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Planting Potatoes in the Northeast

seed potatoes image by hazel proudlove from

Potatoes are a relative of the tomato, and both are in the same family as toxic nightshade plants. The stems, fruits and leaves of the potato are toxic. The potato itself is a tuber rather than a root and contains all the genetic material required for a new plant. Potatoes grow in sizes from fingerling and round to those that are 1 pound each, and in colors that include brown, purple, gold, blue and red.

Plant potatoes between March 10 to April 5 in the Northeast, when the soil temperature is at least 45 to 50 degrees F at a depth of 2 inches. A more optimal temperature is between 55 to 60 degrees F.

Dig the soil to a depth of 24 inches. Mix in compost and organic materials. Dig holes 12 inches deep and wide for each seed potato. Space the holes at least 2 feet from the center of each hole.

Plant the potatoes and cover them with 3 inches of soil. Cover the seedlings with plastic jugs that have their tops cut off.

Fill in the holes with 5 inches of soil and 1 inch of compost when the potato plants reach 8 inches tall. Fill in the hole completely, half with compost and half with soil, when the plants are 5 inches above ground level.

Water on a consistent basis to supplement rainfall, as potatoes should receive 1 inch of water per week.

Mound the soil 12 inches tall over the potato plant as it grows for the first two months.

Hand remove any insects or spray with an insecticide specific to the pest. Wash aphids off with a strong stream of water.

Harvest the potatoes by carefully digging them up about two weeks after the plant has turned yellow and withered.


The tubers or potatoes grow between the end of the stem and the roots. If the stem is buried it will produce more tubers. The potatoes should sprout within two weeks. Late frost can be a problem in the Northeast, occurring up until Memorial Day. Harvest baby potatoes by digging them up before the plant has died. Be careful to disturb the other potatoes as little as possible. Water-stressing the plant results in a smaller harvest. Over-watering during the humid northeast summers leads to a higher probability of disease. Over-watering is when the soil stays wet on a constant basis at a depth of 3 inches.


Wash hands after handling potato plants to remove any toxins.

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