Growing potatoes is a pretty straightforward process. They don’t even have to be labor intensive, and can be grown in pots for those utilizing small spaces. I’ve even had volunteer potatoes grow from odds and ends that ended up in my compost. I was able to harvest those volunteers and eat some decent sized tubers. You can even plant potatoes from your pantry, but make sure to use organic ones, because conventional ones have been treated with chemicals to prevent sprouting.
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Last summer I saved some fun potato varieties from our CSA. I forget what their names are, but there are golden, blue, and purple potatoes. I was very excited to officially plant potatoes this year and grow some of these fun colors. Apparently my potatoes were excited to grow too, because they sprouted like crazy despite being in a cool dark cupboard all summer.
I figured I should double check when to plant potatoes in my zone (USA 8b), so I found a page on planting potatoes on Gardenate. Once I got there I was surprised that the planting window in my area is January and February. I didn’t realize that I could have been planting since January. I’ll have to remember that for next year.
My first step was to pull out all the potatoes I had found out of the various kitchen cupboards I had stashed them in. Wow! I have a lot of shelf space now! If my potatoes had not already started sprouting I would have left them in the light until the shoots started growing. Next I cut the potatoes so that there was at least one eye on each segment. I took all these potato pieces out to the garden and realized I probably saved too many potatoes for the garden space I had available. Whoops.
Next I dug trenches in my garden about foot wide and four inches deep, and placed the potat0 pieces in about 8 inches apart. (Well, I think it was more like 6 inches, because I didn’t bother to measure. Maybe this is why I fail at gardening).
Yes, that’s a piece of baling twine in my garden. No I didn’t dig it out. Yes, I should have. Sometimes I can be really lazy, like not measuring, and leaving wet, muddy, baling twine laying around.
After I put the potato pieces in the trenches I went back and covered the pieces. As the shoots pop up I will continue to cover them little by little to encourage lots of root growth for about a month, then leave them to develop leaves. As they develop tubers, cover the potatoes up with dirt or mulch because sun will turn them green and then they are poisonous. After I planted all my available garden space I still had a lot of pieces left, so I planted some potatoes in buckets.
To plant potatoes in containers put 4-8 inches of soil, mulch, or straw in the bottom of the pot, place the pieces in, and cover up with another 4-8 inches. Keep covering the sprouts as they grow, just as you would the plants in the garden. If you are using straw to cover your potatoes make sure to mix some compost or soil in with it to keep the potatoes happy. Apparently straw alone isn’t acidic enough for good tuber formation.
And as always, plants grow better without chickens digging them up all the time. The very next day after I planted all my potatoes I had two chickens hop the fence and work very diligently to dig them all up. Hopefully not all the shoots broke off and I will still have some potatoes this year. Time will tell, I guess. As soon as tubers form you can start harvesting (just dig some up!), but the longer you wait the bigger the potatoes will be. We like new potatoes as well as larger potatoes. We just pretty much like potatoes all around, especially in soup
Here’s a quick recap.
How to Plant Potatoes
- Expose your seed potatoes to light for a few days to start sprouts
- Cut seed potatoes into pieces with at least one eye on each
- Dig trenches 12-15 inches wide and 4-8 inches deep OR fill large pots with 4-8 inches of a soil and straw mix
- Place potato pieces eye up, 8-12 inches apart
- Cover the potatoes and keep covering sprouts for about 4 weeks
- Cover tubers as they form to keep them from turning green
- Harvest as they grow, or wait until fall for bigger tubers
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