Growing Potato

Solanum tuberosum : Solanaceae / the nightshade family

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 10°C and 30°C. (Show °F/in)
  • Space plants: 30 - 40 cm 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
  • Potato harvest

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 1 cm 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 - 40 cm wide and 10 - 20 cm deep. Add a bit more compost/manure to the bottom of the trench and cover with some soil. Put seed potatoes 20 - 30 cm 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 30 cm 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 - 30 cm. 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 - 20 cm of mixed compost and potting mix in the bottom of the container and put your seed potatoes on top, about 30 cm apart. Cover with about 10 - 20 cm 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 solanaceae 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

14 Jun 24, Maseven makhunga (South Africa - Summer rainfall climate)
I want advice because it my first time to plant the potatoes
06 May 24, Etta (USA - Zone 8b climate)
Best potatoes for zone 8b And when should they be planted. Ate buying potatoes online an ok idea?
09 Jun 24, dan (USA - Zone 10a climate)
Etta, Peaceful Valley in Central Calif. is a good place. Although, there may be a place closer to you. Homestead and Chill has articles and other potato resources and advice; they're good people and they have a cat named Badger. [dry humor emoji] This website has the months suggested on 'when' to plant. Dan
21 Mar 24, Pete (Australia - temperate climate)
Its late March and I am on the NSW Central Coast. My seed potatoes from last year have well and truly sprouted. I have planted a dozen or so, and realising that it is very early, I am curious to see what sort of yeild I will get. Anyone have any advice, or experience with planting spuds so early? Cheers Pete.
29 Mar 24, Celeste Archer (Canada - Zone 7b Mild Temperate climate)
When I harvest potatoes, if I don't get all the potatoes up properly -- then potatoes will grow the following year -- and we get temperatures down to about -10c overnight in the winter here -- and lots of rain in fall..... I actually find it difficult to rid an area of potatoes (in case I want to grow something else there) --- so to me, planting a bit early should not be an issue at all.
25 Mar 24, (Australia - sub-tropical climate)
They should produce a good crop if looked after properly. All seasons vary to some degrees -late maybe early.
04 Mar 24, Carol Erasmus (South Africa - Semi-arid climate)
Should potatoes be kept in shade for growing Thanks I live in Capetown Thanks
24 Feb 24, Calfred Andawe (Australia - tropical climate)
I Need your assistance on how to plant Potatoes in Large scale in dry and Humid climate, full procedures on planting and harvesting
19 Mar 24, (Australia - sub-tropical climate)
30-40mm apart and rows 60mm apart.
01 Mar 24, Faith Celeste Archer (Canada - Zone 8a Mild Temperate climate)
Also -- please provide information about how large - LARGE SCALE is. That is: is this a 10m x 10m --- or a 30m x 30m -- or 100m x 100m -- if your up to tractor size... then you best bet is to talk to whomever is providing the seed potato in your area. They would best know what to broadcast and how to plant.
Showing 1 - 10 of 817 comments

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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.
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