In this guide, we answer everything you need to know about growing potatoes – from when to water them up until how deep to plant potatoes, we have you covered!
Fun fact – did you know potatoes are 80% water? They are one of the most versatile vegetables you can find and a favorite in many homes.
From mash to french fries and baked– everyone has their favorite dish.
That might be one of the reasons more and more people are getting interested on how to plant potatoes at home.
When to Plant Potatoes
You want to be growing potatoes at the right time of year. They grow best in full sun – that means they should be planted about 4 weeks before the end of spring or any time after the soil temperature reaches around 40°F.
This vegetable does not do well in extreme heat or very dry soil, so high temperatures are not favorable.
If you live in a warmer climate and you are planting outside, choose a spot in the garden that has some shade or make a small greenhouse to protect your crop against the harsh sun.
The optimum temperature for growing potatoes is between 60°F and 70°F at the time of high sun (during the day) but temperatures greater than 80°F is too warm for your crop and will kill your harvest.
Varieties of Potatoes Grow
If you have done some research on how to grow potatoes, you’ve probably come across many varieties to sow.
There are more than 100 of them, classified according to the time (number of days) they take to mature in the ground. This is where the terms ‘early, ‘mid’ and ‘late’ season types come from.
They can reach maturity between 75 and 90 days.
- Red Norland – known for their distinct red skin. Best served in salads or as boiled potatoes.
- Yukon Gold – has a light, thin skin; best served as oven-roasted.
- Red Pontiac – not suitable for frying. Best preparations are baked, boiled, mashed, and roasted
This kind reaches maturity between 95 and 115 days.
- Ida Rose – popular as a salad potato, this red beauty is also perfect for baking and boiling.
- Gold Rush – medium-sized veggies, great for frying.
- Kennebec – it stores great and works well in curries, soups, and stews.
- Butte – this Idaho classic is perfect for baking.
- Fingerling – small ones that are used in salads.
- Desiree – an all-rounder, but not recommended for frying.
Best Soil for Growing Potatoes
The best soil for growing potatoes is loam; you can find this at most garden centers. Loam soil is a mixture of sand, silt, and clay – which makes the perfect soil for any plant.
Sometimes, it is mixed with organic matter like dried leaves, compost, animal manure, or shredded tree bark. Organic matter adds extra nutrients to the soil, which, in turn, provides nutrients to the harvest.
Loam soil is perfect for growing potatoes because it is loose and drains well – water can run through it easily, reaching the tubers. Clay retains too much water, leaving the potatoes soaked and risking to rot.
How to Plant Potatoes
If you are trying to find out how to grow potatoes at home – you have two options.
Option 1: Seeds
One of the first things you hear about if you are looking into growing potatoes is the term ‘seed potatoes.’ They are not actually seeds, like those of flowers.
When potatoes start sprouting, think of when they have been laying in the vegetable basket for a few weeks, and those little knobs start coming out of them? That is called ‘eyes.’
When they form eyes, they are now seed potatoes! So you cut them up into a couple of pieces, at least 2 ‘eyes’ per piece, and that’s what you plant in the ground.
The cut-up pieces should be left to dry for at least two days before planting to prevent rotting in the soil.
Option 2: Potato Grow Bags
This method is perfect for small gardens, you can buy potato bags at any garden center, and they will have the soil and seed potatoes inside the bag already.
These bags allow you to control the spread of the potatoes because the more soil you pack on top, the more roots are spread out in the soil, which results in more vegetables.
If the potatoes are in a bag, you only have to scratch inside when harvesting, instead of digging in a garden.
Young potato plants should be watered consistently, every four to five days. When tubers start to form, increase frequency to once every two to three days.
Overwatering is detrimental to growing potatoes – the soil should be moist but not drenched. Tap water is used to water gardens and plants, but additives such as chlorine and fluoride can be harmful to them.
If you prefer to use water that is free from additives, run tap water through an alkaline water filter pitcher.
Growing Potatoes Indoors
If you don’t have outside garden space — don’t worry because you can still be successful at growing potatoes. This is when you look at how to grow potatoes in a pot. There are two ways to do this:
Use potato grow bags – transfer to a pot once roots start spreading. This way, you will harvest more veggies because there is more room in the pot for spreading, as opposed to the potato bag.
Plant potato seeds – cut sprouted potatoes into pieces, at least 2 eyes per piece, plant them facing up in loam soil in a pot, keep the soil moist, and wait for the harvest!
Whichever method you choose, be sure to place the plants in a ventilated area with several hours a day of natural light. These vegetables won’t need water every day, but the soil should be kept moist.
People who know a lot about growing potatoes will always tell you about hilling. This is when you mound soil around the base of the plant to make sure that the potatoes are completely covered and not exposed to light.
As your plant grows, you have to add more soil each time and hill it around the base of the plant.
If you’re wondering how long does it take to grow potatoes – it takes about 70 to 90 days to mature when using the recommended early-season varieties that grow best in pots.
Growing Potatoes Outdoors
You can grow potatoes outdoors in an open garden or follow the trend of many people who have had success growing potatoes in containers outside.
Containers can vary from plastic with drainage holes at the bottom or big square wooden crates purposely built for growing potatoes.
For the wooden crates and traditional garden planting:
Find the perfect spot, not too much direct sunlight and moist, loose soil
Dig trenches that are four to six inches deep and space rows about 3 feet apart
Put between six and ten pieces of seed potatoes (2 eyes per piece) in each trench
Cover trenches with two inches of loam soil
Water plant and keep the soil moist
Add soil and hill plant as it grows
That seems pretty easy, right?
Best Fertilizer for Potatoes
If you are buying loam soil, look for a brand that has some fertilizer blended in it. Make your own organic fertilizer by mixing dry leaves, grass, and manure.
Alternatively, you can buy compost at any garden center. Potato plants can be fertilized two weeks after planting. You can purchase industrial grade fertilizer from garden centers that can be sprayed on the plant using a spray bottle.
Get advice from a salesperson before making a decision, some liquid fertilizers are more suitable for large crops and could damage smaller ones at home.
When to Harvest Potatoes
After all we've discussed so far, what is left is to learn is when to pick your potatoes. The potato stems and leaves will start to turn brown, and the flowers will start fading as the veggies mature below ground. When the foliage has withered and died, your potatoes are ready to be harvested.
You can get the kirn at any time after they mature; keep in mind the days of maturity per variety of potato (early, mid, and late season). If you harvest crops before they mature, they are called ‘new potatoes’ and cannot be stored – use them immediately.
Dig up one plant as a test – if the skins are thick, then you are good to go. If the skin rubs off easily, keep the potatoes in the ground for another week.
If you are sure the harvest is ready, dig them up and shake to remove extra soil. Scrub gently under running water and dry with a clean cloth. Potatoes should be kept in a dry, dark place at around 40°F. Keep them in the coolest part of your kitchen or pantry.
It is not advised to store potatoes in the refrigerator because it makes them go brown quickly when fried.
Do you now know how to plant potatoes at home? What is the first dish you will make with your home-grown veggies? Let us know in the comments.
John Fields is a freelance writer with a landscape degree. Besides writing, he really enjoys cooking in his free time, as it is John’s true passion.
He has plenty of recipes, kitchen tools, and cooking tips worth trying, and he is ready to share it with others.
John’s ideal readers are aspiring home cooks, who are willing to learn, and nature lovers, who want to improve their garden, landscape and teach you how to grow potatoes.