Potato Growing Guide
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Potato Growing Guide

Grow Potatoes At Home

For centuries, the potato has reigned supreme as one of the most popular plants to have in your garden. Overall, they are a relatively easy crop that don’t require a lot of labor to maintain or harvest, are high in nutrients, and can be grown in even the smallest of spaces. Growing potatoes is an excellent choice for beginner gardeners but has been a staple crop for home gardens, commercial growers and homesteaders all over the world.

What Type Of Potato Should You Plant?

Choosing The Right Potato To Plant In Your Garden

There are hundreds of varieties of potatoes in the United States alone, so choosing which variety to plant can be overwhelming to say the least. Potatoes can be broken down into 7 main types all with distinct characteristics. Russet, Red, White, Yellow, Blue/Purple, Fingerling, and Petite Potatoes are the most common varieties you’ll find both in grocery stores and home gardens. Each variety has its own unique flavor, texture, color and use so experimenting with different varieties is always recommended.

Early Season, Midseason and Late Season Potatoes

Among the different shapes, colors, and sizes of potatoes, perhaps the most important factor when choosing what potato to plant is how quickly they mature based on your area. Potatoes tend to grow best in soil that stays between 60 – 70°F so timing is crucial if you want a good, healthy crop before Summer rolls around.

Early Season Potatoes will get to full maturity usually in than 90 days or less.
Midseason Potato Varieties will take 100+ days to mature.
Late Season Potatoes need 110 days or more to reach full maturity. 

Determinate and Indeterminate Potatoes

Another quality to consider when growing potatoes is their growth habit. Much like tomatoes, potatoes can be defined as determinate or indeterminate depending on how they grow. The real difference between the two types is that indeterminate potatoes tend to grow upward and have multiple layers as the plant grows and more soil gets added around the plant. Indeterminate varieties are better suited for those who are choosing to grow your potatoes in containers.

How Many Potatoes Do You Need to Plant?

We use a simple formula to determine how many potatoes you will need to plant in your garden: Approx. 5 lb for every 25 ft row.

Spring Potato Planting Schedule By Zone

As we mentioned above, soil temperature and maturation timing is extremely important in growing your potatoes. Ideally, you want to get your seeds in the ground 2-4 weeks before the last frost of Spring. The warmer your climate, the sooner you’ll need to plant.

Zone 10 January 15 – 31
Zone 9 February 1 – 28
Zone 8 February 15 – March 15
Zone 7 March 1 – 31
Zone 6 March 15 – April 15
Zone 5 April  1 – 30
Zone 4 April 15 – May 15
Zone 3 May - June

Did you know?

China is the largest producer of potatoes in the world, with over 5 million acres of potato farmland. India, Russia, Ukraine, United States, and Germany follow with over 85% of the rest of the world's potato plants.

Preparing & Planting Your Potatoes

Preparing the Seeds

Once you’ve planned out which potatoes you want to grow in your garden, it’s time to prepare your seed potatoes for planting.  Potatoes are unique in that they are not actual “seeds” in the traditional sense of the word. While potatoes do, in fact, produce seeds, they are actually propagated through what is known as seed potatoes.  Seed potatoes are tubers from previous crops that will mimic the parent plant exactly from harvest to harvest. This is the most popular way to grow potatoes because growers can predict the characteristics of the crops year after year. Before planting, cut the potatoes into pieces, making sure to leave 1-3 eyes per piece. Let the pieces dry out thoroughly so little to no moisture is present to keep them from rotting in the ground and being more prone to damage from insects. When it is time to plant, be sure and plant with the sprout facing directly up.

Potato Planting Depth

In-Ground Planting

Row Spacing – 3 to 4 feet
Plant Spacing – 6 to 12 inches
Planting Depth – 3 to 6 inches

Raised Bed Planting

Row Spacing – 2 feet
Plant Spacing – 6 to 12 inches
Planting Depth – 3 to 6 inches

Hilling Your In-Ground And Raised Bed Potatoes

As potato plants grow, they will need special maintenance throughout the season. Every 1″-2″ that potatoes grow, they are going to need extra support by mounding up dirt loosely around the base. This process is called hilling and is really vital in the growth cycle and root development. Hilling helps greatly with weed suppression, plant support, and frost protection as well as keeping potatoes out of the sunlight, which will cause them to turn green and be inedible. Because of their upward growth habit, you will find that indeterminate potato varieties are going to require hilling more than the outward habit of determinate varieties. If you have planted your potatoes in rows, use the Hoss High Arch Wheel Hoe or Double Wheel Hoe with the plow attachments oriented for hilling to make quick work of getting your potato plants properly hilled. 

Growing Potatoes In Containers

Potatoes are very well suited to grow in containers and make an excellent choice for small space gardens. While the process of growing potatoes in containers is similar to that of in-ground or raised bed planting, there are some differences in the process. Depending on the size of your container, fill it with 4 to 6 inches of prepared soil and place it in full sun. Your seed potatoes need a good bit of room to grow so be sure and get the correct plant spacing. For example, our 15 Gallon Root Pouch can comfortably grow 4 potato plants and give the root structure plenty of room for a big harvest. The same way that in-ground and raised bed planting requires hilling, container planted potatoes require the same treatment, called layering. As the plant grows, you will continually add soil to the top of the plant to cover the new stems at the bottom until the container is full of soil. 

Potato Soil, Irrigation, & Fertilizer

Potato Plant Soil Requirements

  • Loose, well-draining sandy loam
  • pH between 6.0 and 6.5 but can tolerate as low as 5 pH
  • Rich in organic materials
  • Good quality compost added to the soil

HOSS always recommends getting a soil sample to your local extension office several weeks before planting. Once you get your results, you will  need plenty of time to adjust your soil accordingly and make sure your plants are getting the best nutrients possible as soon as they hit the ground.

Click Here to find your local extension office.

Potato Irrigation Requirements

Irrigation requirements for your potato plants is largely based on the climate in your area and how much precipitation you get. For example, HOSS HQ is located in Zone 8 and during the potato growing season, we get enough rain that a drip irrigation system is not necessary. But for those in zones that are drier, you could likely benefit from having a drip irrigation system in place. Overall, the rule of thumb is that potato plants require 1.5″ of water per week regardless of your planting method. 

Word of the Day: Chitting

Chitting is the process of allowing your seed potatoes time to sprout before being planted. Allow 4 weeks prior to planting for the process to be complete. Chitting potatoes is not a requirement but it has been known to help with better yields and a stronger, heavier crop. Keep your potatoes in a cool, dry place out of direct sunlight and allow the sprouts to grow to at least 1″- 2″ before planting in the ground.

Raised Bed Potato Fertilizer Schedule

Several Weeks Before Planting

Test your soil at your local extension office.

1 Week Before Planting

After adjusting soil pH to 6.0 – 6.5, mix 1 1/2 cups per 10 ft. of row of Hoss Complete Organic Fertilizer with your soil.

2 Weeks After Planting

Sidedress 1/2 – 1 cup of Hoss Complete Organic Fertilizer per 10 ft. of row.

2 Weeks Later

Sidedress 1/2 – 1 cup of Hoss Calcium Nitrate Fertilizer per 10 ft. of row.

Every Week For 4 Consecutive Weeks

Mix 1 tablet each of Dr. Joe Nutri Bubble -AND- Dr. Joe Tomato & Vegetable Bubble into 1 gallon of water. Apply as a drench per 10 ft. of row.

In-Ground Potato Fertilizer Schedule

Several Weeks Before Planting

Test your soil at your local extension office.

1 Week Before Planting

After adjusting soil pH to 6.0 – 6.5, mix 1 1/2 cups per 10 ft. of row of Hoss Complete Organic Fertilizer with your soil.

2 Weeks After Planting

Sidedress 1/2 – 1 cup of Hoss Complete Organic Fertilizer per 10 ft. of row.

2 Weeks Later

Sidedress 1/2 – 1 cup of Hoss Calcium Nitrate Fertilizer per 10 ft. of row.

1 Week Later For 4 Consecutive Weeks

Sidedress 2 cups Hoss Complete Organic Fertilizer per 10 ft. of row.

Potato Pest & Disease Protection

Insects

Organic Controls

Garden Insect Spray
Flea Beetle, Leaf Hopper

Neem Oil
Flea Beetle, Leaf Hopper

Non-Organic Controls

Bug buster ll
Flea Beetle, Colorado Potato Beetle, Potato Tuber Moth, Leaf Hopper

Treat as needed using label instructions.

Common Diseases

Non-Organic Controls

Liquid cop
early blight, late blight

Garden Phos
early blight, late blight

Organic Controls

Crop rotation and using certified seed potatoes
Bacterial wilt

Crop rotation and don’t overwater
Common scab, late blight, bacterial wilt

Treat as needed using label instructions.

Harvesting, Curing, And Storing Your Potatoes

Scratching & Harvesting Potatoes

Potatoes can be harvested at different times throughout the growing season based on what you want. Scratching is a term used in gardening, meaning digging up a few of your potatoes before the ten-week maturity date.  New potatoes refer to a fresh crop of potatoes that have just recently come out of the ground. You can harvest new potatoes but allow the rest of the plant to keep maturing. Simply dig up the potatoes you want, being very careful not to damage the ones still in the ground, bury the plant again, and water thoroughly.  When at least 50% of the tops of the potato vines begin to die off and any flowers have begun to drop off, it’s a good indication that your potatoes are ready to harvest. Once temperatures warm up and the weather is expected to be dry, digging up your potatoes can be a fun family event. 

Curing & Storing Potatoes

Much like onions, potatoes need to be cured after being harvested. It helps the skin thicken and let any slight damage heal and prevents bacteria from rotting the potato.  Arrange your potatoes in a single layer in a well-ventilated area that is out of direct sunlight for a week to 10 days. Potatoes ideally should be stored around 55ºF and will last in storage for months on end. Warm temperatures will bring the potatoes out of dormancy and cause them to start sprouting. Sunlight will turn the potatoes green and should immediately be discarded. The green color comes from an excess of solamine and if eaten, can cause severe sickness.

Shop Our Huge Potato Seed Selection!

Potato Tips & Tricks

Consider Your Real Estate

If you have a small space garden or prefer container gardening, choose an indeterminate potato variety. Because they have an upward growth habit and multiple layers.

Protect Your Potatoes From Harsh Cold

If you are expecting a cold snap after you’ve planted your potatoes, you can simply cover the entire plant (leaves and all) with dirt or clean straw and wait for them to reemerge. Once they grow to 1″-2″, you can continue hilling or layering.

What About Sweet Potatoes?

Contrary to popular belief, sweet potatoes are not in the same family as regular potatoes. Sweet potatoes actually belong to the morning glory family and are actually more closely related to carrots than regular potatoes.

THE MOST POTATOES WE'VE EVER GROWN!

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