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How to grow potatoes

Growing potatoes in the ground is much easier than you might think

I am so excited about the potatoes we are growing. They have just taken off and are growing so quickly. If you’re new to growing potatoes, you’ll love how simple it is. Potatoes are an easy crop that need little attention.

When to plant potatoes

First of all, when do you plant potatoes? Generally you plant them in the spring about three weeks before your last frost date. We had a late frost, so ours ended up in the ground four weeks before our last frost.

How to grow potatoes

How do you grow potatoes? You’ll want to start with seed potatoes, which are actually older potatoes with eyes, not traditional seeds in a packet. Choose seed potatoes from a garden center, as opposed to ones from the grocery store. Store bought potatoes are often treated with sprout retardant. Cut the potatoes into pieces that are about a golf ball size, making sure to have at least one eye per piece. Let them sit on a tray for two days to cure before planting.

I planted potatoes in a garden bed, but you can also grow potatoes in containers, bags and other repurposed bins. When you’re ready to plant in the garden, dig a trench that is six inches deep. Place the seed potatoes 12 inches apart with the eyes facing up. Then cover them with two inches of soil. Finally, water your newly planted seed potatoes. That’s it, for the moment. Potatoes need about one inch of water a week, so just monitor the rain fall or water the bed yourself.

Once the stolons (stems) grow between 6 and 8 inches, it’s time to hill your potatoes. Hilling is simply covering the stems with soil or straw. Tubers (potatoes) grow on the stem so they need to be covered and out of the sun. Hill about halfway up the stem. I started hilling our potatoes with soil, then we invested in straw a few weeks ago so I’ve been using that instead. You can use either, just note that harvesting will be easier if you hill with straw because it’s lighter.

Pay attention to how much your potatoes are growing throughout the season. Once they get going, they grow incredibly fast. The stems may grow as much as 40 inches when planted in the ground so you’ll want to continue hilling them every time they grow another 6 to 8 inches. Why? Potatoes need to grow in the dark or they’ll be green. Green potatoes will make you sick so you can’t eat them. Once they flower, you can stop hilling them. I was so excited when I saw the first purple flowers on ours.

How to harvest potatoes

So when do you harvest the potatoes? If the suspense is killing you, about two weeks after they flower, you can reach in and pick a few baby potatoes. Ideally though, you’ll want to wait until the flowers wither. That signals the end of their growing season. At this point, you can harvest your potatoes! You can pull them out with your hands, use a spading fork or even a pitchfork. It is so exciting and rewarding to discover how many potatoes have grown.

How to store potatoes

If you damage any of the potatoes while harvesting, you’ll want to eat those immediately. The ones you want to store for a longer period of time need to dry for a few hours. Store potatoes in a cold (50°F/ 10°C), dark place in a paper bag, wicker basket, cardboard box or something with good ventilation.

That’s it! It’s as simple as that. Enjoy your bounty now and through the winter. My family loves growing potatoes and yours will too.

Trying to decide which variety of potatoes to plant? We kept it simple and planted Yukon Gold potatoes, mainly because that’s what the local nursery had. Next year we’re going to branch out a bit with Purple Majesty potatoes. They are a brilliant purple color that will brighten any dish. Check with your local garden center to see what they have or venture online for more options.

yellow petaled flower by elias sorey unsplash

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