How To Grow Potatoes

How To Grow Potatoes

In this article, we share a comprehensive guide to growing potatoes at home.

Quick Guide Information

Common Name: Potatoes

Scientific Name: Solanum tuberosum

Family: Solanaceae

Plant Type: Herbaceous Bush

Life Span: Annual

Time Till Harvest: 100-150 Days

Light Requirement: Full Sun

Optimum pH: 5.0 - 7.0

If you are looking to get some serious calories out of your garden, look no further than the potato. It’s not only a staple to our diet because it’s delicious and versatile, but it also grows easily and thus is a very accessible food. While it originated in the high mountains of South America, today Potatoes have spread across the globe and have become a staple in many people's diets.

One exciting thing about growing your own Potatoes is that they are actually an extremely diverse crop. In Peru, one of the places from which Potatoes originate, there are literally hundreds of varieties of Potatoes. Each one is different in color, nutritional value, size, and even use. For example, some potatoes are valued for having exceptionally high starch content while others are valued for cooking in under 5 minutes! So, if you are going to be growing Potatoes, it can be a fun idea to try growing something novel.

Potatoes originate from the cool weather of montane South America.  This makes them a generally cool weather crop, although in mild climates they do great throughout the year. Otherwise, they are best planted in early spring or late summer.

Propagation, Planting, and Maintenance

Potatoes are started from “Seed Potatoes” which are literally just small potatoes that were saved from the previous year's harvest. It is a form of vegetative reproduction as the new plants are literally genetic clones of the ones they came from. You can use any old potato from a farmers’ market as “seed potatoes” or you can buy some from a producer. One of the advantages of buying specialty seed potatoes is that they tend to be inspected for pests, disease, and vigor. Some seed potatoes may be painted or treated in order to reduce disease.

There are countless ways to grow potatoes. They can be grown in garden beds, wire frames, bags, or in large mounds. You will have to choose what strategy works best for you. Below is a general guide for growing potatoes in your garden.

1. Find a location with full sun and loose, well-draining soil. Compacted soil will prevent the formation of the tubers while water-logging can cause rot. To reduce risk of pests and disease choose an area where + Potatoes have not been cultivated for 3-5 years.
2. If you're planting in rows, you can excavate a trench about 10 cm deep or if you’re just doing single plants make a hole 10 cm deep. Place seed potatoes in the trench or hole spaced out at least 15-30 cm apart. Cover with soil.
3. Keep well-watered and wait for plants to begin growing. After the plants are about 50-100 cm in height you can begin heaping straw, dirt, and compost around the plants. This will encourage the growth of more tubers.
4. Keep mounding until you have a heap about 50 cm in height around your plants.
5. Once the plant flowers and leaves begin to turn yellow you can begin your harvest. Leave potatoes in the ground for another 3 weeks to let the skins thicken if you want to store them for longer.

    Common Problems

    No Tubers - This can happen if you’ve planted in a climate that is too hot. At temperatures around or above 35C, potatoes tend to not produce many tubers.

    Pests and Disease - Potatoes are generally pretty tolerant to these issues, but they can occur if planted in areas already infested or if they are planted outside of their ideal climate. Neem and other natural pest repellents can be used to treat issues with bugs.

    Rotted Potatoes - This occurs if the soil is too wet and anoxic. Unfortunately, at this stage there is not very much that can be done.

    Slow Growth - If your plants are in full sun and receiving adequate water then slow growth can be related to lack of nutrients. Consider top-dressing with worm castings or other nutrient rich composts.

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