How To Grow Potatoes – Easy Step By Step Guide (7 Steps)

How To Grow Potatoes main
How To Grow Potatoes

How to grow potatoes? Potatoes grow easily in a variety of types of soil. They’re a great crop to start with if you’ve never grown vegetables before.

There are many different types of potatoes. There are also many different ways to grow potatoes. This article will explore how to grow potatoes step by step, how to plant potatoes in containers or ground. This article will also cover how to harvest and store them.

If you are interested only in one specific step, jump right in:

Step 1. Getting Potato Seeds
Step 2. Preparing the Soil
Step 3. Planting Seeds
Step 4. Potato Plant Hilling
Step 5. Caring for Potato Plants
Step 6. Harvesting Potatoes
Step 7. Storing Potatoes
Potato Pests and Their Control
Potato Diseases and Their Control
Potato Enemy and Companion Plants

Step 1. Getting Potato Seeds

How To Grow Potatoes. Getting Potato Seeds
How To Grow Potatoes – Getting Potato Seeds

For planting potatoes, you have to collect the potato seeds first. Potato seeds are just small potatoes. You can easily buy potato seeds from a reputable online garden store or your local garden center, preferably disease-resistant varieties.

You can also plant store-bought potatoes. They will grow into plants and produce as much as the seed potatoes. This how to grow potatoes article will discuss seed potatoes, but you can follow the same steps with store-bought potatoes.

When you have potato seeds available, follow the steps below to prepare them.

  • Place the potato seeds in a light and cool place until you see the eyes of a potato growing clusters of buds. Leave 3 to 4 strongest buds. Remove the rest (see picture below). This process is called potato chitting. [1]
  • This step is optional. If the seed potatoes are smaller than the egg, don’t cut them before planting. For larger potatoes, to save some seeds, you can cut them into pieces 2 to 3 days before planting. If you decide to cut big potatoes into pieces, you have to make sure that all the cut pieces have a couple of eyes (see picture below). If you don’t have to or are not going to cut the potatoes, jump straight to “Step 2. Preparing the Soil”.
  • If you cut the potatoes, you need to cure them. To cure the potato cuts, place them in a cool, ventilated area. The cuts in the seeds will heal within 2 to 3 days and develop a layer of callus. Not only does the callus retains seed moisture, but it also protects the seed from rotting.
  • Each of the pieces of seeds should have 3 to 4 strongest buds. The rest should be removed (see picture below). If you leave more buds on the seeds, it could result in overcrowded stems that will compete for nutrients and water. In the end, you could get smaller potatoes.

As mentioned before, potato cutting is an optional exercise. For example, if you have one big potato, you can cut it into four pieces. Now, you have four seed potatoes instead of one. But… (there is always a “but”), on the one hand, it will give you more potato seeds. Still, on the other hand, it could lead to disease and rot, which may ruin all potential yields from these particular seeds.

How To Grow Potatoes. Potato Eyes and Potato Buds
How To Grow Potatoes – Potato Eyes and Potato Buds

Pro Tip. If you decide to cut potatoes, don’t cut them all. Test it on a few potato seeds. If all works out at the end of the growing season, cut more potato seeds next year.

Step 2. Preparing the Soil

How To Grow Potatoes. Preparing the Soil
How To Grow Potatoes – Preparing the Soil

Don’t overthink about the soil for potatoes. Potatoes will grow in just about any soil. The only thing they dislike is poorly drained compact soil. As potatoes do most of the growing underground, the loose soil allows the tubers to expand.

Potatoes grow best in slightly acidic soil with a pH of 4.8 – 5.5 but will also grow well outside of this range.

Step 3. Planting Seeds

How To Grow Potatoes. Planting Seeds
How To Grow Potatoes – Planting Seeds

If you are planting potatoes in the garden soil, follow the steps below.

  • The soil temperature for potatoes has a wide range. It should be between 50 – 860F (10 to 300C) at the time of planting.
  • Place the potato seeds 3 – 6 inches (5 – 15 cm) deep in a sunny location.
  • The buds on the potato seeds should face upwards while planting.
  • If your potato seed is cut, the cut should face downwards, while the bud should face upwards.
  • The space between each potato seed should be 12 – 18 inches (30 – 45 cm) apart.
  • The spacing between rows should be 24 – 36 inches (60 – 90 cm) apart.
  • Cover the seeds with the soil.
  • Add organic fertilizer, such as matured cow manure, and water the soil thoroughly.
  • After 14 to 25 days, potato seeds will germinate, and tiny plants appear above the soil.

If you are planting potatoes in containers or potato grow bags, follow the steps below.

  • Fill the containers or potato grow bags with 50% garden soil and 50% multipurpose compost.
  • Tap down the soil mix.
  • Place 4 to 5 seed potatoes at different depths 6 to 8 inches (15 – 20 cm) apart.
  • The buds on the potato seeds should face upwards while planting.
  • If your potato seed is cut, the cut should face downwards, while the bud should face upwards.
  • Make sure to plant the seeds away from the edges of the container or potato grow bag. During the growing season, the soil at the edges will dry out first.
  • Water well after planting.
  • Keep the containers / grow bags in a sunny location with at least 6 hours of direct sunlight per day.
  • After 14 to 25 days, potato seeds will germinate, and tiny plants appear above the soil.

Pro Tip. There are benefits and drawbacks of planting directly into the soil and planting in a container / grow bag.

If you plant potato seeds directly into the soil, you will have less watering to do during the hot weather. Potatoes will send the roots deeper and draw the moisture and nutrients from there. However, the drawback is that you will have to dig around the plant to find potatoes during the harvest. And if you leave some, you might get rogue potato plants where you don’t want them the following year.

If you plant potato seeds into containers or grow bags, you will have an easy harvest. Just empty the content into the wheelbarrow and pick the potatoes out. However, the containers / grow bags will dry out quicker. So, you will have more watering to do during the hot weather.

Step 4. Potato Plant Hilling

How To Grow Potatoes. Potato Plant Hilling
How To Grow Potatoes. Potato Plant Hilling

Hilling of potato plants is an optional step in how to grow potatoes process. It is not necessary for the growth of a healthy plant or healthy tubers. Potatoes still grow well even if they are not hilled. However, it can be beneficial during extreme growing conditions, such as low rainfall or drought. This is because the hill of soil around the plant holds moisture and nutrients. If your soil does not hold moisture well, hills will help conserve the water.

If you choose to hill potatoes, here is how to do it:

  • When the plant grows about 8 inches (20 cm), place a layer of loose soil or mulch around the base to bury 4 inches (10 cm) of the plant.
  • Continue to add soil as the plant grows. As a result, the new potatoes will grow at the top of the mature stem.
  • Stop hilling when the vines are at just about the ground level or when the plant begins to flower.

Pro Tip. If you grow potatoes in containers or grow bags, you could have better results when you hill your potato plants.

Potatoes do not need a lot of room to grow, and adding a layer or two of mulch can help conserve water.

Step 5. Caring for Potato Plants

Potatoes do not require much looking after, and they are pretty easy to grow.

  • Use organic potato fertilizer, such as cow manure, compost, or even multipurpose compost from the store to fertilize your potato plants at the beginning of the growing season.
  • If you see leaves changing color, add some liquid fertilizer.
  • If frost hits the area, temporarily cover your plants with a floating row cover.
  • Remove any weeds growing near potato plants as they may harbor pests.
  • Stop watering the potato plants at the end of the growing season after the leaves start drying.
  • Plant companion plants and avoid enemy plants near your potato plants (the section below will discuss enemy and companion plants of potatoes).
  • Potato plants can get damaged by pests, and they are susceptible to some diseases (the section below will discuss potato pests and diseases and their control).

Step 6. Harvesting Potatoes

How To Grow Potatoes. Harvesting Potatoes
How To Grow Potatoes – Harvesting Potatoes

Potatoes take around 90 – 150 days to become ready for harvest.

  • Wait until the plant starts to wilt and the leaves dry out. This will indicate that the underground potatoes are matured and ready to harvest.
  • Do not try to dig potatoes until the leaves have started to die back.
  • Cut the potato plant stem at the ground level and leave it for a week.
  • If the soil is wet on the harvest day, wait until the ground dries. It will be easier to harvest.
  • Use the garden fork to loosen the dirt gently.
  • Carefully dig the potatoes and collect them.

If you were growing your potatoes in containers or grow bags, just empty the content into the wheelbarrow and pick the potatoes out.

Step 7. Storing Potatoes

How To Grow Potatoes Storing Potatoes
How To Grow Potatoes – Storing Potatoes

It’s not necessary to dig out the potatoes and store them outside of the ground. They usually can stay around six months underground. So, you can leave the potatoes in the soil until you are ready to use them.

But suppose you decide to dig your potatoes out. In that case, the best way to store potatoes is in a paper bag in a dark and cool area with an ideal temperature of 45 – 500F (7 – 100C). Do not store the potatoes in a plastic bag.

Potato Pests and Their Control

How To Grow Potatoes. Potato Pests and Their Control
How To Grow Potatoes. Potato Pests and Their Control

Healthy potato plants can withstand some damage from garden pests. So, if you see a couple of leaves chewed off, don’t panic and don’t try to control it. But if it’s getting out of hand, try to deal with it as organically first.

Below are the most common pests and their control.

Colorado Potato Beetles

These pests are some of the most notorious garden pests. Adults are black and tan striped, oval-shaped, and about 1/3 inch (8.5 mm) in length. Colorado potato beetles are usually found on plants from the nightshade family (potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, eggplants). The female Colorado beetles lay eggs on the undersides of leaves. The larvae will hatch and feed voraciously on foliage, skeletonizing the plant before pupating.

The best way to control Colorado potato beetles is with biological control. Attract beneficial insects like assassin bugs, damsel bugs, ground beetles, lacewings, ladybugs, praying mantis, parasitic wasps, spiders, tachinid flies.

You can also use citrus oil, neem oil, botanical oils. As a last resort, use pyrethrin or Spinosad.

Flea Beetles

These are small, about 1/16 – 1/8 inch (1.5 – 3.2 mm) long, shiny black beetles that jump or drop down to the ground when the potato plant is disturbed. These beetles can cause considerable damage in the garden when they appear in large numbers. They chew small, round holes in the leaves of potato plants (they also attack eggplant, tomato, pepper, and some weeds).

The best way to control flea beetles is biological control. Attract beneficial insects like braconid wasps and tachinid flies. You can also use beneficial nematodes.

You can control these pests using organic products like citrus oil, garlic oil, neem oil. As a last resort, use pyrethrin or Spinosad.

Wireworms

These pests are the larvae of click beetles. Wireworm larvae can be up to 1/2 – 1 inch (12 – 25 mm) long and are yellowish-gray in color. The larvae will feed on the most delicate parts of young plants, usually near or at the soil surface. They will also feed on the roots and stems. Because of their slender shape, they can enter tiny cracks or wounds in the plant. Wireworms are most likely to attack when the soil is moist.

Wireworms are the food of many birds and mammals. You can improve wireworm control by encouraging their natural predators in the garden. Birds like robins, jays, grackles, chickadees, starlings, and sparrows will eat wireworms.

You can also use beneficial nematodes in the soil to control wireworms. Nematodes are tiny worms that attack wireworm larvae in the soil. They kill wireworms by draining them of their body fluids.

Potato Diseases and Their Control

Potatoes are tough plants, but they are susceptible to some diseases. Many of these diseases are caused by the soil and may not show up until later in the season.

Rotate your potatoes with other crops such as corn, soybeans, wheat, or oats. This will help reduce the number of disease organisms in your soil and give your land a chance to recover naturally from any damage.

You should also ensure good drainage in your garden so water doesn’t pool near plants and encourage rot.

Here is the list of diseases and their control.

Early Blight

Early blight is one of the most common and severe diseases that affect potatoes. It’s caused by several different fungi and spreads by the wind, water splash, infected tubers, or transplants. The first sign of potato infection is usually a ring of tan to brown spots on leaves. Eventually, these spots will turn dark brown and spread until leaves are completely covered. Plants will wilt, turn yellow to brown, and die. This can progress quickly, from just a few plants dying to an entire row being wiped out. [2]

Prevention measures

  • Use certified disease-free seed potatoes.
  • Potatoes should not be sown in the same location as they were the previous year.
  • Remove diseased plants as soon as possible to avoid the fungus from spreading.
  • Overhead watering should be done first thing in the morning so that leaves dry quicker.
  • Use fungicide spray if necessary.

Late Blight

Late blight is another disease that causes severe damage to potatoes. It’s mainly a problem during wet seasons or cool summers. Late blight can cause leaf damage, seed tubers will have brown spots, and vines will die. The disease spreads rapidly, so it’s essential to quickly detect and remove any infected plants. [3]

Preventive measures

  • Use certified disease-free seed potatoes.
  • Avoid wet conditions by planting in well-drained soil.
  • Avoid planting potatoes in the same part of the ground where you grew last year.
  • Mulch heavily to keep vines dry.
  • Remove diseased plants as soon as possible to avoid the fungus from spreading.
  • Overhead watering should be done first thing in the morning so that leaves dry quicker.
  • Spray Bordeaux mixture. This fungicide is effective if the weather favors disease spread. Just don’t overuse it. If it is applied in large quantities for several years, the copper in the mixture will become a pollutant.

Verticillium Wilt

This disease is caused by a fungus found in soil and infects plants through roots. Symptoms on potato plants are yellowing of foliage progressing to browning, wilting, and leaf drop. This can be confused with other diseases like Early blight, so it’s essential to identify it carefully. [4]

Preventive measures

  • Use disease-free seed potatoes.
  • Avoid planting in low areas or where water accumulates near plant stems.
  • Don’t handle plants when the soil is wet.
  • Remove and destroy any infected potato plants as soon as possible.
  • Once a plant is infected, it can never be cured.
  • The fungus spreads very slowly through healthy tuber tissue, so timely removal is vital.

Potato enemy and companion plants

Most plants have companion plants and enemy plants. Companion plants help each other in different ways when planted in proximity. The benefits of companion plants include pest control, habitat for beneficial insects, increased crop productivity, pollination, and many more.

Not all plants like each other, some plants compete for the same resources, which reduce growth and productivity.

Below is the list of plants that could be planted as companions and a list of plants that should be avoided near potatoes.

Potato Companion Plants:

  • Aubergines
  • Beans
  • Corn
  • Cabbage
  • Parsnip
  • Thyme

Potato Enemy Plants:

What to Do Next

Growing potatoes is an easy process that requires little time and effort. So, why not give it a try?

Check out our other Growing Guides. Read and learn more easy step-by-step tutorials.

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