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  How To Grow Potatoes

SCIENTIFIC NAME: Solanum tuberosum
LIGHT: Full Sun
SOIL TYPE: Well-drained with moderate organic matter
pH RANGE: 5.5 - 6.5
MOISTURE/WATERING: Uniform moisture, especially while tubers are developing
KNOWN PESTS: Potato beetles


There is a large selection of potato varieties available. Potatoes vary considerably in shape, size, colour, cooking and eating qualities. Check with your local garden shop to see which potatoes are available for your soil (test if required). If you are not sure what type of potato you prefer, it is worth trying a few to see which best suits your soil, and your tastes.

I have had good success adding a small amount of rough sawdust into the soil to retain moisture (good if your soil is heavy or dries out quickly). Make sure you don't use sawdust(chips) from a wood species know to carry toxic oils, like cedar or treated wood. To avoid introducing pests and diseases - plant good quality, certified seed potatoes.


Potatoes are tolerant of cool soil and frost, potatoes can be planted in late spring. Remove potato tubers from storage and warm to a temperature of 50-60°F, to enhance sprout formation. Small potato tubers (golf ball size) may be planted whole. Larger tubers can be cut into pieces weighing about 2 ounces each having at least 1-3 eyes. Seed pieces can be planted immediately after cutting, but will generally sprout and show better resistance to decay if, after cutting, are left in a cool, moist room with good ventilation for 3 days. Sow potato seed pieces 3-4 inches deep. Leave 10-12” between plants in rows 2-3 feet apart. Closer plantings can result in better yields, but with smaller potatoes. Do not plant potato tubers directly from cold storage.


Potatoes do well with bush bean, cabbage family, corn, parsnip, peas.


Grow potatoes in full sun with a soil pH of 5.5-6.5. Potatoes are heavy feeders which require deep fertile soil with good drainage. Mineral soils are best. Apply plentiful amounts of compost and well rotted manure. Fresh manure will promote development of scab organism. Lime should also be avoided at planting time. Maintain even moisture as interruptions in moisture will cause irregular growth spurts resulting in rough, knobby, malformed or cracked tubers. Hill plants when they are 1 foot tall, by hoeing up 6-8” of soil around the plant.


Early potatoes can be dug when tubers reach a useable size. This is often 2-5 weeks after flowering. Potatoes for storage crops should be left in the ground until light frosts or natural decline cause the tops to wither.


Potatoes exposed to light will produce solanine, a toxin. This is apparent when potatoes turn green. Throw out any green potatoes or those sprouting eyes, these will have high levels of solanine.

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