Potato Planting Information

Overview

Learning how to plant one of the world's favorite root vegetables is not difficult. In most areas, you can grow a spring and winter crop. Plant potatoes in spring as soon as the ground can be safely worked.

Obtaining Seeds

Plant potatoes from "eyes," which are tiny buds in the skin from which a new plant sprouts. Each potato has several eyes. You may purchase grocery store potatoes or nursery seed potatoes. The advantage of "certified seed potatoes" is that they are free of diseases, pesticides and residue, and they were grown in controlled conditions. Agricultural extension agencies recommend using certified seed potatoes only. Leave potatoes in a warm spot for a week or two before planting, so buds will sprout. Cut the eyes out into 1- to 1 1/2-inch squares. Plant as soon as possible. Small potatoes may be planted whole .

Garden or Container

Plant potatoes in traditional garden rows, in raised garden beds, in mounds or in a container. If you choose a container, it should be a large one--new potatoes (or tubers) need considerable growing room. Garden beds should be 10 to 12 inches above the soil line to ensure drainage. Potatoes rot easily in soggy soil.

Choosing Soil

Root vegetables absorb whatever is in the soil, so steer clear of commercial pesticides and contaminated areas. A healthy, balanced organic soil is best. You may use native dirt that is mixed with compost and manure. Potatoes prefer full sun and a well-drained soil with a pH of 5.0 to 6.0. Test dirt using a soil-analysis kit. Cultivate the soil so it is loose and fluffy before planting.

Planting Potatoes

Plant potatoes with the flat side "down" and the eye facing "up." Row Garden: Dig a trench 6 inches deep. Plant one potato seed every 15 inches, and space rows 2 to 3 feet apart. Pull 4 inches of dirt up over the seeds. The closer you put plants together, the smaller potatoes will be. Container: Choose a large container and place only one potato seed in the center. Mounds: Heap soil into a circular shape about 3- to 4-foot diameter. Place six to eight potato eyes around the circle inside a trench and cover with dirt. Straw method: Lay potato seeds (eye facing up) on top of the soil and cover liberally with straw. Sprouts emerge through the straw and potatoes grow on top of the soil below the straw. This method requires no hilling or cultivating. Water after planting.

Fertilizing

Manure contains whatever the animal was fed, such as antibiotics, hormones or medicines. Find out what's in the manure you buy. Mix manure and compost into the soil before planting. Composted manure should be below the seed pieces, so it feeds the roots and tubers. Three or four weeks after planting, enrich the soil with a potassium and nitrogen fertilizer. Place it 4 to 6 inches to each side of the plant and work it into the soil.

Hilling Potatoes

Potatoes require "hilling." After sprouting occurs (about two weeks), perform your first hilling. Pull around 3 to 4 inches of soil around the sprouts on all sides. Wait another couple of weeks and then hill again.

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A professional writer with 20 years of experience, Sally Hansley Odum has been published in over 90 countries. She is currently a contributing writer at Suite101.com, LovetoKnow.com, eHow.com, Travels.com and BrightHub.com. Sally holds a degree in Liberal Arts from Excelsior College.