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How to Grow Potatoes

Organic potatoes are simple to grow and lead to an abundant harvest

red and yellow potatoes

Potatoes are not only delicious harvested from your own garden, but they can be prolific. It’s always surprising how many tubers I pull out of the soil come harvest time. It is entirely possible to harvest 80 pounds of potatoes in ten square feet of space. In fact, if you have a half-barrel (about 18 inches tall), just one potato vine will yield up to 15 pounds of potatoes. And they’re not your average store-bought potatoes. These are fresh, flavorful, and free of any chemical pesticides or herbicides. Not to mention they have their own genes, which is nice (no GMO).

What potatoes want: Potatoes like their soil on the light side. Well-drained loam and sandy-loam are ideal. They also appreciated lots of compost. They don’t appreciate being thirsty: While they aren’t water hogs per se, they prefer to stay evenly moist throughout the growing season.

Harvest young potatoes
Harvest young potatoes when the plants begin to flower. Photo: cygnus921 under the Creative Commons Attribution License 2.0

Photo: tillwe under the Creative Commons Attribution License 2.0

Choosing which potatoes to plant

Look for seed potatoes at your local nursery, as well as seed catalogs. While choosing potato varieties to plant, be sure to check out the wonderful assortment of sizes, colors, and shapes available to home gardeners.

Early season potatoes take between 60 and 70 days and include Early Rose, Irish Cobbler, and Yukon Gold.

Mid-season varieties take between 70 and 90 days and include All Blue, All Red, and Red Gold.

Late season varieties, like russets, take from 90 to 120 days.

Fingerlings, like Russian Banana, Austrian Crescent, and Red Thumb, can take as long to grow as some late-season varieties.

When to plant potatoes

If you order seed potatoes from an online retailer, indicate a date 2-3 weeks before you’re able to plant in your area, which is usually 2 weeks before the last spring frost. If you’re not sure about the date, check with the county extension office in your area.

And, please, don’t throw any fresh manure on potato plants. It’s an invitation to acquire scabs. Manure is wonderful, but it should be composted first.

Can I plant store-bought potatoes?

People are always mentioning that the potatoes they purchased from the store worked just fine for starting new plants. Here’s the thing: grocery store potatoes aren’t certified disease-free. Not only could you be growing potatoes that can be carrying their own disease, but you could also inadvertently bring that disease to your garden soil.

Potatoes harvested young have the best flavor. You will know it’s time because the tops of the plants will flower. You want to store the mature potatoes. Harvest these after the tops of the plants have died down. But before you harvest the mature tubers, leave them covered in the ground for another two weeks. This will set their skins.

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Fruits and Vegetables

Fruits and Vegetables

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