Potato Planting Guide

heart shaped potato picture

Picture 1. Potatoes (Solanum tuberosum) make a great choice for your vegetable garden. Discover how to prepare and sprout them, when to start cultivation. See different planting techniques and tips.

Potato planting tips

  • Potatoes prefer cool weather, so if you live in the area with hot summers choose an early variety.
  • Choose the spot in full sun with slightly acidic, well drained soil.
  • Turn the soil and mix in compost or cured manure for growing organic potatoes. They require a lot of nutrients.
  • If you have a small garden, plant potatoes in mound or tires to save space.
  • Use crop rotation, never cultivate potatoes or tomatoes in the same spot more often than once in 3 years.

When to plant potatoes

Potatoes are sensitive to frost, so wait with planting in the garden till last frost date. Keep planting until June, so that you can store late harvest for winter.

What if you wish to collect young, fresh bulbs for Christmas? Start this batch in July. However, keep in mind you have to protect them from the frost during late development stage. Covering with straw may help, but growing them in the greenhouse works best.

Preparing potatoes for planting

Select healthy looking tubers if you intend to plant those left from last year's harvest. Obtaining new seed potatoes certified as disease free is your best bet to avoid troubles later, though. Never start potatoes you got from grocery! They are frequently treated with chemicals to prevent sprouting and can be diseased.

To harvest sooner, sprout potatoes before you plant them. How to do that? 1-2 weeks before planting in the garden place the tubers in the warm, well lit place. They will break dormancy and start sprouting.

Potato planting instructions

Spacing potato tubers

  • In trenches: 2 feet between rows, 1 foot between tubers in the row. Dig 4'' deep trenches running north-south.
  • In mounds: Make circle with diameter of 3-4 feet, evenly space 6-8 4'' holes inside.

Potato planting technique

Put seed potatoes in the trench/hole so that the sprouts point upwards. Cover them with soil. Large farm uses professional equipment, but you need no such machines for your vegetable garden.

Planting potatoes under plastic mulch

Consider applying the mulch when growing early varieties - you will be able to harvest sooner. There are 2 ways to use this technique:

  • After planting, cover the plot with transparent plastic foil and secure the edges with bricks or cover them with soil. When tubers germinate, cut the foil above the sprouts to let them out. This method slows the weeds down, keeps them from blooming and warms the soil.
  • Before planting, cover the plot with black foil and secure the edges. Make incisions in the foil and plant the sprouted tubers under them. After a while make sure that all sprouts are above the foil - some need help to get out! This method completely inhibits weeds and warms the soil.

Planting potatoes in tires

planting potatoes in tires picture

Picture 2. Loosely fill the tire with soil and plant 3-4 seed potatoes. When the stems have grown 10 inches add next tire to the stack and fill with soil. Repeat with third tire when appropriate. You may add 4th tire as well. This method allows you to collect large harvest from a small space.

Potato planting and companion vegetables

  • Good company: beans and peas, cabbage, lettuce, horseradish, onion, garlic.
  • Bad company: squash, pumpkin, cucumber, sunflower.
  • Horrible company: Tomato is a member of Solanaceae family as well, and can infect potato with disease or catch one from it. Grow these vegetables on opposite sides of your garden to diminish disease risk.

For more tips on potato cultivation see the articles about planting potatoes in straw and starting sweet potato plants.

Picture credits:
1. Lumbar, "Potato heart mutation". Public domain, via Wikimedia.
2. Vegetable Corner, "Potatoes in tires", all rights reserved.