Potatoes are one of the top cool-season vegetables grown in the world. Sometimes growing garden vegetables can sound daunting, especially if you are a newbie or haven’t had success growing plants in the past. But, the potato? Anyone can grow a potato and because they can be prepared in so many ways- baking, frying, scalloped, mashed, cheesy… and the list goes on.
Reasons to Grow Potatoes
- They are super easy to grow
- They don’t require special care or attention to grow well
- They’ll grow in many environments and soils
- They are easy to harvest
- They don’t require processing- just dig them out, clean them off and cook!
There are many ways to grow potatoes. Some like to plant seed potatoes in mounds. Other’s like trenches, and believe it or not, some recycle tires to plant them inside so the tires can be removed and potatoes can be harvested in layers. If you haven’t grown potatoes yet, just pick a method that fits your space and give it a try. Adjust your method each year to see if you get different results and then stay with your favorite.
Quick Planting Guide
- Plant during the cool weather of spring, once you can dig in the soil.
- Place one potato piece at the bottom of the trench or mound with the eye facing upward. The eye sprouts to become the plant.
- Space plants 12 to 14 inches apart in an area with loose, fertile soil. Potatoes like a pH that is somewhat acidic in the range of 5.8 to 6.5.
- Improve clay-heavy soils by mixing in several inches of compost or other mulch. We like G&B’s soil-building compost.
- Once stems reach about 8 inches tall, mound soil around the lower half of the stem to protect tubers from sunlight. Do this again in 2 to 3 weeks. Tubers will grow out from the stem each time you mound dirt around the growing stem.
- Cover the soil with a 6-inch layer of straw. This keeps soil temperatures between 60° and 70° F.
- Feed growing potatoes with a continuous-release plant food to for the best harvest.
- Harvest potatoes 2 to 3 weeks after plants flower. You may notice the stems starting to wilt. They are ready!
Great herb partners for potatoes that you can plan in your garden to harvest near the same time your potatoes are ready are cilantro, dill, fennel, basil, chives, parsley, rosemary, oregano, sage, thyme and nepitella.
If at all possible, cook and consume your potatoes with the skin intact. As with most vegetables, potatoes hold much of their nutrients just under the skin. It’s only after potatoes have cured that the skin becomes too tough to enjoy on your plate and consumed.
Potatoes are high in essential vitamins and minerals such as C (70% RDA) and vitamin B-6 (30% RDA), Potassium (25% RDA), Magnesium (12% RDA) and dietary fiber (18% RDA). One potato contains about 163 calories and 37 grams of carbohydrate (12% RDA), and very little fat or sodium.
Fresh potatoes don’t have tough skin. So handle them gently to prevent damaging the protective layer. Don’t wash them with water if you plan on storing them, but just brush dry soil from potatoes. Curing produces a tougher skin. To cure potatoes, place in a humid spot at roughly 55 F for two weeks. Then store them in a cool humid environment away from light. Around 45 degrees is best. If you notice sprouts, knock them off and dispose of them.
At room temperature, potatoes will keep for 1 to 2 weeks.
Don’t Do this with Potatoes
- Don’t store them in the refrigerator. Refrigerators are generally too cold and the cold starts converting the starch in the potato to sugar. This will give them an unpleasant sweet taste and cause them to darken when cooking.
- Don’t store potatoes with apples. Apples give off ethylene gas that will cause potatoes to spoil.
- Don’t throw potatoes at people or property. Potatoes are heavy and they’ll hurt.
Want a quick guide on when to plant other veggies? Visit our Planting Guide here.