So Many Ways to Plant Potatoes

It seems like everyone has their own favorite way to plant potatoes. Some presprout their seed potatoes, some don’t. Some cut their potatoes ahead of time and let them cure, some don’t. Some dig holes for the potatoes, and some just lay them on top of the ground and cover with a heap of compost. Those of you who’ve been following my posts for a while won’t be surprised to hear that I planted my potatoes this year according to Steve Solomon’s recommendations in Gardening When It Counts. (I ♥ Steve!)

My Yukon Gold organic seed potatoes arrived March 12 from Wood Prairie Farm in Maine. I ordered them from Southern Exposure Seed Exchange, and this is their supplier. Apparently, seed potatoes are generally grown in cold climates, which, like the potatoes’ native Andes, keep disease to a minimum. I only ordered 1 lb. this year, thinking it would be best to start small and see how easy potato growing was, but if I’d looked directly at Wood Prairie Farm’s website, I think I would have bought a bit more, since the price per pound is much better even ordering just the next size up. Oh, well. Next year!

When I got the potatoes, I put them on a little tray by a window in the basement that gets full sun only early in the morning. The sun helps the sprouts get green and strong, but you don’t want too much sun or a room that’s too warm, because that will dry out the potatoes. You can presprout (“chit”) your potatoes for up to 6 weeks. If I’d received them earlier, I would have left them longer, but it was getting to be planting time after just a week and half, so even though the sprouts were only small, I decided to get them in the ground. It’s been so warm here recently that I think they’ll probably grow almost as fast in the ground as they would in the house. And this way they can start making roots, too.

The day before I planted out the potatoes, I prepared the ground. (I’m not sure why Steve Solomon says to do this a day or two ahead. Maybe it’s just how it works best logistically in his garden, if he has a large patch to get ready? Anyway, I followed his instructions…) Since I was only planting one row–and a short one at that–I decided to make it 4 feet wide instead of 3. To determine how long it needed to be, I weighed the seed potatoes I’d been sent, to see if any of them were going to need to be cut in two. 1-1/2 oz. is apparently the optimal weight for a seed potato. Since the 7 pieces I had were each somewhere between 1-1/2 oz. and 2-1/4 oz., I left them all whole, even though some had more than two eyes. Solomon suggests spacing potatoes 8″ to 12″ apart in the row. I decided on 12″, because the plants would be better able to handle drought that way. That meant 7 feet of row.

In my 4′ x 7′ row, I turned over all the dirt to a shovel’s depth. Then I dug a trench longways down the middle, again to a shovel’s depth. In it, I scattered 3-1/2 cups of my home-mixed organic fertilizer, with one difference: I made this small batch without any limestone. Apparently potatoes prefer a slightly acid soil, and a soil that’s too alkaline can cause potato scab. So I left the dolomitic limestone and gypsum out of the fertilizer for the potatoes. Once the fertilizer was in the trench, I dug into the soil below it, loosening it and mixing in the fertilizer to another shovel’s depth. After that, I dumped a 40-lb. bag of compost on the pile of dirt I took out of the trench, and then pushed everything back in, giving me a low mound over what was the trench.

The next day, I dug 4″-deep holes one foot apart down the center of the mound and lay my little seed potatoes in, putting the side with the most sprouts facing up. I recovered with soil, and then…that was all! Pretty darn simple. In a few weeks (hopefully after the last frost), the vines will emerge. And once they start getting tall, I’ll hill up some more earth around them. For now, though, mission accomplished.

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12 Comments Add yours

  1. Megan says:

    This is pretty much exactly what I do with my potatoes. In addition, I coat them with sulfur before planting which also helps to prevent rot organisms and helps to make the soil slightly more acidic. I made the beds the first year that we moved here and did not have much extra soil, so I also used straw for mulching and I actually like this method better because then I can sneak in and get potatoes out pretty easily! Happy potatoes!!

    1. Sharon says:

      Cool! I’m thinking of mulching with straw, too. My stock is running low, but I should have just enough for the potatoes…

      1. Megan says:

        We have always mulched with straw- it seems to work really well for us- few weeds and lots of potatoes! Still waiting to see ours peeking out of the straw but we just got snow yesterday- so it might be a bit yet!

  2. Good for you, Sharon! Homegrown potatoes are amazing. We planted 4 or 5 lbs last summer and had a pretty good yield. In fact, I just roasted (perhaps the last) of them last night. I think you’ll be delighted with your crop, so long as the blight doesn’t hit… *knocks on wood*

    1. Sharon says:

      Thanks for the encouragement! I hope the blight doesn’t hit either…

  3. We’ve had good luck planting them in a double row with out peas or pole beans on a trellis between the two potato rows (planting bed a good 15-18 inches of loosened soil with rows 36 to 48 inches wide.) Lots of composted manure (sheep/goat, chicken, cow, rabbit) applied prior to planting and occasional use of organic miricle grow during watering, as we think it might be needed.

    Sharon, hope you will stop by to check out new posts about our bunnies, recipes and the Littlest Pioneer Girl’s first words (coming soon). Also coming soon, a DIY project building raised garden beds out of recycled pallets.

    1. Sharon says:

      Yes, I’m definitely going to come have a look at the bunnies! 🙂

      1. Thanks Sharon. I’ll write more in a little bit. Trying to help my sis-in-law w/ a term paper

  4. katedefleury says:

    I’ve planted two batches of potatoes so far this year. I have no idea what variety they are – just what the agricultural shop stocks – but they did ok last year (my first try). I use the “other” method. I dig a shallow trench, put the potatoes in at the same kind of spacings as you, and then cover over with the soil & mulch which we make from shredded gorse, broom & olive leaves. As the potatoes grow I mound up more of this around them. We have had a very wet winter, so there is deep down moisture in the soil, but it is very dry on the surface, and we will probably now have little or no rain until October, so the mulching is important. We use a simple irrigation system so that the water lies in the trenches between the rows of potatoes and is drawn down. I will be planting other things in between as well – melons, probably, beans, peas, lettuces, courgettes.

    Hope you have success – home grown potatoes are wonderful!

    1. Sharon says:

      Cool! I like hearing how you deal with gardening in a very dry climate. Usually we have droughty summers here, though last year was quite wet–a real surprise!

  5. Jennifer says:

    Love the Southern Exposure Seed Exchange myself, but for taters (45 lbs. on the way this year, yes, we’re Scottish) check out Fedco Moose Tubers/Fedco Seed — another Maine grower — a cooperative out of Waterville. May your potatoes flourish!

    1. Sharon says:

      I will check them out! Thanks for the lead!

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