Keep your garden growing - see what to plant right now

Growing Potato

Jan F M A M J J A S O N Dec
P                 P P P

(Best months for growing Potato in New Zealand - cool/mountain regions)

P = Plant seed potatoes

  • Plant tuber. Best planted at soil temperatures between 50°F and 86°F. (Show °C/cm)
  • Space plants: 12 - 16 inches apart
  • Harvest in 15-20 weeks. Dig carefully, avoid damaging the potatoes.
  • Compatible with (can grow beside): Peas, Beans, Brassicas, Sweetcorn, Broad Beans, Nasturtiums, Marigolds
  • Avoid growing close to: Cucumber, Pumpkin, Sunflowers, Tomatoes, Rosemary
  • An 'earthed-up' row
  • Potato flowers

Seed potatoes

Potatoes sold in nurseries and produce stores are certified seed potatoes. Seed potatoes are small potatoes (usually fairly dried up and wrinkled) which are free of viruses and other diseases. You are more likely to get a good crop from certified seed potatoes.

Before planting expose seed potatoes to light to start shoots growing. Avoid direct sun as this can burn or par-cook the seed! Let the potatoes grow shoots up to 1cm long - this can take a few weeks. In hot or dry climates sprout seed potatoes in seed trays of dampened potting mix.

Large seed tubers can be cut into pieces - just make sure each piece has at least one 'eye' or shoot. Let the cut pieces dry for a few days before planting or else they will probably start rotting.

Growing in the ground

Prepare the soil by digging in plenty of well-rotted animal manure or compost (don't use fresh manure as it will 'burn' plants). Dig a trench for the seed potatoes about 30 - 40cm wide and 10 - 20cm deep. Add a bit more compost/manure to the bottom of the trench and cover with some soil. Put seed potatoes 20 - 30cm apart in the trench, shoot-side up. Fill in the trench to cover the potatoes.

As potato shoots start to appear, cover them up with soil from either side of the trench. 'Hill up the crop' this way a few times in the first four or five weeks of growth, which gives the potatoes an nice loose mound of soil in which to grow. Now leave the shoots to develop on to form leaves.

Keep potatoes well-watered. The soil should be damp enough to stick to your fingers.

No-dig and container growing - ideal for home gardens

If you don't have a ton of space then no-dig and container growing both work well for home garden growing. Using container growing you can produce potatoes in any handy space, even on balconies.

No-dig

Make a no-dig bed of potatoes by layering newspapers (or flattened cardboard boxes) at least six layers thick on an area to be planted. Spread your seed potatoes on top of the newspapers about 30cm apart, trying to get the shoots pointing upwards.

Cover the potatoes with layers of compost, weed-free straw, rotted animal manure, and other mulch materials, until the potatoes are covered by about 20 - 30cm. Don't flatten the cover down.

Water well. As the potatoes start to grow through, add more layers of mulch material and keep watered. After about four weeks of growing through and covering up, let the potatoes grow on without covering. As the mulch breaks down keep adding more mulch to keep the tubers covered.

Container growing

Get a container at least 40 - 50 cm deep with holes in the bottom for drainage. Shrub-sized flower pots work well. An old wheelbarrow will work if holes are drilled in the bottom. You can also make a 'container' using loose bricks or chicken wire.

Put about 10 - 20cm of mixed compost and potting mix in the bottom of the container and put your seed potatoes on top, about 30cm apart. Cover with about 10 - 20cm of compost mixed with mulch (straw, grass clippings. Water well.

As the potato shoots start to grow through, cover up with more compost and mulch mix and keep watered. Keep on covering up for about four weeks (but stop if you reach the top of the container!)

For both no-dig and container growing, keep the mulch well watered - wet enough to stick to your fingers but not sopping. If the potatoes dry out they will probably go scabby.

  • The longer potatoes grow, the bigger the tubers will be.
  • Don't grow potatoes in the same place as other solanum crops as they share many diseases - for example, don't grow potatoes to follow a tomato crop, or vice-versa.
  • You can start harvesting a few tubers as soon as they are big enough to eat - dig around under the plants and retrieve a few, and cover up the rest to keep growing.
  • Potatoes exposed to light will go green, so keep them covered up with straw and soil as they grow. Green potatoes are poisonous!
  • Potatoes accumulate cadmium and other heavy metals, so avoid fertilizers which contain these elements. Similarly, avoid using tyres as containers for growing potatoes as they can leach heavy metals.

Culinary hints - cooking and eating Potato

Peeled or unpeeled and scrubbed, potatoes can be boiled, baked, fried and roasted. - The only way they are not used is raw.

Keep in a pot of cold water after peeling, otherwise they will discolour.

Your comments and tips

24 Nov 18, Graham Bower (Australia - temperate climate)
I started planting a variety of spuds mid Aug in Melb, normally after frost danger was over. End sept when plants were around 15-20cm high we had severe frosts and plants got badly burned off. Surprisingly, they recovered well only to get hit hard again 3 weeks later, Once again they recovered. I have just started ferretting out a few early spuds and the crop looks like being one of my best ever. Has anyone ever tried reducing leaf growth by removing some of the tops to see the effects on the crop?
25 Nov 18, Mike (Australia - sub-tropical climate)
Was it an unusual cold Spring with the frosts? Probably reduce leaf growth by cutting back the N. Last year I put up 3 pieces of 3/4 (what's missing Mike?)
26 Nov 18, Graham Bower (Australia - temperate climate)
Most unusual to get frosts this late or this severe here. What I am getting at is the fact that nature has given me a reduction in top growth and a consequent terrific crop. Later crops have good but not excessive top growth, quite normal, in similar conditions and soil prep. Unsure about crop as yet.
28 Nov 18, Mike L (Australia - sub-tropical climate)
Yes I know what you are saying - nature works in a funny way a lot of the time. I use to think produce a good big plant and it will produce a great crop - doesn't work that way though. A balance between the right season, sunlight, nutrient, water etc. You probable had good nutrient which made up for the lack of leaf.
05 Nov 18, Rod (Australia - temperate climate)
I've planted spuds 16-18 weeks ago and have checked them only to find they are soft. What causes this?
10 Nov 18, Mike (Australia - sub-tropical climate)
Are they soft - rotten or just softish?
06 Nov 18, Mike (Australia - sub-tropical climate)
Sorry can't help you - try planting late April early May next year.
26 Oct 18, Tony (Australia - temperate climate)
Thank you Steve and Mike. Your comments much appreciated.
17 Oct 18, Tony (Australia - temperate climate)
As an expat Pom 52 years in South Australia, the only thing I still miss is is traditional "new" potatoes, with thin papery skins that can be removed with a fingernail.. They had a wonderful texture and tasted sensational. Only available in March/April, an annual treat. My question is, is threr a variety available here with these qualities and when would they be planted?
20 Oct 18, Steve (Australia - sub-tropical climate)
Hi Tony, Sadly no, there used to be a supplier in SA but I can not find any trace of them now. A couple of things to mention: Kipfler and Pink Fir Apple can be quite similar if grown quickly, secondly the traditional Jersey New and Jersey Mids were certainly grown with massive amounts of fertilizers so I am not sure if that sort of thing is acceptable these days even if they still grow them in Jersey. Cheers from another old Pom
Showing 1 - 10 of 572 comments

Ask a question or post a comment or advice about Potato

Please provide your email address if you are hoping for a reply


All comments are reviewed before displaying on the site, so your posting will not appear immediately

Gardenate App

Put GardenGrow in your pocket. Buy the app for iPhone, iPad or Android to add your own plants and record your plantings and harvests

Planting Reminders

Join 30,000+ gardeners who rely on GardenGrow. Subscribe to our free planting reminders email newsletter


Home | Vegetables and herbs to plant | Climate zones | About GardenGrow | Contact us | Privacy Policy

This planting guide is a general reference intended for home gardeners. We recommend that you take into account your local conditions in making planting decisions. GardenGrow is not a farming or commercial advisory service. For specific advice, please contact your local plant suppliers, gardening groups, or agricultural department. The information on this site is presented in good faith, but we take no responsibility as to the accuracy of the information provided.
We cannot help if you are overrun by giant slugs.