How To Grow Potatoes

Grow a delicious staple in your garden

Potatoes are easy to grow at home. Imagine being able to harvest “new” potatoes in the spring and early summer to eat with homegrown green beans! Mature potatoes can be stored so that you and your family can enjoy them for many months. Even if you don’t plant to fill your hall closet with potatoes, it’s still fun to grow a few plants, if only to experience the novelty of digging up your dinner.

Where to Plant Potatoes

Plant potatoes where they will receive full sun, and choose and well-drained, acidic soil. Avoid planting in the same spot in which peppers, eggplants, or tomatoes were grown in the previous season, as potatoes are particularly susceptible to diseases carried by those plants.

Plant Potatoes from Seed Pieces

Potatoes need fertile, well-drained soil. Prepare in-ground garden soil by mixing 3 inches of Miracle-Gro® Performance Organics® All Purpose In-Ground Soil into the top 6 inches of native soil. Enriched with aged compost, this will give potatoes a head start on nutrition. If you plan to grow your potatoes in raised beds, fill them with Miracle-Gro® Performance Organics® Raised Bed Mix, which is 100 percent organic and provides the right foundation for growing plants in this way. For container growing, get great results by filling pots with Miracle-Gro® Performance Organics® All Purpose Container Mix

Potatoes grow best in acidic soils with a pH of 4.8 to 5.5. Test soil with a soil kit and adjust the pH if necessary. (Your local extension agency can tell you how).

How to Plant Potatoes

Cut seed potatoes into 1- to 2-inch squares with two to three eyes (bud sprouts) per piece, then allow them to dry for a couple of days before planting. Plant seed potatoes 12 to 18 inches apart and four inches deep. The eyes should be facing up and the cut side facing down. If planting in-ground, space rows 24 to 36 inches apart to leave room for hilling (see below) and walking between the plants.

How to Water Potatoes

Potatoes need consistent moisture, though you never want the soil to be soggy. Water plants once or twice per week, providing one to two inches of water in total. The most critical period for watering is when plants are in bloom. Be sure to water around the base of the plants, not on the leaves.

How to Hill Potatoes

Hilling potatoes keeps sunlight from reaching developing tubers and turning them green. (Green parts of potatoes contain a natural toxin called solanine and should not be eaten.) Hill potatoes by piling additional soil or potting mix halfway up around the stems when plants are about 6-8 inches tall. Continue to hill every three weeks or so, until the plants start to bloom.

How to Feed Potatoes

While nutrient-rich soil will give potato plants a strong start, for best results, you'll also want to fertilize them regularly during the growing season. Begin feeding with Miracle-Gro® Performance Organics® Edibles Plant Nutrition Granules a month after planting to give plants the nutrients they need to grow strong and produce lots of potatoes for you to harvest. Make sure to follow all label directions.

How to Troubleshoot When Growing Potatoes

Potatoes are susceptible to a variety of pests and diseases. Use floating row covers to protect plants from flea beetles and Colorado potato beetles early in the season, then remove covers just before plants start to bloom. Fungal and bacterial problems are best prevented by giving the plants good care: avoid watering the leaves, provide good airflow, and ensure that the pH level of the soil isn’t too high.

How to Harvest and Store Potatoes

Harvest “new” (immature) potatoes for eating after the plant begins flowering. Gently scratch some soil under the plants aside and feel around for a few small tubers and pull them out, then replace the soil so the plants will keep growing. For full-sized potatoes, wait until after the tops of the plants have died. Carefully dig up the entire plant using a garden fork, doing your best not to bruise or pierce the potatoes. Bring them inside and keep them in a dark, cool, humid spot (such as an unfinished basement or garage) for two weeks to “cure” so the skins will thicken and dry for storing. Store in a covered, ventilated box or bin.

Ready to start growing potatoes? Click on any of the product links above for more information, to purchase the product online, or to find a retailer near you.