How to Grow Potatoes At Home

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Freshly unearthed potatoes in soil at sunset, highlighting homegrown potato cultivation.

Potatoes are a staple of vegetable plots everywhere and on dinner plates. If you’re considering growing potatoes at home, you will find this starchy root vegetable easy to grow. You might also be pleasantly surprised at their far superior taste!

This guide will help you plant, nurture, and harvest your crop for delicious potatoes year-round.

Common NamePotato
Botanical NameSolanum tuberosum
FamilySolanaceae
Plant TypeRoot vegetable
Size24 inches
Sun ExposureFull sun, partial shade
Soil TypeSandy loam soil
Soil pH5.5 – 7.0
Bloom TimeSpring to summer
Hardiness Zones2-11
Native AreaThe Americas
Toxicity LevelsHarmful if eaten, except the potato crop

Choosing Potatoes to Grow

Before you start planting, take time to choose the variety of potatoes you want to grow. Research the different potato varieties and consider the flavors, textures and sizes you want to enjoy when eating your harvest. Also, consider factors like disease resistance, your climate, and specific culinary uses.

The first thing to consider is that there are two different categories of potatoes:

  • Earlies (first or second earlies): Also called ‘new potatoes,’ these varieties are small and slightly sweet. Their small size means they’re ready for harvest earlier, in as little as 80 days. Plus, they take up less space in your plot, which makes them ideal for container gardening.
  • Maincrop: These larger varieties remain in the ground longer. They’re ideal for roasting, baking, and storing throughout the winter.

When you’re choosing a variety, the possibilities can feel almost endless. You can grow the traditional grocery store varieties, like Yukon Gold, Maris Piper, or Russet. However, the benefit of growing your crop is that you can choose any of the less common options, too, varieties you would never usually see at the store.

 Ambo, Kennebec, and Yellow Finn are three varieties that we recommend you try.

Young potato plant thrives in sunlit garden soil, ideal for growing potatoes at home.

How to Grow Potatoes

This is how to grow potatoes at home in seven simple steps. The first things you need to know are that potatoes like:

  • Full sun
  • 1” of water per week
  • Loose, fertile soil

By providing the ideal environment, you will be more assured of a successful crop of homegrown potatoes.

Step 1: Choose Seed Potatoes

You grow potatoes using ‘seed potatoes,’ which are small tubers for planting. They’re like the potatoes you pick up at the grocery store, but they’re certified virus-free. It’s essential to choose organic (if possible) and disease-free seed potatoes. If you start with diseased seed potatoes, then there is the risk the disease will spread through the whole crop. Don’t be tempted to use grocery store potatoes as they may have been treated with a sprout-retardant, which prevents further growth.

You can buy seed potatoes online or from farm stores. Try to select tubers that have already sprouted. Or, encourage sprouting simply by laying the potatoes on your kitchen counter or potting bench.

Step 2: Separate the Eyes

If your seed potatoes are large, cut them into pieces, making sure each piece has 2-3 “eyes”. The eyes are the bumps that turn into sprouts. You can plant small (golf ball-sized) potatoes whole, but planting larger ones can lead to overcrowding with too many sprouts in a small space.

Step 3: Cure the Cut Pieces

The next step is to ‘cure’ the cut pieces. They need to be in a warm area, around 70˚F, with moderate light. For this, you can either place them outside in the sun or on a table by the window. 

Wait 3-5 days to cure the potatoes. This step adds a few extra days, but it’s vital as it allows the cuts made to callous, preventing rot after planting.

Step 4: Planting

Now, it’s finally time to plant potatoes. You should plant your crop in early spring. The exact date depends on where you live and the growing seasons in your area. You can plant in warmer climates as early as Valentine’s Day, whereas in cooler areas, you plant around Easter. As a rule of thumb, plant your potatoes 3-4 weeks after your last frost date.

Note that most varieties can survive a light frost, so don’t worry if the temperature drops slightly after planting.

There are a few ways to plant potatoes. If you have the space, you can plant them directly in the ground, but you’ll need slightly acidic soil with a pH of 5.8 – 6.5. Alternatively, you can use a raised bed, which often provides the highest yield.

Here’s how to plant your potatoes:

  1. Plant the seed potato segments cut-side-down, with the eyes facing up, in a 6-inch-deep hole or trench. Place the segments at least 12 inches apart. You can extend this to up to 2 feet apart if you have the space and want to make tasks like weeding easier.
  2. Between each segment, sprinkle two tablespoons of fertilizer; low-nitrogen, high-phosphorous fertilizers work best. 
  3. Cover the potatoes and fertilizer with 1-2 inches of soil. Water well, and then keep watering weekly if there isn’t sufficient rainfall.

Step 5: Hill Around the Stems

Potatoes form on “stolons” (lateral stems) above the seed potato. As a result, you’ll need to “hill” the stems to ensure the plants grow tall and healthy. 

When the shoots reach around 10 inches tall, scoop soil from between the rows and mound it against the plants, burying the stems halfway. Keep repeating this step to keep the tubers covered as the potatoes grow.

Please note that if you live in an area with low-quality soil that’s badly compacted or low in organic matter, you may need to use an above-ground technique. Or, you can try to aerate the soil instead. 

You can also try hilling potatoes with chopped straw or shredded leaves if the soil isn’t sufficient. Either way, the more you hill, the more your potato plants will grow. You should stop hilling when the vines flower.

Not only does hilling protect the vine as it grows, but it also protects the tubers. Potatoes will turn green if exposed to sunlight, and green potatoes can make you sick. So, this is a vital step to protect your crop.

If you don’t want to go through the effort of hilling, plant your potatoes 8-9 inches deep. However, using this option, the crop could take longer to grow, and the yield is often smaller.

Hands in soil showcase freshly harvested potatoes against green foliage, ideal for growing potatoes at home.

Step 6: Harvesting

Two weeks after flowering, you can harvest potatoes. However, at this point, you’ll only get baby potatoes. Alternatively, you can wait for the vines to die back, which signals that the tubers are fully mature. 

It will then be time to pull up the tubers. Congratulations! You’re now the proud owner of homegrown potatoes.

After digging them up, lay them on top of the raised bed for a few hours to dry out, toughening up the skin. This will prepare them better for storage. 

Step 7: Storage

Potatoes are a summer crop, but you can enjoy them throughout the winter–they just need to be stored properly.

Potatoes store well in a cold but not freezing environment. Some keen gardeners have mudrooms and other storage solutions for this very reason. Or, you can leave them in the ground until the cool weather arrives in autumn, harvesting around mid-late October.

After brushing off the soil, store the potatoes in paper bags until they’re ready for use.

Preventing Potato Blight

Potato blight (phytophthora infestans) can devastate your crops. It’s essential to try and prevent potato blight to enjoy an abundant harvest. Provide a safe, quick, and effective solution to pest and disease issues with this organic pesticide.

You can avoid blight by not planting any other members plants of the nightshade family in the same patch of land, leaving an interval of at least three years before replanting potatoes. For reference, members of this family include tomatoes, chilli peppers, and eggplants. 

 Volunteer potatoes are the leftover plants that were not harvested. They must be removed as they can hold on to and spread diseases, attract unwelcome insects and compete for nutrients with other crops.

Get More Gardening Tips from Gardeners’ Yards

Potatoes are a great growing crop even if you have to go through the effort of hilling. They are a relatively simple crop to cultivate, too. It is well worth the effort for delicious vegetables you can enjoy throughout the winter. 

If you want to learn more about growing vegetables in your garden, make sure you check out our other blogs.

Young potato plants thrive in dark, moist soil with visible stones and organic debris, ideal for home potato cultivation.

Frequently Asked Questions

Our most frequently asked questions on growing potatoes.

1. Can I grow potatoes from a potato?

Yes, you grow potatoes using a seed potato. Potatoes will sprout shoots when left in a cool, dark place, before being ready to be planted.

2. How many potatoes do you get from one plant?

One seed potato can yield 5-6 new potatoes after you plant it. It’s a rewarding crop to grow because you get so many out of just one plant!

3. Can I use grocery store potatoes as seed potatoes?

In theory, you can use a potato you bought at the grocery store as a seed potato. However, this isn’t recommended. Store potatoes have not been sufficiently sterilized for growing and could carry diseases. Not only is this bad for later consumption, but it also threatens the other crops in your garden.

4. What is the best soil for growing potatoes?

Potatoes like well-drained soil, which is slightly acidic, with a pH between 5.8 and 6.5. Root growth occurs best when the soil temperature is between 59 and 68˚F, though it can take place between 15-95˚F. Ideally, you should add fertilizer or composted manure to help your crop thrive.

5. How long do potatoes take to grow?

So, how long do potatoes take to grow? It depends on the variety. First early potatoes take around 80 days after planting, which usually means you can harvest in mid-June. Second earlies take around 100 days. Meanwhile, maincrops take the longest and are ready after 130 days, placing them around mid-August.

Here at Gardeners Yards, we hope this article will provide knowledge and inspiration on how to grow potatoes at home!

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