How to Grow the Best Potatoes in the World

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Sprouting potatoes

Around 1570, potatoes brought back from South America by gold-hungry conquistadors were fed to a group of prisoners in Seville, Spain, to see if the potatoes would kill them. The prisoners survived, and monks soon began carrying tubers with them as they traveled around Europe. Two hundred years later, everyone was planting potatoes.

The best reason for planting potatoes is that they are so easy to grow. Any type of fast-maturing potato will multiply itself into a robust cluster of fresh new potatoes in about 90 days. Take note: Most potatoes except for big baking potatoes grow at a fast to moderate pace, but big bakers need a longer, cooler season than most gardens can provide.

This means that it’s practical, rewarding and fun to grow potatoes you buy and like especially well as long as they are small ones. For example, several years ago my potato planting consisted of some small fingerlings purchased in a pricey bag of gourmet potatoes. I’m still growing them, replanting them year after year (they’re that yummy), but I also make room in my garden for two other varieties each year. Why put all of your eggs in one basket?

Preparing the Planting Pieces

Sprouting potatoes
  • Before planting potatoes, place the spuds you want to plant in a warm, sunny spot. The warmth will encourage sprouting, and exposure to sunlight makes the skins turn green and bitter. This makes them less appetizing to critters.
  • One to two days before planting potatoes, cut the sprouting green potatoes into pieces that have at least three puckered "eyes" on each piece. Allow the cut pieces to dry, and don’t be alarmed if they turn black. The darkened, leathery surfaces will resist rotting better than freshly cut ones, so every piece you plant should grow. Plant potatoes that are smaller than a golf ball whole.

Rows, Beds or Hills?

If you want grow potatoes bigger than your fist, you will need to space the plants at least 14 inches (36 cm) apart. Some people go even wider and plant potatoes in hills, with 3 plants per 24-inch (61 cm) diameter "hill". Actually, potato "hills" are flattened mounds about 6 inches (15 cm) high. Hills are a great way to grow potatoes in a small garden. You can grow potatoes in wide beds, too. In my garden, I plant potatoes in double rows, with onions down the center of the 3-foot (91 cm) wide bed. As the potatoes grow, I pull the onions to eat as scallions.

Many gardeners have tried to grow potatoes in above-ground enclosures made of tires, cardboard boxes, or other containers, which can be successful if the soil stays cool and moist. However, warm root temperatures cause potatoes to stop making tubers, so this is one crop that always grows better in the ground than it does in containers.

Pile On the Mulch

After planting potatoes, you can mulch them right away about 3 inches (8 cm) deep, or opt to let the soil warm in the sun for a few weeks before you pile on the mulch. Any biodegradable mulch will do, but using a deep hay or straw mulch is an especially good way to grow potatoes. They keep the soil cool and moist while serving as an obstacle course to Colorado potato beetles and other insects that travel on foot.

Most veggies do well with a 2-inch (5 cm) deep mulch, but potatoes need more. Every few weeks, check for gaps or thinned spots, and pile on mulch until it is 4 inches (10 cm) deep.

Potato basket

The payoff for all this mulching is better yields and easier harvesting, too. When you grow potatoes in organically enriched soil with deep mulch, you will find most of your crop just below the soil’s surface. As you harvest, be sure to protect your crop from sun at all times by covering them with a thick towel. Once you learn to grow potatoes yourself and taste the home grown difference, you won’t want a single one to turn green on its way to your kitchen.

[NB If you live in a country or area that suffers from potato blight then you should be cautious about saving potatoes from one year to the next unless you are sure that they are disease free]

By Barbara Pleasant

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Show Comments



Comments

 
"I have had great sucess with shredded newspaper. Also use the shredded paper with you name on it or other information that you don't want to put out in the garbage because of identity thieft."
Gail on Saturday 2 May 2009
"One year I mulched tomatoes with shredded paper, and they really liked it. And even though I covered the paper with straw to make it look nicer, the next winter I found strings of shredded paper in two fallen bird nests. So, it seems that when you mulch with shredded paper, you're putting out nesting material for birds at the same time."
Barbara Pleasant on Monday 4 May 2009
"I had such a lovely day out this year by going to Ryton to the potato day and picking a large range of potatoes and just a few of each so I can really get to know what i like and how the different ones grow. Thois year when I dig up the main crop too I will not just be digging up potatoes and puttin gthem all in a bag but separating them out to keep experimenting wiht how to cook them! I've also bougth a wonderful book just on hundres of ways to use potatoes!"
Dorothy on Friday 5 June 2009
"I have had fantastic succes this year with potatoes mulched very deep with semi rotted horse manure (lots of straw). Living in France our soil warms up quickly and dries out quickly, the mulch has protected the crop and we are benefitting from some lovely potatoes and a very large crop. My neighbour who is a 74 year old french farmer with fantastic veg plots is going to try our method next year, good job I have lots of manure. The pleasure of my garden is the meal I ate tonight: Pork chops marinated in local produced honey and locally grown apples, home grown roasted courgettes, tomatoes and onions with home grown potatoes roasted into wedges. For first time veggie gardeners we are pleased with our results and cant wait to use this site to make the best of our veg patch."
Karen in France on Wednesday 29 July 2009
"All the foliage on our potatoes went black and died soon after they flowered this year. As far as I can tell they were suffering from something called swollen lenticells. The potatoes were fine, though quite small as we lifted them as soon as they became infected. Does anyone now how to prevent this problem."
David on Sunday 13 September 2009
"@David, I have never seen folaige go black and only heard of lower stems blackening so this does sound strange. Are you certain that it wasn't blight? In any event, you will of course need to ensure that you don't save any of these potatoes for planting next year and that you pull up any sprouts from left-behind tubers that appear next season. If you find out any more then please add what you discover to this article."
Jeremy Dore on Tuesday 15 September 2009
"Thank you Jeremy, we did completely clear the whole area and destroy all the foliage and remove all traces of tubers and sprouts to be certain. Fairly sure it wasnt blight because there was no blackening of the stems, the leaves first yellowed then went black. When lifted the potatoes had lots of tiny white dots over the surface,we washed dried and stored the potatoes, and are still using them 2 months later and they taste brilliant, but are a little small."
David on Tuesday 15 September 2009
"This year we mulched ours by using the grass clippings from cutting the garden. we planted the potatoes in rows, and found the cat kept using the soil as her toilet area, once we'd put the grass clippings on, we found she hasnt been knowhere near them since. this is our first year growing potatoes like this, as we usually grow them in large wooden boxes that our dad builds. so far so good."
ellen on Saturday 19 June 2010
"Ellen, you will probably get the best potatoes ever! A recent study from Lithuania showed grass clippings to be a primo potato mulch."
Barbara Pleasant on Monday 21 June 2010
"We put grass clippings in the trench with the potatoes when planting as this tends to make the soil more acid. As potatoes like a Ph around 5.5 this seems to work very well."
Robert L Waterfall on Sunday 4 July 2010
"What are the little white spots on my Red Gold potatoes? I have about a dozen potatoes that I harvested after the vines died off. They range in from grape size to large egg size. The white spots are most noticeable on the largest potatoes. The smallest ones only have very small pink spots. The spots are up-raised on the potatoe surface and are scattered randomly all over the potatoes. I can scratch them off with my fingernail, but frankly, the spots make the potatoes look gross! What are they, and are the potatoes safe to eat?"
Don on Monday 30 August 2010
"Don, these white spots are probably swollen lenticells, (the means by which the plant absorbs nutrients fromt the soil) usually they turn white when there has been excessive moisture in the soil and the cells get blocked. If you see my blog from the 13th Dec last year, you will note that the foliage may turn black (not the stems as with blight). We harvested the potatoes and washed and dried them, put them in boxes and they lasted 3 months with no problems. The potatoes were fine, and the white spots just wash off."
David on Monday 30 August 2010
"David, thanks for the quick reply! It makes sense, it seems either my soil holds water really well, or I'm getting extra run-off from my neighbor as the soil is usually wet even though I only water every 2-3 days."
Don on Monday 30 August 2010
"I was glad to find this question about the tiny white spots on the potatoes.. because i was wondering the same thing if they were Ok to eat.. I guess so, so i think i will cook some up tomorrow! One other thing, when i planted the dried potatoe pieces, they had a little mold on them, maybe i left them to long drying i think, but i was also wondering could the white spots be mold? The plant itself was perfect, and a large harvest for what i planted. Thank You! Interesting website! "
Kathy on Monday 4 October 2010
"Kathy, mold could grow on the white spots, but they are probably swollen lenticels causes by very moist soil rather than a fungus. You're doing the right thing by eating your crop, because this physiological disorder makes potatoes prone to rotting in storage. "
Barbara Pleasant on Monday 4 October 2010
"It just proves that you can learn something every day! The comment about warm roots making the potatoes forming tubers would explain why I have had a poor crop out of the black plastic mortar mixing troughs that I have grown the potatoes in the last three seasons. Thanks for that tip Barbara. As for using grass cuttings for mulching the potatoes I will give that a try this year. Thanks Ellen! "
Simon Coggins-Hill on Friday 4 March 2011
"My potatoes stems have gone very leggy, I planted them in a new veg plot in Bergerac, after 3 weeks they were 6inches above ground, I have earthen them up again but they are now 18 to20 inches high they get watered automatically for15 mins every night, will the tubers be growing ok?"
Geoff on Monday 23 May 2011
"My potatoes stems have gone very leggy, I planted them in a new veg plot in Bergerac, after 3 weeks they were 6inches above ground, I have earthen them up again but they are now 18 to20 inches high they get watered automatically for15 mins every night, will the tubers be growing ok?"
Geoff on Monday 23 May 2011
"Geoff, I think they may be getting too much water. Ease off to every other day and see if they stiffen up a bit. Also, some varieties are naturally leggier than others. Good luck!"
Barbara Pleasant on Tuesday 24 May 2011
"My potato plants have grown very tall and they look very healthy. I am wondering if all the goodness is going to the leaves rather than the fruit itself. Should I remove the lower leaves and flowers. This is my first attempt with potato. I planted them mid April in bags and then transplanted some into the ground. Am I on the right track? What do I do next?"
Angela on Thursday 23 June 2011
"Angela, you on on track to get a great crop. Pinching off the flowers can enhance tuber formation (albeit slightly), but don't pinch off leaves unless they show obvious signs of disease. The potatoes you planted in the ground are already holding a good crop (can't speak for the bags), so pile soil or mulch over the base to protect the shallowest tubers from sun. Go ahead and pull a plant for eating if you like. You'll be amazed at the number and quality of little new potatoes!"
Barbara Pleasant on Thursday 23 June 2011
"I was wondering if anyone ever tried planting potatoes in a lawn bag using layers of grass clippings and soil? Will the grass rot? Probably sounds strange but not as strange as the three potatoe bedding plants we just purchased. They are already showing potatoes in the small pot they are in. I will let you know how they turn out in the fall."
Bev on Thursday 23 June 2011
"It could work, but a bag of "garden soil" open on one side, with drainage holes punched through the bottom, would work better. The problem with the lawn bag of clippings is heat -- potatoes like cool roots. You can grow potatoes in bags of soil as long as you also mulch over and around the plants to keep the roots cool and moist. Grass clippings would work great for mulch."
Barbara Pleasant on Friday 24 June 2011
"Any suggestions about how to store them? I've got lots of red potatoes of all sizes. Don't wash, I assume, but perhaps "cure" on newspapers on the screened porch? (It's in the 90's here every day...)"
Linda on Sunday 3 July 2011
"Linda, that curing spot would be good for sweet potatoes, but not regular ones. They need cool and dark, as if they had never been taken from the ground. Let's see, I have a cardboard box full under my bed. Another is on the floor of the coat closet, and a shoebox of small ones, covered with a towel to block out light, sits in a dark corner in the kitchen. Get the idea?"
Barbara Pleasant on Monday 4 July 2011
"is it safe to eat potatoes that have white spots and prickly skin"
naila malik on Wednesday 20 July 2011
"Yes, Naila, that's often a side effect of wet soil, but the potatoes should be fine. Eat them sooner rather than later, and enjoy."
Barbara Pleasant on Wednesday 20 July 2011
"My potato plants have fruits that look like green cherry tomatoes. Why is this? Has anyone else experienced this? I have thrown them away. Although my plants look tall and healthy, they don't seem to have produced many potatoes. I am rather disappointed or is it too early. I planted them in mid-April. Angela "
Angela Carneiro on Wednesday 20 July 2011
"Hi Angela, your little green fruits on your potatoes are seed pods (sometimes called potato apples). They are highly toxic so don't get them mixed up with the potatoes you have dug. All true new potatoes are grown from the seed they contain rather than from tubers. As to quantities, if you pull up a plant and there are loads of tiny potatoes it's too early, but if there are not so many, and the ones that are there are a decent size, then that's all you're going to get."
David H on Thursday 21 July 2011
"I will need to store quite alot of pots over winter. Our weather is 10-30f frome december to march. Do I need to build a root cellar? or is there a makeshift kind of storage I can do?"
julie on Wednesday 24 August 2011
"Thanks Barbara for your very helpful comments on potato growing and storing. I did try cutting the potato into pieces and growing them after keeping them for a couple of days and am happy to say that they have all taken. When do you think I should harvest them? By the way, I did get a fairly good crop from the first lot. As I dug the plants, I got some very big ones, some weighing between 5 - 6oz and then there were some were little ones near the roots, so I cut the braches off and put the lower part back into the ground and they have taken. Have I done the right thing? My family is really enjoying the potatoes. Thabnks for all your advice. But I must say I am disappointed with my courgettes, the plants look very healthy but the leaves have got some white spots, so I decided to cut them and I am wondering if that is the reason why even though they flower and look healthy the fruit just dries up. Or am I feeding them too much? "
Angela on Wednesday 24 August 2011
"Julie, any dark, cool dry spot will do for now. There are many innovative potato storage methods if you run out of indoor space. One is to bury an old cooler up to its rim, so the top still opens. Place potatoes inside, and cover the lid with mulch.../...Angela, perhaps you have too few plants to cross pollinate -- three to four plants is the minimum number. The white spots are powdery mildew, very common this time of year. We all have it, at least a little. "
Barbara Pleasant on Thursday 25 August 2011
"I bought some Rooster seed potatoes earlier this year and grew them in a large bag of 'premium'compost. They did very poorly. My potatoes grew better in the garden and now thanks to your article I understand why. My question is, now that I have a number of small potatoes, could I save them for next year as seed potatoes and plant them in the garden? If so, have you already given advice on how to do this? Many thanks indeed for a wonderful website."
Kevin on Sunday 11 September 2011
"Kevin, many of us plan to replant our own potatoes, but then they break dormancy and sprout, so we must eat them or lose them. My fingerlings harvested in July are already showing buds. You may get lucky, but in general it's best to begin collecting or ordering seed potatoes in early spring. "
Barbara Pleasant on Monday 12 September 2011
"I live in Oklahoma and it gets very hot and dry here, last summer June-Aug we had temps 100-110!! I bought some organic potatoes and now they are sprouting. It is now March 3, 2012. When do I plant them and what do I do. I don't know where everyone else lives and I am new to potato planting. "
verna on Sunday 4 March 2012
"Verna, your GrowVeg planner will help with your best planting date, which in spring is 2 weeks or so before you last spring frost. In your climate you want to beat the heat with early potatoes, so early spring planting is crucial even if you must protect the plants from late frosts."
Barbara Pleasant on Sunday 4 March 2012
"Idaho potatoes are best. During an Idaho visit, I had lunch at a Boise downtown pub. The potatoes were the best ever. The owner stated, "To grow the very best Idaho potato, find a field which hasn't been plowed in several years, or never. Plant potatoes there, for the very best). Significantly better. True or not true? "
Greg Hanna on Monday 9 April 2012
"Virgin potato soil would have micronutrients the first crop might use up, plus the location would have no history of pathogens specific to potatoes. Clean slate! It also helps that Idaho has the perfect climate for big, baking potatoes with a high dry matter content. "
Barbara Pleasant on Monday 9 April 2012
"how do you make potatoes multiply or make more than 5 potatoes"
jesse on Wednesday 18 April 2012
"I did not realize that growing potatoes was such a conundrum. We grew all our potatoes when I was growing up. We planted them in long rows, we "hilled" them (hoed the dirt from between the rows up onto the potato plants) when they started to flower and we dug them in the fall when the vines started to die back before it got too cold and miserable to be out in the potato field. We stored them in a huge potato bin built of wood on one long side, the basement walls on one long side and one short side, and open on the other short side for easy access. Along about December all us kids climbed into the potato bin and "sprouted" the potatoes (pulled all the sprouts growing on them off) so that they would last longer. We again "sprouted" them in March or April and Dad planted the softest, wrinkleyest potatoes in May or early June, and the cycle started over again. As long as you pull off the sprouts and keep them in a fairly dry place (our basement was an exceptionally dry one), they should last until spring to plant them again. Just make sure to check them over once in a while and throw out any that start to rot. Potatoes are super simple to grow and some years you get a bumper crop and some years you don't - it all depends on the moisture and the heat. Also, about the first week in July, I start to scratch the ground around my vines and take a little new potato here, a little new potato there. I never pull up a plant completely until fall and I never dig a lot on one plant or dig deeply, but we always have tiny new potatoes every few days until August and then we start getting bigger potatoes, but I still only scratch a few here and a few there that are close to the top. This way, I get to enjoy new potatoes most of the summer without disturbing my plants and without losing potential yield by pulling an entire plant to get a few baby potatoes early in the season. "
JayPea on Sunday 27 May 2012
"I have a very small garden and decided to grow a few potatoes. I bought seed potatoes from a garden supply center took then home, cut them so a least a couple of eyes were shown, and placed them about 2 feet apart in six inch holes. The soil is very light. However it has rained for a week since and so I suspect my cuttings have started to rot. It seems everything I did according to your article is wrong, so maybe next year I can try again."
Bob Smith Halifax Canada on Wednesday 30 May 2012
"My parents rang me with a question.... Last year they planted potatoes and the plants grew rapidly taller and taller, they say to more than 6 feet tall. Perhaps not enough light? This year the plants are growing rapidly again, often more than 6 inches per day. They have covered them over a couple of times but still they grow! Can they pinch out the growing tip to keep them at a sensible and manageable height, or will this affect the growth of the potatoes under the ground?"
Hazel on Monday 4 June 2012
"I sounds like the plants are stretching toward light, though I do have plants that shoot up to 4 feet in full sun. Growth habit varies with variety, too. Fingerlings always grow into low bushes, whereas many midseason potatoes produce much longer vines. Potatoes grow so fast that I would be inclined to let them run rather than pinching them back. You can pinch off flower clusters to keep the plants from wasting energy on them. "
Barbara Pleasant on Wednesday 6 June 2012
"Love the valuable info from all. Still having trouble understanding how much green plant to leave above the mulch. Can I lay the green stem and leaves down sideways and mulch along the stem? They get very tall here in New Mexico and it also gets very hot. "
Lynninnm on Monday 18 June 2012
"Yes, Lynn, should the plants lie down (as fingerlings are prone to do), you should keep mulching over the flat-topped crown. In your dry climate, the few risks of deep mulching, like slugs and stem rot, generally don't apply, so mulch away! "
Barbara Pleasant on Monday 18 June 2012
"I am getting a late start on new raised beds. We have a lot of clay in our soil so I used broken up sea shells mixed in. A friend said that would be too base for potatoes. Can I use sawdust as a mulch?"
Barbara on Thursday 21 June 2012
"Good garden soil is a living thing, and new beds need time to develop, biologically speaking. This year, watch closely how your soil behaves in different types of weather, and see which crops grow best. Evaluate your pulverized seashell after you have seen what it does, if anything. As for your potatoes, this being early summer, a sawdust mulch is fine as long as the potatoes have already been hilled up with soil. "
Barbara Pleasant on Thursday 21 June 2012
"Dear Bababera Pleasan: My name is Alex, writing to you from Vietnam. I am currently planning on growing potatoes in Kontum of Vietnam - a rather rich soil (never been exploited or tampered with) with low temperature throughout most time of the year. This is a gonernment project to aim at solving extreme poverty in the area (so consider that you're contributing a very great and meaningful thing), and does require an expert's guidance. The popular potatoe grown in other part the country is of low quality - small and poor taste, to my opinion. Thus, I am looking for the good kind to grow for exporting purpose. Please provide me your professional's recommendation, and some advices if you may. I will really appreciate it. I do strongly believe that the geographical condition here is ideal for the big banking ones (average temperature is of 10 to 24 degree celcius). My email address is: lexusluther.corp@gmail.com. Wish to hear back from you. Sincerely,"
Alex on Friday 13 July 2012
"All my potato plants have turned black and the leaves have died. I planted second earlies (can't remember which variety) and King Edwards as the main crop. I have grown potatoes for several years and rotate etc so have a good idea what to do but have never had this before. We have used some of the potatoes and they seem fine. Any ideas please? Could it be blight? My tomotoes have done the same..."
carol on Friday 20 July 2012
"Yes, it could be late blight if both potatoes and tomatoes have melted down and withered. This can happen in very wet years, and there is nothing to be done. Assuming this is late blight, you should remove the black foliage and hope for sunny weather to help immobilise spores as you gather your potatoes. Do lift them as soon as you can, and use them up rather than trying to store them for a long time. "
Barbara Pleasant on Friday 20 July 2012
"I live in Canada and we are having an exceptionally warm summer, the potatoes I planted this year have grown very tall. It was suggested that once the flowering is done to knock the plants down. This should yield bigger and more potaoes,any truth to this?"
Marg on Sunday 22 July 2012
"That's a new one on me, Marg, though it can enhance productivity slightly to pinch off the flowers. Eventually the plants will lie down on their own, and I see no benefit to rushing things. "
Barbara Pleasant on Monday 23 July 2012
"Thanks so much Barbara, appreciate the info."
Marg on Tuesday 24 July 2012
"I wish I'd read this forum before! My potatoes (several varieties) all have the little white spots on, we (I) dug them up becuase the wife thought it was blight... Only to discover that the weather has caused it! Oh, dear, just as well I can leave some in the ground then. Hope they get bigger - lots of tiny ones this year, and a few plants with only one new potato to replace the parent... Mulching ideas taken for next years' crop - thanks to everyone for their help on here."
Aebvtivs on Wednesday 8 August 2012
"thanks for all the information. I want to know what is a good crop to put in the soil where potatoes have been grown? I planted some lily bulbs in an old potato plot and they have done very poorly. I am thinking there is something in the potato soil that may inhibit some other plants. Am I barking up the wrong tree? For now, I'm moving the lilies to another spot and hoping to do better."
Andrea on Tuesday 14 August 2012
"Andrea, my first thought is that an "old potato plot" would possibly host nematodes (microscopic worms) that could infect lilies. I usually follow my potatoes with a cover crop of buckwheat, or use the space to grow fall leafy greens. "
Barbara Pleasant on Thursday 16 August 2012
"Just found your sight and love it.This is my first year at growing potatoes, they had all died down so I dug them and most were small with a few really nice russets.Will mulch with lawn clippings next spring.So glad to hear I can use the little ones to plant next year.We live in Central Oregon"
Patricia on Monday 10 September 2012
"My place is in South Texas in black soil. Am soon planting 50 pounds of seed potatoes, Red Lasoda. Soil ph is 7.1 and higher. Have tilled in sulphur and some turkey manure. Will use drip irrigation. Any suggestions about fertilizing when plants a re growing? 2/20/13 rj"
Robert Jubela on Sunday 3 February 2013
"Hubby and I are going to try potatoes again this year, but I'm not sure how to maximize my crop. I have seen some great suggestions here about mulching with grass clippings and such. We planted in hills last year and didn't get as much as we thought we would. I have seen a lot about growing them in structures that you build as the plant grows, mulching with hay and some loose soil. From what I've read that it makes it very easy to harvest. Which method is the best and why? I like gardening, but I want to work smarter, not harder. Any suggestions?"
Michele Stitz on Saturday 9 March 2013
"I just caught an answer in your info above...sorry. "warm root temperatures cause potatoes to stop making tubers, so this is one crop that always grows better in the ground than it does in containers". Well at least part of my question is still valid..any suggestions to improve crop yield and make it easier to harvest?"
Michele Stitz on Saturday 9 March 2013
"Michele, in what region are you gardening? Climate makes a differences when it comes to considering your options. "
Barbara Pleasant on Saturday 9 March 2013
"Barbara, I'm in south central pennsylvania about an hour north or baltimore if that helps."
Michele Stitz on Saturday 9 March 2013
"Michele, in your climate you can consider planting potatoes in shallow trenches and then mulching them heavily, so they are always tucked in with 3 inches of straw, leaves, grass clippings or other mulch (you can mix the materials). The closer potatoes grow to the surface, the easier they are to harvest, but you have to keep piling on the mulch! "
Barbara Pleasant on Monday 11 March 2013
"Hi, I just bought two garbage pails to try that method of growing potatoes, having read several articles praising that method. Now i read your article about how it might warm the soil too much (we are in Victoria, BC). Any suggestions on keeping the soil cool in the containers or another use for them (I've already drilled los of holes in them for drainage) lol! Thanks"
Lloyd Eakins on Wednesday 13 March 2013
"Lloyd, those sound like great compost collectors to me. You have little to lose by trying potatoes in them, then use them for composting or storing garden gear the rest of the year. I keep my organic fertilizer and soil amendments in garbage cans....In your climate, if you can find a place where the container/roots will receive shade but not the tops of the plants, your potato plan may work. "
Barbara Pleasant on Wednesday 13 March 2013
"Thanks Barbara! I have decided to give them a try this year. As you say, nothing to lose, maybe i'll plant a few in the ground to compare. I did see an article on this site suggesting the container method is viable. I'm trying only early and mid-season to grow them in the cooler weather. As you may know the weather here is milder than other areas, not so cold in early spring, but also not so hot in summer. I was thinking of wrapping the dark containers in a white fabric to reflect the heat away from them. Thanks for your answer. "
Lloyd Eakins on Wednesday 13 March 2013
"so when you harvest your potatoes, where do you store them? my store bought one I keep in a drawer in my kitchen but after 2 weeks or so they get roots and get mushy so I throw them out...what is a better way to make them last? Above it was said they were stored in the shelves where they sprouted tubers by the end of winter, that seems like a long time, how did they not get gross?"
Leslie on Sunday 5 May 2013
"One of the reasons your store-bought potatoes sprout is that they are finished with their dormancy period. Freshly harvested potatoes are in a dormant state, so they are not inclined to sprout for at least two or three months. There are storage challenges in late winter, when potatoes naturally break dormancy, but most gardeners don't grow enough potatoes to last that long."
Barbara Pleasant on Sunday 5 May 2013
"I planted 150' row of red potatoes from last years harvest 6 weeks ago. 60% have not grown plants, but when I dig to investigate, have root masses and small new potatoes on the seed. Will a plant still sprout? Dale in PA"
Dale on Sunday 19 May 2013
"Dale, with that many no-shows I would start filling in gaps with additional seed potatoes. This year I noticed two of my potatoes that were close to the surface developed roots but no buds. Rather than wait on them, I replaced them. I always hold back a few seed potatoes to fill in gaps. "
Barbara Pleasant on Monday 20 May 2013
"is it possible to grow those potato patties that McDonalds sells for breakfast - those are really good"
frank on Friday 31 May 2013
"I cut up my potatoes a few days ago. I went to plant today, and some of them have a white moldy looking stuff on them. I think it just might be sugars from the potato, but can I still plant them?"
Sherry Fortner on Saturday 8 June 2013
"Sherry, cut up seed potatoes often discolor. Do go ahead and plant them."
Barbara Pleasant on Sunday 9 June 2013
"Thank you. I took your advice and planted. I'll let you know how they turn out. This is my first time to plant potatoes and a large garden, 75 X 80."
Sherry on Sunday 9 June 2013
"Hi I love the comments that people give,I planted potatoes for the first time I hilled them twice now, I noI planted them to close together,I planted 7 plants in each row {2} rows my space is 10 feet by 4 feet if I hill them one more time can I just put my soil from side to side and end to end so it's all the same hieght? Can I cover the bottem leaves? Thanks A lot love your site,It's in my garden folder now Looking forword for any advice thanks. "
Grant on Tuesday 18 June 2013
"Grant, it is the central crown, where the stems come out of the ground, that needs to have a protective cover of soil or mulch, which keeps tubers close to the surface protected from sun. You may not need to hill a third time. When the potatoes are harvested, the soil level will go back to normal. "
Barbara Pleasant on Wednesday 19 June 2013
"Thank you Barbara I will leave tham as they are then."
Grant on Wednesday 19 June 2013
"I have a question instead of a comment. (However, I love your site). I planted my potatoes on March 6, 2013. I cannot find any information as to when they will be ready to harvest. Can you help me woth this? Thanks very much."
Theresa Clance on Friday 21 June 2013
"When leaves begin to yellow and droop on individual plants, you can pull them up and harvest "new" potatoes. I harvest most of mine this way, but allow some to mature until the vines die back. For example, large white Kennebecs are popular in my area, and they are at their best when allowed to mature until the vines dry to brown. Late-maturing French fingerlings also benefit from being left in the garden until the vines shrivel."
Barbara Pleasant on Saturday 22 June 2013
"hi, you have a wonderfully informative site. is it possible to plant only one potato plant in a container on my balcony. what about cross pollination. will i ever get potatoes. pl help with your advice. thanks"
md on Tuesday 30 July 2013
"Yes, you can grow a single potato in a container, but you should use a large container so the roots will stay cool and won't be crowded. Potatoes do bloom, but the flowers are unimportant and pollination is not necessary. On a balcony, look for a place where the pot will get a bit of shade, but the branches can sprawl into the sun. "
Barbara Pleasant on Friday 2 August 2013
"dear Barbara, this is the very first time i had ever written a comment and i was surprised to get your answer so quickly.. thank you so much. i live in india and am a new gardener. "
md on Saturday 3 August 2013
"Hi Barbara, I have planted a garden for the last twenty yrs, and always have planted potaoes in the same spot. I have never used any chemicals either. This is the first year I have had potato bugs (orange critters) :( I bought the dust that the local greenhouse sells but couldn't bring myself to use it. Picked off as much as I could and hope for the best. Co-worker told me if you boil ruhbarb leaves cool and spray potatao this rids them? Its too late now, but do you have any suggestions for next year? Thanks in advance, love your sight!!!!!! Marg "
Marg Fisher on Monday 30 September 2013
"Marg, now that Colorado potato beetles have found you, some will overwinter near your old potato patch and come back in spring. They travel on foot, so trenches on either side of potato rows trap some, as do free range chickens. I suggest moving your potatoes to the other end of your garden, and next year using spinosad, a biological pesticide, if necessary, which gives excellent control of the larvae. "
Barbara Pleasant on Monday 30 September 2013
"My potato plant was growing very well.the plant had given fruits on two stages and the first stage now has medium sizes..the crop is now two months old but recently actually for the past two weeks i had a major irrigation breakdown and the green leaves all died down due to the excessive heat.i was wondering if they can get any bigger if i irrigate now that i have fixed my irrigatioin"
edward on Tuesday 22 October 2013
" I doubt if potatoes will come back in hot weather after the foliage has dried back. Time to feel around below the plant and see what is there. "
Barbara Pleasant on Tuesday 22 October 2013
"On a lark, I planted three korean purple plants this summer. The plants grew really well in my garden. When the frost came and the leaves turned black I dug up the beds to find each plant grew one huge potato - like 3-4lbs a piece. Then just a few other tiny potatoes. What happened? "
lori on Wednesday 27 November 2013
"Korean Purple is a sweet potato, and like Georgia Jet and a few other sweet potato varieties, it is prone to producing “lunkers” – really huge tubers. It may help to set out your plants a little later, after the soil is quite warm. Cool soil early on may trigger sweet potatoes to initiate tubers before they are really ready. See our blog on growing sweet potatoes, too. "
Barbara Pleasant on Saturday 14 December 2013
"What an interesting site. I have just raked my lawn and was curious to know whether I could use the moss/thatch in my potato trenches. I found the answer I was looking for and shall be transporting five bin bags full of rakings to my allotment in readiness for potato planting. Thank you "
Val on Friday 28 February 2014
"I am growing potatoes in large garbage cans in my greenhouse. The weather is still very cold here (snow) but it's heated..after reading on this site I will do things completely different for my second crop as I'm doing everything wrong (planting in what I think is too heavy a soil and in black garbage3 bins) my leaves all have a million light green raised bumps on the tops of them... no one seems to be able to identify what this is... I think it may be from overwatering but I have not found anything online that looks like this... any ideas?"
Cindy-Marie Sauve on Wednesday 16 April 2014
"My best guess is that the plants are showing oedema, a side-effect of overwatering late in the day. The plants move excess water to the leaves, and some of the cells burst as they try to hold too much. Keeping the soil cool is the biggest challenge to growing potatoes in containers. They like growing in a garden much better because of constant cool soil temperatures. "
Barbara Pleasant on Wednesday 16 April 2014
"Hi love your site! I am in south west TN and am getting to harvest my potatoes. My question is can I plant another crop of potatoes now or do I need to wait another month? We still have a hot summer to get through. I was wondering if I should wait until August? Thanks in advance for your help."
tnwomanjb on Tuesday 24 June 2014
"Fall potatoes can work well, though you will need to use seed potatoes that are not dormant and want to grow. I hold back a few spring seed potatoes for this purpose. Fall potatoes are not as productive as spring-planted potatoes, and also are at increased risk of contracting late blight. In your area I would try a small planting in late July or early August. Good luck!"
Barbara Pleasant on Thursday 3 July 2014
"hi love reading your comments i planted red skins in one of those potato bags they are selling they are rampently growing the flowers had those cherry tomatoe buds after flowering i removed them when can i harvest my potatoes"
mary lister on Monday 21 July 2014
"Mary, very soon the leaves will begin to yellow and wither. Because you are growing your potatoes in confinement, I would harvest them before the foliage thins out and allows sun to heat up the root area. Good luck! "
Barbara Pleasant on Tuesday 22 July 2014
"Hi Barb, Love your site. This year we had a poor spring, and some heavy rainfalls so gardens got a slow start. We have however been getiing some good heat, so things are slowly progressing however my potaoes (planted approx 90 hills) have barely flowered maybe 5 in total I have scratched around the non flowering ones and there seems to be potatoes. Not sure what I've done wrong ????? Their not as tall as in past years, and will they still flower??? thanks Marg"
Marg on Monday 4 August 2014
"Hi Barb, This is my first year growing potatoes. I live in Lancaster, PA, and we have had a VERY wet spring/summer. We've had nearly 20 inches of rainfall in the last 90 days. I planted my seed potatoes in trenches and filled them with straw as they grew higher. Only four or five of them have flowered. I pulled back some of the straw today and it is very moist, but I see no potatoes. Any suggestions? "
Lindsey on Monday 4 August 2014
"Lindsey...I would pull one of the plants that flowered and see what's down there -- there should be potatoes! The only reason there would not be spuds in your area would be thieving voles, but usually the plants show some wilting if voles are an issue...Marg, not all potato cultivars bloom. My blue potatoes and fingerlings are weak sporadic bloomers, but they make good crops of potatoes. "
Barbara Pleasant on Tuesday 5 August 2014
"HI I JUST HARVESTMY POTATOES FROM THE POTATOE GROW BAGS YOU CAN BUY I GREW THE RED SKINS ADMITTEDLY WAS ONLY ENOUGH FOR A FAMILY OF 4 TWICE IN EACH BAG BUT HEY THEY WERE LOVELY WHEN CAN I PLANT NEW POTATOES FOR XMAS OR IS IT TOO LATE AND CAN I USE THE SAME SOIL I GREW THE LAST LOT IN THANKING YOU BRILL SITE. "
MARY LISTER on Wednesday 6 August 2014
"Mary, I would dump the potato soil into a big bucket and use it for unrelated (non-tomato family) plants now or next spring, after amending it with one-third part good compost. Potatoes grow slowly in summer/fall compared to spring, so this would be quite late to plant in most areas. Where winters are cold, people often plant potatoes after garlic in July. "
Barbara Pleasant on Thursday 7 August 2014
"I live in Texas and I planted a few potatoes for my fall garden. One night, temps dropped lower than expected and I wasn't able to cover them...so the tops died. I heard that if I leave them alone, now that the weather is warming up, they'll perk back up and still produce. Any truth in that or should I pull them all up?"
Lisa D. on Thursday 19 February 2015
"Lisa, potatoes often come back strong when their tops are nipped back by frost. I would wait and see."
Barbara Pleasant on Thursday 19 February 2015
"To those who want to grow potatoes in container. There is a man on youtube whose channel name is allotmentdiary. I would suggest you check him out. His channel is very detailed on how to grow potatoes successfully in containter( here is a video of him harvesting 70 lbs of container grown potatoes-https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dMrkIecqQL8). Please check him out when you get the chance."
belita ross on Friday 20 March 2015
"Dear Barbara, this is the first time I grow potato. I planted seed potato back in Feb, and already harvested some lately. What I don't understand is that the crop tasted bitter albeit the tubes had not exposed to sun more than 10 min. Do I have to pre-treat the tubes before cooking? What makes them bitter? Do you by any chance know?"
dawn on Sunday 19 April 2015
"Hi Barbara, I just planted my first crop of potatoes. I cut the seeds into several portions to increase the amount to plant. I was unaware of having to dry these portions prior to planting them. Should I dig them up and dry them or let them be and cross my fingers?"
Jill Phillips on Sunday 19 April 2015
"Dawn, bitter compounds can accumulate in the skin, so peeling the potatoes may be the solution. If they are still bitter, do not eat them and change your growing method...Jill, many people plant their cut pieces immediately. If some don't come up, you can go back and fill in gaps in the row. "
Barbara Pleasant on Monday 20 April 2015
"Thank you, Barbara, I gave it a try, the bitter taste did go away. Any idea why in the first place will there be this bitter taste exist and how can it avoid?"
dawn on Monday 27 April 2015
"Potatoes develop bitter compounds as a survival strategy, to make them taste bad to predators like us, so stressful growing conditions could contribute to the problem. Potatoes have a low tolerance for warm, dry roots."
Barbara Pleasant on Monday 27 April 2015
"Hello, we built a 'potatoe box' and plan to add one board at a time until it reaches about 3 feet deep. My question is this: should I remove the lower leaves of the potatoe plant before adding more soil? My soil is a combo equal parts peat moss, vermiculite, and compost. It is very nice light weight soil and does not compact easily."
Julie P. From Kansas on Saturday 2 May 2015
"Julie, I will be interested in how your project turns out. If you get a hot summer, it could fail because the root temps of the potatoes will get too high. The higher you go above-ground, the greater the risk will be. I would stick with a lower bed, and get your potatoes growing asap so they will stay ahead of 100-degree Kansas heat."
Barbara Pleasant on Monday 4 May 2015
"They are actually in a very shaded area in the late afternoon so they are protected from our scorching Kansas heat and wind. But you are right, our biggest challenge will be keeping the roots cool enough. I guess I don't need to remove the lower leaves before mounding more soil? I'm used to just mounding up the sides not filling the box."
JulieP from Kansas on Monday 4 May 2015
"Barbara, I have a couple of questions. How deep do I plant the potatoes and can grass clippings be used for mulch? I am from Minnesota. Thank you!"
Kathy on Saturday 9 May 2015
"Kathy, plant them about 4 inches deep, and yes yes use grass clippings as mulch. Please see this week's blog on hilling and mulching potatoes."
Barbar Pleasant on Sunday 10 May 2015
"I mix as much fish as I can with my potatoes with the earth when I use my garden tiller and in the fall I allway,s harvest some good fish and chips "
joe on Wednesday 13 May 2015
"How high should I continue piling straw mulch? I am at about 12 inches above soil and my plants are 12 to 14 inches above the straw. This is my first attempt and I have planted Purple Majesty, Yukon Golds and Red Norlands (early May). They are growing like crazy (3-4 ft tall) but I have no experience to draw upon or mentor to question. Your advice would be very elcome. Thanks!"
Mark on Sunday 7 June 2015
"Mark, I think you can take it easy now, your mulching is done. When the plants get a little taller they may flop over, creating a bare spot in the middle. I usually watch for that with tall, upright varieties and add mulch the opening to keep sun from reaching the shallow tubers. "
Barbara Pleasant on Monday 8 June 2015
"Hi Barbara, I was hoping you would elaborate on your response to "tnwomanjb" from June 24, 2014. I live in the Willamette Valley of Oregon and we have had an unusually hot and dry spring. The Yukon Gems I planted in April are done. The foliage on most has died back. I did not keep any spring seed potatoes (I haven't had this issue before). Would I be able use those same potateos that are in the ground now to start a second crop? If so, how would I go about it? Thank you."
Rich on Thursday 9 July 2015
"Rich, the challenge is getting the potatoes to think they have rested and are ready to break dormancy. Moist warmth (damp towels over tubers in a warm place, above 75F) will sometimes trick the potatoes into sprouting. Try it with your small whole potatoes that have green spots, and possibly with small red potatoes from the store that have been kept chilled (they may be older). Summer-planted potatoes are always kept whole, never cut. Good luck! "
Barbara Pleasant on Saturday 11 July 2015
"I tried to grow potatoes this year in boxes but they didn't produce any potatoes except at the root. What would cause this? the potatoe plant itself looked healty "
Eugene on Tuesday 22 September 2015
"hallo Barbara,could I plant potatoes in November in SW France, should I then fleece them ? "
diverte on Wednesday 23 September 2015
"Eugene, the most common reason why potatoes in bags and boxes fail is high root temperatures. Potatoes grow best in the ground, where the soil stays cool...Diverte, temperatures below freezing kill actively growing stems and leaves, and dormant potatoes left in the ground through winter are subject to pests and diseases. It's best to wait and plant in spring. "
Barbara Pleasant on Thursday 24 September 2015
"thanks barbara I'd better hang on then"
diverte on Friday 25 September 2015
"Tire potato planter: Last year 2015 is the first time I ever attempted to grow potatoes, I did this for two reasons. 1) I love growing my fresh produce and as expensive as fresh is, it lightens the cost significantly. 2) I don't care if it's just plain boiled, smashed, mashed, baked, grilled, fried I love my spuds. I saw a home made tire planter and decided that for the really shady part of my yard. It would be the perfect place for potatoes. First I scrubbed and cleaned the inside and out side of the tires with Dawn dish soap. Let them air dry, than using an outdoor acrylic spray paint decorated them. In the bottom of the 3 tires I completely filled it with potting soil and gave it a good watering. When it was packed down I added another layer and repeated. The bottom tire took three 10 lb bags of soil. I waited a week for the soil to dry out and dismantled the top two layers of tires then placed 8 "seeds" in the bottom tire, and then put the other two back on. When the greens got to about 8 inches I layered in more soil, and did this until the second tire was completely filled with soil. Eventually the greens reached the top of the tires. I left them alone all summer long, and come September had a bumper harvest. I harvested 75 spuds from the bottom layer and 35 "baby" spuds from the second layer. The method does work, just make sure its in a shaded part of the yard. "
Elizabeth Palmer on Wednesday 27 January 2016
"Hello everyone. The last time I planted New Potatoes, before planting I dusted the cut potatoes with a powder that I bought at the nursery. Does anyone know the name of this powder? Thanks, Bob Egert"
Bob Egert on Friday 12 February 2016
"Don't use grass cuttings if it's treated with weed n feed......"
Mick h on Monday 22 January 2018

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