to Grow Potatoes: Organic Growing, Diseases, Harvesting, Storing
Learn how to grow potatoes
and successfully. Growing potatoes takes
a lot of room, however, they can be grown very successfully in the
ground, in containers, in straw as a no-dig growing method and
even using old Hessian sacks and tires building the soil up as you
People often feel that the amount of space potatoes take up to grow and
number you would need to plant in order to get a good crop is not worth
I disagree. There is nothing better than digging up, and eating your
potatoes and you can spread out the cropping season by harvesting new
potatoes early into the season, rather than waiting for the crop to
you are short of space, you can very successfully grow potatoes in
containers such as pots, buckets, stacked tires, or even plastic tall
as you can see below.
All my vegetables are grown organically, and so here are instructions
and tips on how to
grow organic potatoes.
How to Grow Potatoes Tip:
if you are
growing potatoes on new land as a main crop their root systems will
help break up the soil.
to plant vegetables , as well as during the
month for planting
by the moon .
Overview on How to Grow Potatoes: Climate,
Where and When to Plant Potatoes
for Growing Potatoes
How to Grow
Potatoes using Organic Fertilizers
How to Grow
Potatoes in the Ground
Potatoes in Containers
How to Grow
Growing Potatoes in
How to Grow
Potatoes and Crop Yield
Pests and Diseases
and Answers on Growing Potatoes
to Grow Potatoes: Location, Climate and When to Grow
When growing potatoes look for a
location , usually either in
hills or ridges.
Growing potatoes in hills is the more
common way of growing. If planted in hills, they should be from
to three and a half feet apart;
the distance will depend on the variety of potatoes planted.
If you are growing your potatoes in ridges or drills,
these can be made
from two and a half to three feet apart; although some of the earlier
and smaller potato varieties may be successfully grown at eighteen or
How to Grow Potatoes:
Seasons and Climate for Potatoes
The best climate for growing potatoes is a mild climate where daytime
temperatures are between 16 - 20 degrees C .
Potatoes should be planted
during spring and early autumn in cool, mild regions. If
you have harsh
winters then plant the tubers out 4-6 weeks before the final frosts
into early spring.
If you are going to grow potatoes in the subtropics
in the southern hemisphere you can grow potatoes all year around if you
live in a frost-free zone, but you are better off growing them only
from January to August.
to Grow Potatoes in Good Organic Soil
The best soil for growing potatoes is a light
and sandy one allowing the potatoes to develop freely, without a heavy
clay soil where they won't do well at all. When
the soil is wet or clayey, they are very likely to get diseased and
the quality of the potatoes grown in such soil is very
inferior. On soils which have been long cropped and heavily
manured, they also rarely
succeed well. They like a soil with a pH of about 5.5.
growing potatoes in very alkaline soils, or on soil that has recently
been limed as the lime and the alkalinity levels will
the growth of scab disease. Also avoid growing potatoes in places where
the area was limed in a previous season for growing brassicas.
How to Grow Potatoes using Organic Fertlizers
The less manure
that is used when growing potatoes, the
better the flavor; and the potatoes will also be much less
affected by disease. Therefore, it is not advisable to
of manure .
What you can include are barnyard and
peat-charcoal, and other carbonaceous substances, lime, gypsum, or
plaster, (if necessary, you need enough just to get the pH levels
right), and bone.
is useful in supplying potash and other inorganic
substances required by potato plants; and they may be advantageously
where the soil contains a large amount of decayed vegetable matter. The
same remark will also apply to lime, which is useful in destroying
and other vermin, which attack the tubers. Crushed bone, and
super-phosphate of lime, are best for humid soils.
to Grow Potatoes in the Ground
Planting Seed Potatoes
How to grow potatoes in
the ground successfully?
Potatoes are hardly ever grown from
it is for the production of a new variety. Instead, potatoes are either
propagated from whole potatoes called seed potatoes which
tubers that come from a
wholesaler and are guaranteed to be disease free.
Or, you can do what I
do, when your potatoes start growing strong 'eyes' take
them, cut them up
with a good portion of remaining flesh for food, and plant. You will
read elsewhere that this is not the correct way to grow potatoes as you
up with diseased plants, but really in all the years that I have been
doing this, I have never had an issue with disease.
will argue that when growing potatoes it is better to leave the potato
whole rather than to
it up, but this is not so, and many
get a better cropping if the
tubers are indeed cut and planted rather than just planted whole.
to Grow Potatoes Tip: If you are going to cut up the
potato leave the
potato pieces out overnight with the cut sides drying out overnight at
room temperature before planting out.
The size of
important . Large tubers, are
preferable, for the following reasons:
In all plants, large buds tend
to produce large shoots; and small or weak buds, the reverse.
eyes of potatoes are true buds, and in small tubers they are
comparatively weak: they consequently produce weak shoots, and the crop
from such is inferior to that obtained from plants originating from
larger tubers, furnished with stronger eyes; and this conclusion has
been justified by the results of actual experiments.
however, like to use whole tubers , keeping the 2 strongest
on the tuber and rubbing off the rest with the thumb. Make sure that
the tubers have not been placed in too warm an environment where the
shoots are tall and spindly as these will not produce good plants.
Plant 10-12 inches deep with 2 - 3 and a
half feet between rows,
depending on whether you will grow your potatoes in ridges or in hills.
From a 3 kg (6.6 lbs) bag of seed
potatoes you will get 50 - 60 plants
which is more than enough for the average family.
How to Grow Potatoes
and Hilling the Soil
When growing potatoes,
watch for the shoots and as
soon as the plants are above the surface, heap the soil around
the shoots , taking care not
to damage the plant. This should be done once the plants are 8 inches
high, the earth
should gradually be
drawn into hills, or ridges, at each successive hoeing,
and the side-roots should be encouraged to spread. Bank the soil every
is done for several reasons.
you have planted them in the winter and there is a chance that you will
be getting morning frosts, cover the emerging plants with loose straw
to protect the plants.
- In the early days, banking your potatoes
will protect the young plants from frost.
- Later on, it prevents the sun
from getting to them, which will cause your tubers to turn green. Green
potatoes are highly poisonous and only fit for the compost heap.
- Hilling potatoes helps protect your plants from being
attacked by the caterpillars of potato moths.
- Lastly, when growing potatoes like this, it will help keep
How to Grow Potatoes
with Proper Watering
Water your potatoes well in dry weather, because if you don't you can
end up with split or cracked tubers. Don't over-water because if you
do, your tubers will rot. Therefore, getting the balance right in
watering, will be the key to your success in growing potatoes
The most critical time to get the watering right is when your tubers
are forming at 6-8 weeks after planting. This is when your soil should
be kept moist until just before harvesting. The soil should feel damp
and cold, and the soil should stick to your fingers if you place them
in the soil.
Forcing potatoes should start three
to four weeks before the
growing season for planting in the open ground. The earliest varieties
chosen for the purpose, selecting whole tubers of medium size, and
placing them close together, in a single layer, among half-decayed
leaves or very light loam, on the surface of a moderate hot-bed.
the shoots are about two or three
the weather has become sufficiently mild, the potatoes should be
out, and divided into sets; in the process of cutting up the tubers,
avoid injury to the small fibrous roots,
and also to the growing shoots.
Potatoes in Containers and Bags
Growing potatoes in containers such as these bags.
can be grown in a variety of containers from bags, buckets, commercial
pots to old car tires. As long as you continually build the soil up,
pototoes can be grown in just about anything. As a result, if
you live in an apartment and have a balcony you can still grow your own
potatoes. Just make sure that the container has weep holes so
that the soil will drain well and that there is at least a depth of
1 foot (30 cm) . To encourage good drainage you can put some
coarse gravel as a base in your containers.
Growing potatoes in containers does mean a little
extra care with the soil. Fill the bottom of the bag or container with
compost or potting mix, until about a third full, then lay the potatoes
in, and top up as required as they grow.
Because potatoes are
formed under ground, the more of the plant stem that is covered, the
more potatoes are likely to be produced. However, this has to be done
slowly, as the plants grow. So heap up the soil around the stem of your
container grown potatoes, just as you would if you were planting
potatoes out in your vegetable garden.
Because the soil can dry out a lot quicker in containers than if you
were planting potatoes in the ground, it is wise to add a mulch to
around the plants. Composted grass clippings, sugar cane, lucerne or
pea straw can all be used. Keep the mulch away from the stems.
Your potato plants don't
need fertilizing while they are growing, but they should be given very
rich soil to grow in from the beginning. You can water in your potatoes
when you first plant them out with liquid seaweed.
Howto Grow Potatoes the No-Dig Way
Select a well-drained spot in the garden for you to plant your potatoes
and then place sheets of newspaper in layers 6 - 8 sheets
thick, making sure that you have wet them first.
Place the potatoes on the newspaper, with the shoots facing
up, and spacing them at least 1 foot (30 cm) apart.
Cover the potatoes with many thin layers of compost, green waste,
lucerne or pea straw, mixed with some well composted farmyard
manure, blood and bone and leaf litter. Make sure that you
have covered the potatoes to a depth of 20 cm (8 inches).
As the potatoes begin to shoot,and as the material begins to
rot down, add more composted material. After about 4 weeks, cover the
potatoes with a final layer of mulch.
Potatoes in Straw
This way of growing potatoes is really based on the no-dig method but
instead of using green waste, lucerne and the like, you use just straw
to cover your potatoes.
Dig a trench in soil that is rich with well composted matter. Make sure
that the trench is a foot deep and about 5 inches wide. Then place your
tubers at the bottom of the trench. The eyes should be facing up.
the tubers in about an inch of the soil, take straw and
lay it over the potatoes to a depth of about 6 inches.
As the potato plants start to appear above the straw cover them over
with 4 inches of straw.
You will need to water the straw so that it is moist but not soggy.
potatoes in straw acts as a mulch for your tubers as well as keeping
the sunlight out to prevent them from going green. It is also an
excellent way of growing no-dig potatoes so that when it is time to
harvest them you can just remove the straw choose the biggest ones and
then replace the straw until the next time.
According to Maria Thun, who is the expert on biodynamics ,
she grows her potatoes by preparing the soil a year in advance. Compost
and well-rotted manure is worked into the soil in the fall. At the same
time, a cow-pat pit preparation is sprayed onto the soil. After 4
weeks, and no later than mid-November the furrows and then ploughed.
This allows the soil organisms to work and then be left undisturbed to
do their work.
In spring the soil is then cultivated again and a
horn manure preperation is sprayed onto the soil. The potato tubers are
then planted on root days. During that time, the area is hoed twice
during the growing season to get air into the soil which again is done
during root days. At the same time, a silica preparation is
After 4 weeks of growing, soil is hilled up around the plants.
to Grow Potatoes: Harvesting Potatoes
When growing potatoes, the
should be dug when they are a suitable size; which, can start when they
are new potato size. This means that potatoes can be harvested 12 - 20
weeks after planting.
The practice of partially
removing the soil from about the roots, and gathering the largest
tubers, leaving the smaller ones, with the expectation that they will
get bigger is not a good idea, as the potato will not take kindly to
the invasion. It is far
take the little potatoes and leave
the bigger tubers to carry on growing.
potatoes takes place after the plant has flowered, the leafy parts turn
yellow and the plant tops
die down. If you find that the weather is good, there is
disease and the ground moist the tubers can stay in the ground another
week before you start cropping, as they will increase in size during
Late potato growing
make up the
and it's these that require most care when digging up and
storing. So long
as the plants are green, the
potatoes should be allowed to remain in
the ground; as this is quite indicative that the tubers are not fully
take care when digging up your potatoes. Many a potato has been ruined
by an impatient gardener using a spade. It is better to use a fork and
try and lift the soil a little way away from the main plant so as not
to damage the tubers.
If you do end up damaging the tubers these should be eaten first.
How Potatoes Grow
How to Grow Potatoes: Crop Yield
Knowing how to grow potatoes is easy if you can get past the blight and
other pests and diseases. But how many potatoes will you get from each
plant? Well this differs greatly from one potato variety to the next.
However, you can expect
kilos of potatoes per plant for
early varieties, and 3-4 kilos of potatoes from your main crop.
are some who practice removing the flowers from the potatoes as soon as
they appear in order to improve the size and number of their potato
crop. As soon as the flowers appear, remove them and the plant will
stay green for longer allowing the potatoes to continue to grow.
How to Grow Potatoes: Garden Pests and Diseases
growing potatoes you can find that your crop will be attacked sometimes
by wire worms and slugs .
When learning how to grow organic potatoes any pesticides and
insecticides will have to be totally natural. Many people think that by
growing organic potatoes means just leaving them for nature to takes
its course and not spray at all. This is foolish, as you will loose a
lot if not all of your crop if you don't. Organic growing of potatoes
still means that you will need a spraying program of some sorts.
Therefore, these garden pests can be eradicated using
organic methods. However, by planting early varieties, you can also
avoid a lot of these problems.
Potatoes are also very prone to
blight which can seriously damage the
crop, especially if you want to
store potatoes for a long time. Instead of spraying with
copper-based sprays, try planting potato varieties that are resistant
to blight, such as Cara , Estima , Romano , and Maris Peer .
protect your potatoes against blight you can spray the plant with cold
stinging nettle tea. Once the second pair of leaves has emerged, spray
them with stinging nettle tea in the late afternoon. Then,
9 days spray them in the early morning with a spray of yarrow,
camomile, dandelion and stinging nettles in that order. This is a
biodynamics method that is said to be very effective.
Natural Spray Recipes
for Potato Blight
For yarrow , dandelion
add 1 gram (0.04 oz) of dried blossoms to 10 liters (2 gallons) of
water. Boiling water is
poured over the blossoms and steeped for 15 minutes. Strain and wait
until it is cold, and then spray.
For stinging nettles
add 5 grams (0.2 oz) of dried leaves to 10 liters (2 gallons) of water.
Boil briefly and then strain after 15 minutes. Allow to cool before
you do get potato blight, remove and destroy the damaged stems at once
to prevent the spores from spreading into the soil or on to the tubers.
The resulting crop is then usually perfectly usable.
Potato scab often comes about by using
non-certified seed potatoes, and is worse in alkaline soils under dry
conditions. To minimize this risk, buy certified seed
potatoes, make sure that the pH of your soil is not above 6 and avoid
growing potatoes or other solanaceous crops such as tomatoes,
capsicums, eggplant and chilli in the same bed season after season.
3 examples of potato scab
If scab disease is a problem choose potato varieties resistant to scab
disease such as King
(although susceptible to blight), Maris
Peer , or Arran
grow potatoes in soil where peas, oats or barley have been planted as
this increases the chance of scab. However, if potatoes
crop of soybeans, this drastically reduces the chance of scab.
Leaf-eating beetles can do a lot of damage to the leaves
of the plants. If they attack your crop in the early growing stages,
they will also affect your harvest . However, if the beetles attack
later on the effects are less severe. Control the beetles by squashing
by hand, or by applying soap and pyrethrum sprays.
The potato beetle
is another great pest to these plants. If you mulch heavily with straw,
just after the plant emerges from the soil, it will help reduce the
issue of the potato beetle by 90%.
to Grow Potatoes: Storage
growing potatoes in bulk, you will need to think about how and where
you are going to store them. The most important thing is making sure
that you don't expose them to light. Again, if you do they will become
green and poisonous.
it is important that potatoes are kept in a dark spot on the same day
they have been dug up. Never let potatoes dry off in the sun
after they have been removed, but they should be dry before they are
stored. The vegetables should be stored in boxes
in a dark cellar, free from rodents.
storing potatoes in your kitchen, never store potatoes near onions, as
the gases they each emit will cause the degradation on one another.
The ideal temperatures for storing potatoes is 40
- 45 degrees F (4 - 7 degrees C. ) with 90% humidity. Storage
temperatures below 38 degrees F (3 degrees C. ) tend to make potatoes
sweet through a change of some of the starch to sugar, and this is not
what you want.
If you find that your potatoes have been stored
at a temperature lower than optimal then you can rectify this by
keeping them at a temperature at 70 degrees F. (21 degrees C.) for
about 2 weeks before using.
Now that you know how to grow potatoes, you may be interested in some easy potato recipes once you have
made your first
Favorite Potato Varieties
all potatoes are equal. Some varieties have been developed for potatoes
that you can mash, fry or roast or both. Therefore, it is good to grow
several varieties that will provide you with the type of potatoes that
you use most in your kitchens. However, there are some potato varieties
that are good for growing and eating and here are some of my favorites:
I like these small, finger-like potatoes to roast along with my other
vegetables. I don't peel them either, but just give them a good old
scrub and they are good. They are also good steamed and used in salads.
Blue congo for its unusual
color and long storage. Certainly a talking point at any dinner party
and good for boiling, mashing and baking.
for its lovely pink skin and creamy centers, and because it is such a
versatile potato. The Desiree can be used for boiling, mashing and
Pink Eye is also a favorite as
great to grow for salads as it has a rather waxy texture and therefore
holds its shape very well when boiled.
is one of the best all-round potato varieties. King Edward potatoes
grow well in containers and is a good all rounder for steaming, baking,
frying and roasting. However it is also one of the best potato
varieties to make gnocchi!
Pontiac again is
another all-round variety, but as they are difficult to peel they are
best cooked with the skins on. They are very similar looking to the
Desiree as they also have a pink/red skin.
Harvest Time. A Bucketful of
on Growing Potatoes
Q. Should I
save some of my potatoes for seed?
unless you are saving seed of an heirloom variety not commercially
available. Saving your own seed potatoes can lead to a buildup of
viruses and diseases. Whenever possible, plant seed potatoes certified
to be free from certain viruses and diseases.
potato plants flowered and formed green fruits that resemble small
tomatoes. What are they?
small seed balls are the fruits that contain the true seeds. They are
not edible. Except for breeding purposes, growing potato plants from
the true seeds in these fruits is a troublesome and unrewarding
causes green skin on my potatoes?
A. The green
areas on tubers develop where the potato was exposed to the sun. This
condition occurs when the potatoes were not planted deeply enough or
not covered with straw. The green portions taste bitter because they
contain a moderately poisonous alkaloid. These green areas should be
cut off and discarded. Exposure of potato tubers to fluorescent light
or sunlight causes greening during storage.
to Grow Potatoes Tip:
Take your green
potatoes and boil them up in some water. When cooled use
it neat as an effective insect repellent for spraying on plants.
should potatoes that are cut into seed pieces be cured?
A. They can
be cured by leaving them overnight before planting at room temperature.
You can leave them up to a week like this before planting out.
Q. Can I
make chips from homegrown potatoes?
Almost any potato variety can be used to make chips when the potatoes
are freshly dug and starchy. Commercial chips are made from selected
varieties that are naturally high in solids, carefully handled and
properly stored to preserve starch and avoid buildup of sugars. Chips
made from potatoes stored at low temperatures for long periods are
brown or have a dark ring because they contain excessive amounts of
Q. Can I use
grocery store potatoes for planting?
A. You can,
I have done in the past, but you have to be careful as you are not
guaranteed success. They may have been treated with a sprout retardant,
in which case, they will not grow. Even if they are sprouting, they
have not been inspected and certified free of disease. While results
occasionally may be acceptable, the risk of introducing a nematode,
disease, or other pest is much higher than from quality-certified seed
Q. How many pototo plants do I need to plant?
number of potato plants you plant really depends on how many people
there are in your family, how many potatoes you eat a week and how much
space you have, as potatoes can take up a lot of space in your garden.
Each plant will produce about 1-2 kilos, depending on the variety of
potatoes you plant. So this is a yard-stick to go by.
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Countryfarm Lifestyle Tips on Cooking Potatoes
new potatoes in water that has a little baking soda dissolved in it,
and you will find that they scrape and clean beautifully.
- To keep
potatoes white while cooking them place an onion in the water with the
potatoes or, soak in cold water for two hours before boiling.
- Butter potatoes when putting them into the oven to
bake, as the fat softens the skin and the skins will be easily
baking potatoes, prick with a fork so that the air can escape and it
will prevent them from bursting during the cooking process.
- A well beaten egg white whipped into mashed potatoes
before serving them will mash a smoother mash and adds to the taste.
- Add one-fourth teaspoonful of baking powder to mashed
potatoes while beating. They will be light and fluffy.
- New potatoes have a delicious flavor when cooked with
a bit of mint.
you have added too much salt to your soup add a few slices of raw
potato to the soup and the potato will help absorb some of the excess
- If you have a bad burn grate some potato finely and
place it directly on to the burn and bandage immediately. Repeat as
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My red potatoes are now a good size and I am digging some up now.
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