Thursday, March 14, 2013

Growing Potatoes

Skill Level: Beginner
Skills Attained: Gardening
Supplies:

  • Area with fertile, slightly acidic soil
  • Trowel
  • Seed Potatoes
  • Water





Gardening seems to be a growing trend these days. So, in light of gardening's rising popularity, this post provides you with step-by-step instructions on how to grow potatoes. Potatoes are a fairly easy vegetable to grow and each plant yields a significant number of spuds. I have grown a variety of fruits and vegetables in my gardens over the years, and some crops have been hit or miss. Last year, I grew potatoes for the first time, and they were wildly successful. Perhaps I just got lucky, but I will go out on a limb and say this is a fairly easy vegetable to grow for beginner gardeners. 

There is a window of time when it is best to plant your seeds. Generally, you want to plant your potatoes two weeks prior to your last anticipated freeze date. In the southeast, this is early to mid- March. All you northerners may plant your crops a few weeks later. 



Potato plants grow by planting seed potatoes. I bought the seeds from a local farm supply store, and they were very inexpensive. You can also make your own seed potatoes by allowing any potato to sprout. I grew redskin potatoes, but you can grow a variety of types of potatoes: yukon gold, russet, fingerlings, etc. 


Many seed potatoes have multiple sprouts or eyes. Each plant only needs one eye, so cut the potatoes so that there is only one eye on each section. 

Next, prepare your garden beds. I use raised beds, but you certainly don't have to do that. Make sure you are using rich, fertile soil. In North Carolina, clay constitutes much of the soil, so I haul in topsoil and chicken manure compost to enrich the soil. If you want to ensure you have good soil for growing potatoes, test the soil's pH. Potatoes prefer slightly acidic soil with a pH of 5.3 to 6.0. If your soil's pH level varies from this range, a soil test will instruct you on what to add to your soil to reach the ideal pH level.  Your local cooperative extension center may offer a free soil test.




Once your soil is ready for planting, create a trench approximately 4" deep; each row should be approximately 3 feet apart. 





Place each seed potato with the eye pointing up approximately 12" apart in the row. Cover the row with dirt and water. I like to stake the rows with two sticks on either end so I remember where I planted the seeds. 


Continue to water and watch it grow! Three weeks later, the potato plants were as big as the pictures shown below. 



One month after the seeds were planted, the plants were as big as the pictures below, and they started flowering. As the plant grows, pile dirt around the base of the plant to form a mound or a hill so that the potatoes remain underneath the dirt and will continue to grow. Don't forget to keep watering!



Approximately 3 months after planting, the plant looks like it's dying, but in actuality, your potatoes are ready to harvest!



To harvest the potatoes, gently dig underneath the plant to find your spuds. 


Last year, my potato plants yielded about 8-10 potatoes/plant. Different varieties of potatoes may yield different amounts. 


I ended up with loads of potatoes and froze a number of bags of cubed and shredded potatoes that worked wonderfully in casseroles and for breakfast hash browns.

I hope this encourages you to begin your gardening adventures!