Potato Planting Guide (7 Key Steps For Planting Potatoes)


If you are looking for a potato planting guide, you’re in the right place! Don’t worry about forgetting a step or missing something important – this article will tell you the basics so you can get started right away.

So, what do you need to know about planting potatoes?  To have success when growing potatoes, here are 7 key steps to follow: 1. Use seed potatoes and choose the right varieties, 2. Sprout your seed potatoes, 3. Choose a good location, 4. Prepare the soil, 5. Plant the potatoes, 6. Water & fertilize the plants, and 7. Hill up the plants.

It may help to talk to a local gardener who is experienced with growing potatoes first. That way, you can find out what varieties grow well in your area, and what to look out for (in terms of plant pests or diseases).

In this article, we’ll go into detail on the 7 steps for planting potatoes that we listed above. We’ll also point you in the right direction in terms of what you might need to buy for planting potatoes.

Let’s get started.


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Potato Planting Guide

In this guide, we’ll go over 7 basic steps for getting the most out of potatoes that you plant.

Potatoes 6
It helps to know the basic steps when growing potatoes – that way, you can get the best possible harvest.

The steps are:

  • 1. Choose Seed Potatoes
  • 2. Sprout Potatoes
  • 3. Choose A Planting Site
  • 4. Prepare The Soil
  • 5. Plant The Potatoes
  • 6. Water & Fertilize
  • 7. Hill Up The Plants

We’ll go into more detail for each of the 7 steps below – starting with choosing the right potato varieties for your garden.

Step 1: Buying Seed Potatoes (& Choosing The Right Varieties)

When you grow a potato plant, you normally want to start with a seed potato. A seed potato is really just a tuber that has been grown specifically for planting.

sprouted potato
A seed potato is an ordinary potato that has been raised specifically for the purpose of planting to grow a new plant – and more potatoes.

(Note that a seed potato is different from a potato seed – you can learn more about the differences here!)

A seed potato is really just a potato tuber (the part of the plant that we eat). Unlike grocery store potatoes, seed potatoes are not treated with sprout inhibitors.

Seed potatoes are also certified to be disease-free. So, you know you won’t be spreading diseases (such as potato late blight) in your garden.

late blight potato leaf
Seed potatoes ensure that you won’t be spreading late blight or other diseases to your garden.

When you buy seed potatoes, choose reputable company, such as the following:

Before you choose which potato varieties to grow, it is important to know what to expect in your area. Talk to a local gardener, or contact your local agricultural extension office to learn more (you can find a list of offices by state here).

For example, if potato late blight is a severe problem in your area, then you might want to opt for potato varieties that have late blight resistance.

If scab is an issue, then you can also find scab resistant potato varieties.

You should also think about the types of potatoes that you want. For example, you can choose varieties based on skin color, flesh color, and texture.

purple flesh potatoes
There are many options when it comes to potatoes. For example, you can find varieties with purple skin and flesh!

Remember that some potatoes (such as purple varieties) have more antioxidants than other types.

You can find lists of potatoes here:

There are also some other factors to consider when choosing potatoes, such as:

  • Time to maturity (early, mid, or late season)
  • Storage potential (how long they will last on the shelf)

(You can learn about some of the best storage potatoes here).

German Butterball Potato
German Butterball is one potato variety that keeps wel in storage.
Image courtesy of user: Idealites via Wikimedia Commons: https://commons.
wikimedia.org/wiki/File:
German_butterball.jpg

Step 2: Sprouting Potatoes

Ok, so now that you have chosen the right variety and purchased your seed potatoes, it is time to sprout them. To prepare for planting, we put potatoes through a process called “chitting” (or sprouting).

Basically, we encourage potatoes to sprout so we can make sure that they are healthy and able to continue growing after we plant them.

(You can learn more about why potatoes sprout here).

sprouted potato
You can encourage seed potatoes to sprout before you plant them, as a sort of “seed viability test”.

To make potatoes sprout faster, put them in a warm area. The best place is on a tray of damp soil, since this mimics conditions in the spring time (warmer temperatures and wet soil due to rain or melting snow).

After your potatoes sprout, you can cut them into pieces to get more plants. Just remember that each piece you cut should have at least one sprout – and the ideal weight is around 2 ounces.

If you cut your sprouted seed potatoes, give them a little time to heal over the cut areas before planting.

cut potato with eyes
You can cut seed potatoes into pieces (ideal size is around 2 ounces, with at least one sprout per piece).

Step 3: Choosing A Location

Now your seed potatoes are sprouted and ready to go. The next step is to choose a good location for planting.

An ideal spot for planting potatoes will have the following:

  • Full sunlight (6 to 8 hours per day)
  • Loose, well-draining soil (clay soil is heavy and drains slowly, so it is not ideal)
  • Somewhat acidic soil (with a pH of 4.8 to 5.5)
daylight
Sunlight is one of the most important factors when growing potatoes. Without enough light, they just won’t produce as much!

Sunlight is the most important factor here. You can always amend the soil to drain better (learn more here) or to be more acidic (by adding sulfur – learn more here).

However, if your spot is too shady, it will be difficult to cut down or prune trees to get more light. Without enough light, you might get healthy plants with green growth – but small potatoes at the end of the season (I had this problem once!)

small potatoes new potatoes
Potato plants grown in a shady spot might produce some tubers, but they will probably be much smaller than normal.

If you had a garden in the past, you most likely grew tomatoes. Unfortunately, tomatoes and potatoes share some of the same diseases (such as late blight), since they are in the same family (nightshade, or Solanaceae).

In short: if possible, avoid planting potatoes in a spot where you planted tomatoes recently. This will help prevent the spread of disease.


The Complete Guide To Growing Potatoes Cover

The Complete Guide To Growing Potatoes


A complete reference and an ultimate guide that teaches you everything you need to know about potato selection, planting, care, harvest, and storage.


Step 4: Soil Preparation

If your soil is already perfect, then go ahead to Step 5! Otherwise, you have some work to do first.

If your soil is a little heavy (clay soil), it probably drains slowly. In that case, you might want to add compost or aged manure to improve drainage.

clay soil
Clay soil is heavy and drains slowly. As such, it is not ideal for growing potatoes – add compost to help improve clay soil.

As an added bonus, this will also add nutrients to your soil, which will help potatoes to grow. Just make sure the manure is aged well enough before using it (you can learn why here).

If you still think drainage and soggy soil will be a problem, then consider elevating the soil with a container or raised garden bed. This will help with drainage, and it can also prevent some pests from getting easy access to your potato plants.

potato plants in container
Growing potatoes in a container or raised garden bed will elevate the soil, helping to improve drainage.

If the soil is not acidic enough, you can lower the pH by adding sulfur (or sulfur compounds), as mentioned above.

Step 5: Planting

A depth of about 4 inches is good for planting seed potato pieces. You can dig individual holes at a depth of 4 inches, or you can dig an entire trench that is 4 inches deep.

Either way, you will need to move the soil once (to dig) and again (to cover). Another option is to lay out the seed potato pieces on the ground, then cover them with 4 inches of soil (so you only have to move the soil once).

Pinterest How To Successfully Plant Potatoes That Have Sprouted
When planting sprouted seed potatoes, aim for a depth of 4 inches, with 12 inches between plants and 36 inches between rows.

As far as spacing, seed potato pieces should be about 12 inches apart. If you are worried about the spread of disease, give them a little more space (perhaps 15 inches).

If you have more than one row of potatoes, leave 36 inches between rows. This will give you room to walk between rows of plants to inspect for pests, diseases, and so you know when to water or fertilize.

If you plant in a container, make it deeper than 4 inches to give potato roots a chance to grow as the plant gets established.

Step 6: Water & Fertilizer

Potato plants will need around 2 inches of water per week. This can come from rain, irrigation, or some combination.

rain
Rain counts towards the amount of water that a potato plant gets, so pay attention to the weather!

Just remember that this amount will vary, depending on temperature, humidity, and even wind conditions. Soil will dry out faster (and plants will lose water faster) in hot, dry, windy conditions.

So, keep an eye on the weather forecast – and adjust your watering schedule accordingly. If a big storm is coming, you might want to water just enough to keep the soil damp to avoid over watering.

When it comes to fertilizer, potato plants need plenty of nitrogen (along with other nutrients). You might need to add fertilizer during the season – especially in sandy soil, which tends to lack nutrients.

ammonium nitrate
You might need to add fertilizer by side dressing to give potato plants the nutrients they need – but start with compost or aged manure.

Still, your best bet is to build your soil with compost or aged manure at first, and then add fertilizer only as needed. Don’t fertilize too early, or some of the nutrients will wash away before the plants can use them.

Use the side-dressing method to fertilize potato plants. This means putting fertilizer near the edge of the row, away from where the plants are actually growing.

Putting fertilizer too close to plants will burn them (or kill seed potatoes before they can grow).

Step 7: Hilling

Now that your potatoes are starting to grow, it is time to do some hilling (also called mounding or earthing up). This just means using soil (or straw, or something else) to pile up around the base of potato plants.

rows of potatoes
Hilling prevents green tubers and stabilizes plants as they grow taller.

The goal is to prevent green potatoes (which is the result of tuber exposure to sunlight). However, hilling can also provide stability as the plant grows, as well as insulation against extreme cold or heat.

To hill potatoes, add a few inches of soil at a time, piled up around the base of the plant. Don’t bury the plant completely – there should be some leaves visible above the surface so the plant can get sunlight.

You might need to hill potato plants multiple times during the season – 2 or 3 times is possible. Straw makes a great material for hilling, and it also decomposes to add organic matter to the soil later on.

straw
Straw is a good choice when hilling potatoes – but it isn’t the only option.

Hill just as much as you need to – if you bury your plants too deep, they won’t grow as well. It will also be more work to dig up your potatoes at harvest time.

In short, hilling potatoes is important to improve your harvest – you can learn more about it here.

What To Buy For Potato Planting

If you are wondering what you need for potato planting, this list will help:

  • Seed Potatoes (one pound = 16 ounces, so you should get about 8 plants per pound of seed potatoes)
  • Sprouting Tools (Trays and soilless potting mix)
  • Digging Tools (shovel or trowel)
  • Watering Tools (hose, spray nozzle, watering can, or drip irrigation system)
  • Fertilizer (such as 10-10-10)
  • Harvesting Tools (pitchfork, soil sifter, bucket)
  • Compost or manure (you can make your own compost too!)
  • Hilling materials (straw works great!)
  • Guide Books (if you need more detailed guidance, there are lots of potato books available in print or electronic versions – including mine, which is listed below)
aluminum trays
Use one or more trays filled with damp soil to sprout your seed potatoes. Put the trays in a warm area to encourage sprouting.

The Complete Guide To Growing Potatoes Cover

The Complete Guide To Growing Potatoes


A complete reference and an ultimate guide that teaches you everything you need to know about potato selection, planting, care, harvest, and storage.


Conclusion

Well, that’s it! Now you know how to get started with growing potatoes, from choosing the right varieties all the way to hilling to avoid green tubers.

I hope you found this article helpful.  If so, please share it with someone who can use the information.


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~Jonathon


Jon M

Hi, I'm Jon. Let's solve your gardening problems, spend more time growing, and get the best harvest every year!

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