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How To Grow Potatoes: Planting, Types, When To Plant, Cultivation and Harvest

Updated on July 29, 2013
Mmmm...freshly harvested potatoes.
Mmmm...freshly harvested potatoes. | Source

Did you know?

Over 1337 million potatoes are consumed each year by the entire human population. In the US alone, 140 pounds of potato are eaten per person every year!

Potatoes: An Introduction

Potatoes are a floury carbohydrate which are one of the main sources of food for humanity. Potatoes are in everything from mash, chips, crisps, baked potatoes, potato farls, roast potatoes, fried potatoes, hash browns, the list goes on. It is served as a side dish in so many meals, and everyone loves the potato for its tasty, floury texture that never fails to impress.

Whilst potatoes are eaten so much by the entire potato-loving population of humanity, prices of potatoes are steadily increasing and some of our favourite varieties are vanishing off the supermarket shelves. Don't believe me? It has been reported that the prices of potatoes have increased by 250%, say the media.

This is because of the extreme weathers caused by global warming from extreme flooding to extreme drought. In drought, potatoes die in the ground from lack of water whilst in cases of flooding, potatoes in overly wet soil will rot in the ground.

The only solution is to grow your own! They are easy to maintain and can be grown in bags if you live in a city or don't have a garden patch. This hub will guide you through all the steps to eating your own home grown potatoes. Enjoy!

What would be your favourite kind of potato?

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What You Will Need

You will need a few things before you start growing your potatoes. These should be relatively easy to find in your local garden centre or on Amazon. If you are living in the city and want to grow potatoes in a bag, buy a hardened shopping bag (the kind you find in the supermarket checkout that you buy if you have no bags) and pierce two holes at the end. Later on, I will cover this in more depth. But for now, here are the things you will need:

  • Seed potatoes - These will be the 'seeds' that you will be planting soon. They are very small potatoes which are taken out of the ground very early, to promote sprouting. You can buy these in garden centres. Make sure to select the variety that you want. See below for more information about various potato varieties. Some potatoes are starchy, others are waxy, some are ideal for boiling, others not, potato varieties can be very different so select your preferred variety.
  • Compost - This will be needed for adding nutrients to the soil and for earthing.
  • Common Garden Tools - You will need tools such as a hoe, rake, watering can, small trowel and large shovel for activites like weeding, applying fertilizer, harvesting and planting. You may have these already in your garage or garden shed. If not, you will find them in a garden centre.

The Varieties Of Potato: Select Your Variety

Potato Type
Description
Perfect For...
When To Plant
Maris Piper
Floury, creamy texture, medium sized, perfect potato
Baked potatoes, roast potatoes, homemade chips
Maincrop
Kerr's Pink
White, floury, medium sized
Roast potatoes, baked potato, mashing
Maincrop: Start planting in March - May
Nicola
Creamy, waxy yet firm texture
Potato Salad
Start planting in February
Roosters
Red skin, yellow flesh, common potato
Mashing, boiling, homemade chips
Maincrop: Start planting in March - May
Duke Of York
Healthy, fresh potato with a hard flesh
Steaming and boiling
First Early: Start planting in January to February
King Edward
Fluffy texture
Jacket potato, baked potato
Maincrop: Start planting in March - May
Desiree
Extra smooth texture when mashed, red skin
Mashing
Maincrop: Start planting in March - May
Charlotte
Crunchy, waxy, crisp to the bite, blight and scab resistance
Salads, boiling
First Early: Start planting in January
Lady Balfour
Firm, white flesh and skin, blight resistant, thrives in low feritility soil
Baked (jacket) potato, mashing, roast potatoes
Second Early: Start planting in February

Chitted Seed Potatoes

These are an example of 'chitted' potatoes. You can see the small sprouts emerging from the potatoes.
These are an example of 'chitted' potatoes. You can see the small sprouts emerging from the potatoes. | Source

How To Chit Seed Potatoes

Once you have your seed potatoes, it is time to 'chit' them. This means allowing them to sprout from one of their 'eyes' before you plant them into the ground.

  • Buy your seed potatoes. Select which variety you want from the table above.
  • Leave your potatoes in a sunny area at about 8 to 10 degrees Celsius. The heat and light will speed up the germination process.
  • You should see green to purple sprouts emerging from the 'eyes' of the potato.
  • Once the potato has two to three strong sprouts, it is time to start planting them in soil.

When To Plant Potatoes

You should start planting your potatoes from January to March for a good head start. To be more specific, consult the table above.

How To Plant Potatoes In a Garden

  • Make sure your vegetable plot or patch is free of weeds and rake in some compost for added nutrients. Add some fertilizer to the soil before planting.
  • Dig a trench 10 cm deep and make sure to place the removed soil on either side of the trench.
  • Plant your potatoes about 35 cm apart, with the sprouts shooting upwards. Don't harm the shoots, they are very fragile so be careful.
  • Cover the trench with a mix of soil and compost.
  • When the shoots come out, cover up the shoots with extra soil to prevent light from getting down into the soil.

How To Plant Potatoes In a Bag

This alternative method is handy if you live in the city, tight of space or don't have a garden. The potatoes grow extremely well in bags, when filled with compost and sprayed for blight. You don't have to worry about weeds as much, and the bags don't take too much space. It is easy to harvest the potatoes from these bags also. Here is your step by step guide to growing potatoes in bags.

  • Fill your bag with compost and spray with fertilizer.
  • Then, dig a hole about 14 cm deep into the compost. Place two seed potatoes, with the sprouts facing upwards, into the hole and then cover up with soil. Water the compost.

Cultivation

You should see shoots come up after a week after planting. These shoots will continue to grow in the weeks to come. Make sure to spray with a little fertilizer and spray for blight also. You can buy anti-fungal sprays at your local gardening centre. Water well, perhaps every two to three days if in dry weather and pull any weeds that surround the plant.

Fifteen weeks later, the potato plants will flower, making lovely white blooms to appear. It is a couple of weeks after the flowering, when your potatoes will be ready for harvest. You should begin harvesting about 18 to 20 weeks after planting.

Harvest time! These potatoes are ready to eat. However, there are green potatoes in this picture. Green potatoes are toxic and should not be eaten!
Harvest time! These potatoes are ready to eat. However, there are green potatoes in this picture. Green potatoes are toxic and should not be eaten! | Source

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Harvesting Your Potatoes

You can begin harvesting potatoes about 20 weeks after planting. Potatoes are harvested any time from June to September, where main crop varieties usually are harvested in September. Getting a spade, dig beneath the plant and pull upwards. You should have a sackful of potatoes in the ground, ready to be taken out.

Warning! Don't eat potatoes with a green tinge, these are toxic and must not be eaten! You should not have any green potatoes if you have earthed up the potato shoots. Only take healthy potatoes out of the ground, and enjoy them!

I hope you found this guide useful, please leave your comments below. I will be delighted to answer your comments, thoughts and suggestions!

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    • susi10 profile image
      Author

      Susan W 3 years ago from The British Isles, Europe

      Hey Bill!

      Nice to see you, thanks again for commenting! :)

      Yes, there is no better satisfaction than eating your own vegetables. I absolutely adore growing vegetables, it is one of my favourite hobbies. I live on a farm so I can grow loads of them. I hope you will find peace and tranquillity in your farm when you move, you will be able to grow so many!

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Good information for sure. Thank you! We raise our own potatoes and love the sense of accomplishment in growing our own. We will be moving to a farm in two years and then I'm sure we will grow many, many, many more. :)

    • susi10 profile image
      Author

      Susan W 4 years ago from The British Isles, Europe

      Hi CraftytotheCore,

      Thanks for reading and for the vote up, it's greatly appreciated. Sometimes potatoes find it hard to grow in extremely hot conditions so that could be the problem that you may be having when growing your potatoes. Or, potato blight which is a common bad fungus that affects most potatoes. Try spraying your potatoes with an anti-fungus pesticide.

    • CraftytotheCore profile image

      CraftytotheCore 4 years ago

      Voted Up! My grandfather was a potato farmer. His "roots" here in New England started out on a potato farm. Interestingly enough, there aren't many people left around here that remember that (not even historians). I have tried for years to grow my own potatoes and cannot, even though I worked potato fields my grandfather planted when I was a young child.

    • susi10 profile image
      Author

      Susan W 4 years ago from The British Isles, Europe

      Hi chef-de-jour,

      Thank you for reading and commenting! Yes, I agree, nothing is more tasty than a home-grown potato, especially King Edward. I love King Edward and Maris Piper potatoes, they are so fluffy and are lovely when roasted. Thanks for voting and sharing.

    • chef-de-jour profile image

      Andrew Spacey 4 years ago from Near Huddersfield, West Yorkshire,UK

      This hub takes me back a few years to when I had a smallholding and grew many different things, from asparagus to apricots. I grew loads of spuds and loved the whole process from planting seed to harvest. A favourite of mine was King Edward and Marfona, old and new varieties side by side. Nothing beats digging up healthy potatoes, cleaning them off, washing and eating - fried, mashed..an chipped!

      Votes and a share.

    • susi10 profile image
      Author

      Susan W 4 years ago from The British Isles, Europe

      Hi Wacky Mummy,

      That sounds interesting, and it sure is a great way to get everyone involved in potato growing! Thank you for sharing your experience, and for the link, I'll read more about it! Yes, home grown potatoes are so tasty and fluffy, a cut above the supermarket ones.

    • Wacky Mummy profile image

      Wacky Mummy 4 years ago from UK

      In the UK there is a school project, we home ed so we're able to take part, my son has really enjoyed it the past 2 years we've done it, we had our fresh potatoes from the garden last week with some Bragioli, they were really tasty! :)

      http://gyop.potato.org.uk/

    • susi10 profile image
      Author

      Susan W 4 years ago from The British Isles, Europe

      Hi Wacky Mummy!

      Thanks for visiting, I'm glad you found the part with the green tinge useful! They are toxic, so at least you know now. Doing a free potato project, that sounds interesting. Can you tell me more about it?

    • Wacky Mummy profile image

      Wacky Mummy 4 years ago from UK

      Thanks! Nice to know about the green tinge. We do a free potato project every year and my son absolutely loves taking part in all the stages, especially planting them and digging them up!

    • susi10 profile image
      Author

      Susan W 4 years ago from The British Isles, Europe

      Hi drpennypincher,

      Thanks for visiting, and for commenting. I agree, it can be quite hard to find ALL the potatoes that are in the ground, so at least with a bag, you just take all the soil out and the potatoes should be within. Growing potatoes in a bag is sure worth a try.

    • drpennypincher profile image

      Dr Penny Pincher 4 years ago from Iowa, USA

      Interesting idea to grow potatoes in a bag. One of the challenges I have when growing potatoes is finding them in the ground. If you grow them in a bag, at least you will be able to find them easily!