Planting potatoes in the home vegetable garden is not very difficult, but does have a couple important steps. A very important thing to remember about growing potatoes is to make sure you use certified seed potatoes. You can use store bought potatoes as seed potatoes, but certified potatoes are best to help prevent diseases, such as blight. Certified seed potatoes have been checked and assured that no diseases are prevalent in the seed potatoes.
There are many different ways to grow potatoes – from using a garbage can, to using a tall potato grow box, to just planting them in hills and rows. I will be planting some potatoes in a raised bed this year that had butter beans last year.
Chitting The Seed Potatoes
The seed potatoes must first be chitted for a little while before planting. Yes – chitting. Hey, I’m not making this up!
Chitting is simply letting the eyes of the potatoes grow out a bit before planting. You can place the seed potatoes in a small box or on newspaper and set them in a warm, dry area. After a couple days the eyes will begin to grow out some.
In the picture below I have my Red Pontiac seed potatoes after chitting for a couple days.
As you can see the eyes of the potatoes have grown out quite a bit. You do not need to let them grow this long. Once they start sprouting just a little, you can plant the seed potatoes. Don’t tell anyone – I let these seed potatoes chit just a bit too long, but they are still good to plant.
Cutting The Seed Potatoes For Planting
Once the seed potatoes have chitted and sprouted some eyes, it is time to cut the seed potatoes for planting. Small seed potatoes – about 2 to 3 inches in diameter – do not need to be cut. They can be planted directly in the raised bed. If you have seed potatoes that are quite large, they should be cut into smaller pieces.
The biggest thing to remember when cutting the seed potatoes is each piece needs to have at least two eyes. One eye per piece is the bare minimum, but two or more is better. Remember, if the piece doesn’t have at least one eye, it will not sprout a new potato plant.
Let The Seed Potato “Scab” After Cutting
Here is where many potato growers may differ in potato planting methods. Some gardeners will say you need to let the cut potato scab over before planting to prevent rotting, while others will say it doesn’t really make a difference.
I decided to let the potato pieces scab over to hopefully prevent rotting. Scabbing over is simply letting the potato form a scab over the exposed insides of the potato from the cutting process. Just let the potato pieces rest with the cut side exposed over night. The exposed cut area will form a skin-like seal over the cut area.
As you can see in the picture above, the seed potato piece has formed a hard skin-like surface over the exposed flesh.
Prepare The Raised Bed For Planting
Now that the seed potatoes are ready for planting, it is time to prepare the planting bed. I will be planting my potatoes in a four foot by four foot raised bed that is 12 inches deep. This raised bed is filled with top soil, mushroom compost and a little bit of perlite to aid in moisture retention.
I like to take a small board or any flat surface and smooth the top of the raised bed, if needed.
Once the soil is smoothed out, I take a trowel and create the planting trenches. I create a trench that is about four inches deep and about one foot apart. In this raised bed, I was able to create three rows for planting the seed potatoes.
Planting The Seed Potatoes
After the trenches have been completed, it is time to start planting the seed potatoes pieces. I lay out the seed potato pieces in the trenches about six to eight inches apart.
Here is the very important part of planting the seed potatoes:
Make sure the seed potato eyes are facing up!
The eyes must be facing up to ensure the potato plants sprout correctly. If the eyes are facing down or to the side, the plant may never sprout.
Once you have set out the seed potatoes in the trenches with the proper spacing, and the eyes up, it is now time to cover them up with soil. I simply rake the soil over the seed potatoes covering them with about 4 inches of soil. I also placed a stick at the end of each row so I will know where I planted the potatoes later on. This can help to figure out what’s a potato seedling and what is a possible weed.
Water The Seed Potatoes
When the seed potatoes are covered, it is time to water the bed thoroughly. It is important to water the seed potatoes well, but not too much. Over-watering the seed potatoes could cause them to rot.
Maintaining The Potato Plants
In a couple weeks the seed potatoes should begin sprouting. At this time you can cover the bed with a good mulch such as straw. Since potatoes can be thirsty plants, it is a good idea to use mulch to retain moisture and suppress weeds. When the plants reach about six inches tall, hill more soil around the plant, covering all but the leaves. Continue this until hilling soil around the plant until it blooms and the blooms begin to die back. At this time the potatoes will be ready to harvest.
How do you grow potatoes in your vegetable garden?
Please share your potato planting and growing tips!