How to Grow Potatoes Successfully in Your Garden
Potatoes have been a staple food in many countries for centuries especially on the northern part of the earth. The reason is clear: potatoes grow easier in cold climate. Basically, potatoes we harvest are the food storage organ of the plant.
However, potatoes are one of the plants that you can grow directly without having to buy the seeds. You can actually use a store-bought potato to grow your own.
It is best that you buy an organic potato to start. Most of the potatoes sold in a non-organic store have been treated with chemicals in order to stop it from sprouting—which is the perfect condition to regrow the potatoes.
In fact, planting potatoes can be done even you don’t have a spacious garden. Below, we are also going to talk about how to grow potatoes in containers. First, know the variety that you are going to choose.
1. Using Different Variety of Potatoes
There are more than a hundred varieties of potatoes, from the starchy to the sweet potatoes. Each of it has a distinct flavor, size, and texture. If you have a certain favorite, you can always try to find the best organic potato from that variety and plant it around the house. Here are some of the most common potatoes varieties:
Russets are well known as Idaho potatoes are large, oblong, and have rough brown skin. It has low moisture and usually used in mashed potatoes recipes. The plant has big hollow tubers which require more water than other potato varieties.
- Yukon Gold
Yukon Gold is an all-purpose potato, so it would be a great plant to have in your garden the Yukon Gold plant is resistant to mild mosaic and leaf-roll virus. The stem is upright and large, and the potato has yellowish white skin and light yellow flesh.
- Irish Cobbler
This variety of potato is one of the early season plants. It has an irregular shape and tan skin. It has a thick and angled stem with white flowers. The Irish Cobbler is widely known for its early harvest which can be an advantage for farmers.
Katahdin is usually harvested on mid-season. It has dark green leaves and stems with lilac flowers. The potato grows within buff and smooth skin and has creamy white flesh.
Kennebec has been known in the potato variety since 1948. The plant has a light green stem with long narrow leaves. The potato tubers are oblong and slightly flat. The strength of this variety is that the potato produce has a good culinary quality and resistant to net necrosis.
2. The Best Time and Practice to Grow Potatoes
Potatoes need a loose and well-drained soil. Through the centuries, farmers only do what’s best for the potatoes plant: start planting it a couple of weeks after the last frost of spring. In some areas where late spring happens, the planting can start as late as April through June.
If you have a spacious garden, it is best to plant your potatoes in rows. There are three measurements that you need to prepare. First, make a trench with 6 inches in width and 8 inches in depth. You need to taper the bottom around 3 inches in width. If you make several rows, make sure that the rows are at least 3 feet apart.
You can use seed potatoes which are the eyes or buds that are ready to sprout from the potato. To get the seed potato, you can wait until the eyes start to sprout and cut the potato in pieces so that each piece has at least one eye.
Remember that if you keep more eyes in one piece, the product will be more in quantity but less in size. It’s best to keep one or two eyes to produce large potatoes.
Put in organic compost or rotted manure and mix it in on the bottom of the trench you have made. As a basic knowledge of how to grow potatoes, the plant needs acidic soil, make sure the pH balance of the soil is less than 5.2.
- Putting the Seeds In
Place each of the seed potatoes and make them 12 to 14 inches apart from another seed. Then, cover the seeds with 3 to 4 inches of soil. Around 12 days after planting and the sprouts start to appear above the ground, cover it again with another 3 to 4 inches of soil. Keep doing this hilling process every several weeks. When you start seeing the stem of the plant, add layers of mulch to keep the moisture under the ground.
3. Harvesting Potatoes for Home Uses
The sign of a potato plant that is ready to be harvested is the foliage has started to die. If you are aiming for new potatoes—the early harvested potatoes which have tender skin and smaller size—you can start pulling and harvesting potatoes just after the plant has stopped flowering. These new potatoes do not have a long shelf time, so it cannot be cured and should be eaten within a few days.
When you pull out mature potatoes, it is best to start digging it on dry days. When you see browning foliage, you need to cut the plant down and give it 10 to 14 days to let the potato tubers develop a thick skin under the ground. If the freshly harvested potatoes are wet, let them dry before storing it in baskets.
Potatoes are best stored in dry, dark, humid place to prolong its storage life. You should also wash the potatoes only when you want to use them. If you store it long enough, some of the potatoes may develop new sprouts—then it may be the right time to start planting again!
4. Not Good Enough Soil? Try to Grow Potatoes in Containers
For those who don’t have enough spaces or not good enough soil, containers can be the best solution for growing potatoes. Growing potatoes in containers can be easily done with a large trash can or a deep wooden box.
Some areas happen to have rocky soil. If this is the case, you may put the seed potato directly on the ground and cover it with a mix of soil and compost and keep doing the hilling process until it’s time to harvest.
It might be impossible to keep planting the seed in a row if you are growing potatoes indoors or in containers. However, you can still put several seeds in one container, but expect smaller potatoes with a larger quantity. First, you may want to prepare for good drainage under the container.
Secondly, place an additional drainage material such as broken polystyrene, big rocks, or crocks. Then, fill out the container with around 4 inches of soil. You may use any multipurpose soil, garden soil, or mix it with organic compost. Place the seed with the sprouts facing upwards and spread it evenly. Cover it with another 4 inches of soil and keep adding layer every 10 weeks as the plant grows.
The most important key in how to grow potatoes perfectly in your garden is that to keep it covered with soil. If you see the tubular stem over the ground, it is time to add up the soil. The stem should not be exposed to direct sunlight, or it may turn green and develop a high alkaloid content that is poisonous to consume.