How to Use a Potato to Start Plants


Potatoes are rarely planted in the home garden from seed. Instead they are planted from cut pieces of whole potatoes, called seed potatoes. Seed potatoes are available at garden centers and from seed suppliers. They usually come uncut, so you must cut the seed potatoes apart properly prior to planting. Seed potatoes have several buds on them, referred to as eyes, that bud and grow into a new plant once sown in the garden bed.

Step 1

Cut the seed potato apart with a sharp knife. Cut each piece so it has at least one eye on it.

Step 2

Spread the seed potato pieces out on a tray with the cut sides facing up. Allow them to air dry, or cure, for two days prior to planting. Curing causes the cut sides to partially heal over and prevents disease from attacking the plants when in the ground.

Step 3

Prepare a well-drained, full-sun garden bed for the potatoes. Lay down a 2-inch layer of compost and work it into the top 12 inches of soil with a tiller to loosen the ground and aid drainage.

Step 4

Sow seed potatoes 2 to 3 inches deep, and space the plants 12 inches apart in the row. Space rows 3 feet apart. Cover with soil.

Step 5

Water as needed to keep the soil moist but not soggy. Provide approximately 1 to 2 inches of water in a single weekly deep watering as opposed to frequent, shallow irrigation. Sprouts appear within one to three weeks.

Step 6

Pull soil from between the row toward the plants once they are 1 foot tall. Hill the soil around the potatoes, gradually building the hill up to approximately 6 inches. This prevents sun damage to the potatoes developing near the soil surface.

Step 7

Dig up potatoes with a spading fork once the potato vines begin dying in late summer or fall. Dig under the plants and lift them from the ground. Take care not to spear the potatoes with the fork.

Tips and Warnings

  • Do not use grocery store potatoes as seed potatoes. These are often treated to prevent sprouting. Plant seed potatoes after all danger of frost has passed and once soil temperatures reach 60 degrees F, otherwise the potatoes may rot in the ground instead of sprouting.

Things You'll Need

  • Knife
  • Tray
  • Compost
  • Tiller
  • Hoe
  • Spading fork
  • Straw (optional)


  • University of Nebraska Extension
  • University of Illinois Extension
Keywords: growing potatoes, cutting seed potato pieces, planting cut seed potatoes

About this Author

Jenny Harrington is a freelance writer of more than five years' experience. Her work has appeared in "Dollar Stretcher" and various blogs. Previously, she owned her own business for four years, selling handmade items online, wholesale and via the crafts fair circuit. Her specialties are small business, crafting, decorating and gardening.