Growing potatoes in the home garden requires ample space, as these hardy plants grow to heights of three feet or more and produce large tubers under the soil. Soil mounded to a height of a foot or more at the base of the plant (referred to as hilling) provides room for tubers to grow. Potatoes form shortly after blooming, producing tender young potatoes referred to as new potatoes or baby potatoes. This cool season plant performs well in northern gardens where soil remains cool. Planting potatoes in early spring provides fresh potatoes in early to midsummer that reach maturity in early fall.
Prepare soil in a sunny location that receives six to eight hours of direct sunlight a day. Till to a depth of eight to 10 inches and remove rocks, sticks or other debris found in the soil. Potatoes require loose friable soil for good root formation.
Add soil amendments to improve the texture, promote drainage and add nutrients. Spread a two to three inch layer of well-rotted manure or compost over the soil, and mix it in well with a garden tiller or hand tools.
Apply 5-10-10 fertilizer following the application rate on the container, and mix it well with the existing soil.
Mark the rows, spaced 24 to 36 inches apart. Create a furrow three to four inches deep down the center of the row.
Cut the seed potato into several sections with at least one eye on each section. Sprouted potatoes should have at least one sprout on each section. Small, round seed potatoes with a diameter of less than two inches can be planted whole.
Plant potato seed spaced nine to 12 inches apart. Potatoes intended to be eaten as new potatoes and harvested before fully developed can be planted four to six inches apart.
Cover the potatoes with two to three inches of soil, and firm it down gently with the back of the hoe. Water thoroughly to moisten the soil and keep moist until seedlings appear in 10 to 14 days, depending on the soil temperature and weather conditions.
Side dress potatoes with 5-10-10 fertilizer when they are four to six inches high. Spread a narrow band of fertilizer down the row about six inches from the base of the plants. Two to three pounds of fertilizer per 100 feet of row provides adequate nutrients to boost growth. Mix it in well with the soil.
Begin hilling potatoes when they are six inches tall by mounding soil around the bottom three to four inches of the plant. Repeat again at 12 inches and complete the process at 18 inches. Hilling provides support for the plant and creates room for tubers to grow from under the plant. Hilling forms a raised row of soil that extends along the entire row.