like to plant each potato in a small wooden box frame, 8 to 12 inches high, or
inside used tires. As the vines grow, mulch is added, and another frame or tire is added on top of the previous
one. These potato towers can go as high as three or four feet. In this way, yield per plant is maximized and the
amount of garden space used is minimized.
Be careful not to overwater, or potatoes will be watery and thin-skinned. After emergence and until blooming
ends, foliar feedings of fertilizer or fish emulsion will provide bursts of vine growth that increase yields. Spray
in the morning for best results, and stop fertilizing when the vines are in full bloom.
Finally, it's a good idea not to grow potatoes in the same ground more than once in three years, or where
tomatoes, peppers, or eggplants have been grown. Rotating crops helps to keep diseases specific to the
nightshade family from becoming established in the soil.
*Potatoes were first grown by Inca Indians around 200 BC.
*Potatoes were introduced to Ireland in 1589 by Sir Walter Raleigh.
*Potatoes, along with tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants, are members of
the nightshade family. Potato vines and leaves (as well as tubers exposed
to the sun long enough to turn green) are toxic.
*Marie Antoinette, wife of Louis XV was known to wear potato blossoms as
a hair decoration.
*Thomas Jefferson introduced the first French fries to the U.S when he
served them at the White House.
*In 1995 the potato became the first vegetable to be grown in outer space.
*During the Klondike gold rush potatoes were so valued for their vitamin C
content that miners traded gold for potatoes.
When to Plant: After
danger of late frost has
How to Plant: 3-4"
deep, 12-18" apart
Soil Type: Loose, light
Soil Temp.: 55 to 75
Soil pH: 5.2 to 5.5
fertilizer with a lower
nitrogen, for example
10-20-20; or cottonseed
meal, alfalfa meal, or
Potato Quick Tips
Few garden crops can match the potato for versatility. It's
become a staple of American cuisine, with the average
American consuming more than 130 pounds per year.
The potato is also one of the most nutritious vegetables,
being high in potassium, iron, and vitamin C as well as fiber
and complex carbohydrates. Whether you like them baked,
mashed, or fried, in soups, stews, or salads, there's a spud
for every occasion. Easy to grow and easy to store, no
garden is truly complete without them.
Potato Fun Facts!