How to Plant a Potato

Overview

Growing your own potato crops brings the kind of freshness and variety to your table unheard of at the supermarket. And while you may not get the enormous yields promised by seed catalogues---potato beetles and "the blight" happen to even the most experienced growers---you'll still have the satisfaction of watching a few pounds of seed turn into bushels of earthy, homegrown spuds. Potato seedlings are hardier than many other plants, so unless you live in a region known for its wet springs, get them into the ground a few weeks before the last frost date.

Step 1

Choose a section of your garden for the potato patch, preferably the autumn before spring planting. Look for a site that gets plenty of sun, is suitable for row planting, and which hasn't been used for other potato or tomato crops in the last year or two. Beetles and other pests that bother these members of the "nightshade" family tend to lay their eggs in the soil up to a year before they hatch.

Step 2

Send a soil sample to your local extension service--or buy a simple soil test kit--to determine the garden's pH level. Potatoes grow best in slightly acidic soil, with a pH level between 5 and 5.5, according to the Ohio State University Extension program.

Step 3

Add sulfur or rotted oak leaves and pine needles to make the soil more acidic, if necessary. Follow the extension service's recommendations for how much material to add per square foot. If possible, add these soil amendments to the potato patch the autumn before planting.

Step 4

Purchase certified seed potatoes. For each 100 feet of potato row, you'll need an average of 10 pounds of seed, which the Ohio extension program estimates yields 150 to 175 pounds of potatoes.

Step 5

Dig a trench 4 inches deep and as long as your allotted row or rows. If planting in multiple rows, make the rows 3 feet apart.

Step 6

Add a light dusting of compost to the bottom of the trench.

Step 7

Set the potato seed 12 inches apart along the row.

Step 8

Cover each row with 2 to 3 inches of soil.

Step 9

Water the patch gently to moisten the soil, taking care not to flood the trenches.

Tips and Warnings

  • You can simply cut a store-bought potato into chunks and plant them, as some old-timers still do. But unless you really know what you're doing, it's best to buy prepared seed potatoes which are certified disease-free and guaranteed to contain one to three "eyes"---the spots from which the plants begin to grow.

Things You'll Need

  • Soil test kit or prepared test result
  • Potato seed
  • Sulfur or other soil amendments, if recommended
  • Spade
  • Compost

References

  • University of Illinois: Potatoes
  • Ohio State University: Growing Potatoes in the Home Garden
Keywords: plant potatoes, soil potatoes, seed potatoes, row planting, hilling up soil

About this Author

Melissa Jordan-Reilly has been a writer for 20 years, both as a newspaper reporter and as an editor of nonprofit newsletters. Among the publications in which she has published are, "The Winsted Journal," "Taconic" and "Compass Magazine." A graduate of the University of Connecticut, Jordan-Reilly also pursues sustainable agriculture techniques and tends a market garden at her Northwestern Connecticut home.