Gardening 101: Planting Potatoes

One of my very favorite foods to plant is potatoes.  You put a hunk of potato into the ground….then, it grows into a plant…which produces several brand new potatoes.  When it’s time to dig up potatoes in the fall…it’s like Christmas time!  I LOVE it!!

Here are some Potato Planting Basics:

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  • Purchase seed potatoes (I got mine at a grocery store).  Find seed potatoes with lots of “eyes” if you can. 
  • Keep in mind that the “russet” or “kennebec” potato will store the best…so if you’re planting enough potatoes to store for a few months, you’ll want this kind.  Red and Yukon Gold don’t store quite as well (oh but they sure are yummy!). 
  • Cut your seed potatoes into hunks.  Each hunk needs to have at least one good “eye” (see the one in the picture below?).  That’s what your new potato plant will grow from. 

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  • Be sure not to cut your potato hunks too small.  They need to have enough potato on them to provide nourishment for the plant as it starts to grow.

  • It’s a good idea to cut your potatoes a few days before they are planted so that they can “cure”.  This helps to prevent rotting under the ground once they are planted.  However, most years I don’t know that I’ll be planting until the day I plant!  Cutting the potatoes right before you plant them won’t hurt anything!

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  • Place your potato hunks in the ground with the “eye” facing upward.  They need to be about one foot apart.  To make this easier for my kids, I usually break a stick into a piece one foot long.  They lay down a potato…then lay down the stick…then lay down another potato at the end of the stick.  It’s a great way for them to measure the distance and avoid putting the potatoes too close together.

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  • Your rows should be about two feet apart.  Cover your seed potatoes with about 3-4 inches of soil.

  • Once you’ve got your potatoes planted, give them a nice drink of water.  Then, leave them alone for a few days.  It isn’t neccessary to give them much water for the first several weeks.  After a week or so, you’ll see some nice sturdy plants coming up out of the ground (at which point, you’ll do a happy little potato dance!).

  •  Once the plants are about eight inches tall, pull the soil up around each of them and kind of pack it in around the base of the plant.
  • When your potato plant begins to flower, you’ll know that there are now some new potatoes growing under the ground (and you’ll do another happy little potato dance!).  At this point, your potato plants need plenty of water.  Big fat potatoes can grow bigger and fatter with lots of water.
  • All summer long, be sure that the soil is pulled up high around the base of your plant.  You don’t want any growing potatoes to start popping up out of the soil.  They’ll turn green….and you don’t want green potatoes.
  • You can begin to “steal” little new potatoes from your plants anytime after they flower.  But, if you leave them there and continue to water them well, they’ll grow into baked potatoes and french fries and bowls of mashed potatoes.  Really, it’s true.

And may I just say….you haven’t eaten a potato until you’ve eaten a fresh potato right out of the ground!!! 

I will also be planting some “containers” of potatoes this year since I don’t have enough garden space to plant enough potatoes to last us the entire winter.  Soon, I’ll share that technique with you….and maybe all of you who don’t have big garden spaces will want to play along with me.  Start looking out for big garbage containers!!

A couple more things…I live in the midwest and I haven’t actually planted my potatoes yet.  (I took the above pictures last year when we were planting.)  You’re safe to plant potatoes a few weeks before the last freeze…so for me that means I can plant them pretty soon.  We just haven’t had a chance to get our garden ready for planting yet, what with all the SNOW THAT HAS FORGOTTEN TO REMEMBER THAT SPRING IS HERE.  Really, I do love living in Nebraska.

Are you planting potatoes this year?  Interested in learning more about planting potatoes in a container?  Have any more potato planting tips for us?
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This post is linked to Works for me Wednesday.

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Comments

  1. says

    Thanks! We just planted ours this morning. First year, so I appreciate the advice of someone who isn’t new to potato planting. LizBeth

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  2. says

    I am also thinking of planting potatoes and I also have a small space. Which means I have to find creative gardening solutions to be able to plant everything I want to plant. I would love to hear more about container gardening for potatoes. I tried to grow some baby watermelons in a container last year and it was about 3 inches across. Pretty small. I found out later my container was much too small. Oh well. Oh, I am giving away some heirloom seeds if anyone is interested. Thanks, Steph

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    Jennifer Wright Reply:

    What variety of seeds are you offering Steph?

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  3. says

    I would love to try my hand at gardening, especially the easy kind for newbies.
    We are very limited on space, so I am interested in seeing how you use a garbage container!

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  4. says

    We will be planting potatoes again this year for about the third year. Last year they didn’t do too well, but learned after the fact that they shouldn’t have been close to our tomatoes. Hopefully this year will yield a better and bigger crop. We really want to be able to put up a lot of food from our garden, on this note I am looking forward to more of your wondeerful posts as well as exploring your archives. Thanks for sharing it all.

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  5. says

    Super neat-o!
    I planted some years ago but haven’t done them in a long, long time.

    Do you know if you HAVE to use seed potatoes? Just curious because I’ve heard conflicting reports.

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  6. says

    We are planning a whole garden this year…it will be our first. I am nervous because I have been known to kill green things. I’m hoping they will have a fighting chance our in the wild…lol! My parents are growing potatoes right now…I think it will be our turn soon :)

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  7. Merrilee says

    We planted potatoes a couple of years ago & apparently I missed pulling some out. So that now, every year we have new potato plants popping up in the garden. (We typically rototill annually & I think it chops them up & spreads the pieces out again.)

    I am looking forward to getting my garden in. I need to get my plan together soon! You have inspired me to do potatoes again. Thanks! :)

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  8. Jennifer says

    I’d love to hear about planting potatoes in a container. We’ve had to leave our country home and garden. Our garden will be much smaller this year so growing potatoes in a container sounds like a good idea.

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  9. Barbara says

    Yes, we are planting potatoes this year! I agree that it is such a great job for the kids to do. They look forward to digging in the dirt, but they do a happy dance when those plants come up through the ground. Of course they can’t wait until it’s time to dig them up and eat Ranch Potato Wedges!!

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  10. Erin H. says

    I would be interested in container growing. Our house is for sale so I don’t want to try to grow something and have to leave it.

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  11. Kathy says

    I have a question. A couple years ago we had potatoes and the plants really wilted during the summer. I worked hard at watering them enough, but either I didn’t do that well enough– or I was watering them wrong. I mean that when the sprinkler started hitting the potato plants and watering them from the top (instead of at the dirt level, where I’d been watering, in order not to waste water), the plants perked up. They didn’t recover completely, but I saw a difference when the leaves started getting water. Does anybody have any ideas on this?

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  12. says

    Thanks for the wonderful post. I grew up with my mom planting many rows of potatoes. I was actually planning on planting a few rows of potatoes this year. It was nice for the reminder. I am going to try and grow as much produce as I can to freeze because then I know it’s organic and good for us.

    Renee

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  13. says

    I’m doing container gardening this year for the first time. I can’t wait to see how it works out as I have a brown thumb. LOL!

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  14. Cassie J. says

    I’m not the gardening type but I want to be! So, in the meantime, I did send in my form to join a farmer’s co-op to receive a sack of fresh veggies each week. They deliver to our local Famer’s Market and I can’t wait!

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  15. says

    Thanks for all the great detail about the potatoes, we planted lots of potatoes this year and I wasn’t sure on how to know when they would be ready, so thanks for the lesson.

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  16. says

    Thanks for this info! I am planting potatoes for the first time this year, as I wasn’t aware last year of how early they needed to be planted.

    Since my garden isn’t nearly as big as I wish it was (oh, it’s not small, I just want to plant too much!), I am using an old garbage can to try the container method. So I’ll be right along with you! I’m so excited!!!

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  17. says

    We just planted our potatoes (for the first time!) this week!

    I can’t say we were quite that precise. I used a bag of red potatoes which I hadn’t managed to cook in time. We cut them in half right before planting, forgot to cure. And I’m not sure the boys didn’t put them too close together.

    But, hey, whatever we get we’ll be happy about!!

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  18. says

    We are even further north, so still waiting for the snow to melt and the ground to thaw. We have two types coming this year, one yukon gold, and one cranberry (pink) no sweet, our season is too short. Our fingerlings last year were incredible. I agree, you have never tasted a potato until you dig one up yourself. Right now we are enjoying last year’s parsnips and carrots that we mulched to overwinter. Incredible!

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  19. says

    We got our potatoes planted and the plants are about 1 ft tall now. It’s our first time planting potatoes, so we are very excited.

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  20. says

    Fun! I remember the fun of digging up potatoes as a child. I’ve never grown them, since our garden is small and they are pretty cheap to buy, but you’ve inspired me to consider them this year ;)

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  21. says

    My dad lives in Minnesota and he says it just snowed again this last weekend! Can’t believe it! We are leaving tonight to go visit him, so I’ll be sure to wave a hello in your direction as we travel through Nebraska… near Omaha.

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  22. says

    Thanks for the instructions…I am going to try a garden on the side of the house this year. Does the soil have to be real deep for the potatoes? My mom bought a few Topsy Turveys…I am going to try tomatoes and strawberries in them…mainly b/c we don’t have a lot of garden space. I hope it works. hehe
    Maybe you should come to my house and give me a private tutorial :)

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  23. stina says

    Awesome! I’m so excited to try this out. I’m in WY and Spring sure is taking it’s time getting here, too. Boo! We got teased with 60 degree weather today…but you can bet that we are getting rain and snow the rest of the week and into the weekend. :-/

    Anyway, I’m very excited to hear what else you are planting and when. I’m a newbie and this will be our first garden this year. :)

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  24. Nova Quigley says

    What a perfect potato planting plan.
    When? I’ve long heard that one should plant potatoes on Good Friday. If I am going to tell you that, I need to check some sources, so I did a search and saw various choices: Don’t plant on Good Friday. Don’t if ground is still icy and too hard (upper Midwest and New England). It seems to be the practice in Ireland. Good Friday in Indiana. Some plant by moon instead (that one is too complicated for me).
    It’s great to read so many enthusiastic comments about planting potatoes. Yum.

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  25. says

    I have fond memories of planting kennebecs as a child. We would actually walk in the row heel to toe and place the taters at our toe with each step to keep the 1 foot rule…

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  26. Valerie Boivin says

    My family has always planted by the moon. This is the first year that I am getting the information about how and when to plant from the source. I always just ask but I wanted to be able to do it on my own. Last year I planted one potato plant-not from seed potatoes, just to see what happened. It went very well so this year I bought a lot of seed potatoes.

    I also have a friend who takes farm fence and makes a big roll out of it to plant his potatoes. He makes one circle with it and uses zipties to hold it together. Fills it with dirt and puts the potatoes in the sides and top. When it’s time to harvest he just turns it over on it’s side, cuts the zipties and rolls it open. He said it works great. We might try that next year.

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  27. Valerie says

    I planted my potatoes in a huge pile of crushed leaves, no heavey digging required. They grew with no problem.

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  28. paul says

    My potatoes were planted in early June and by late July were an impressive 3 ft height and flowering.For a week now, all has flowered , dried up and on the ground. Problem is my potatoes are small. Maybe 1 to 11/2 inches. Not normal for Russets. The plants grew like crazy with all the rain we’ve had this year in Montreal, but the potatoes didn’t.
    Question. Can I leave them in the ground and will they continue to grow, or do I simply chack it up to a bad potatoe year and dig them up?

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    Laura Reply:

    If the plants are dead, your potatoes probably won’t grow much more. WEIRD since you got such nice amounts of rain!! It won’t hurt them to stay in the ground longer though so you could try it and see if they grow a little bit more. :)

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  29. DavidE says

    I sure like this site. Thank you. I have planted my first batch of russets and first batch of Irish white in separate plots. I didn’t realize (novice) that potatoes can grow right at the soil line with flat ground. Also didn’t realize that even though the small, plum size potatoes were really green, by covering them with soil (mounding) they will turn brown (or white) and be just fine. I’ve read a lot of stuff about growing spuds and have to wonder about statements found on other sites like “potatoes do not like rich soil” and “you cannot grow good potatoes in a warm climate”. As I used to pass through Twin Falls and Pocatello, Idaho on 1 90 degree F summer day I guess all those potato fields were doomed to fail. I am deep in the country of México. Thank you for well-written common sense. I shall return to this site.

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