8 Potato Growing Tips For An Abundant Harvest

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Potatoes just might be one of the easiest crops to grow for every homesteader or backyard gardener. It seems no matter how little is done to assist the plant, a harvest is produced. There are many different ways to grow potatoes, they store and preserve well, and they are a very satiety food source loaded with nutrition.

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Growing potatoes is very simple and you’re pretty much guaranteed to get some kind of harvest. However, there are a few simple tips and tricks to help your potato growing abilities excel and get you that abundant harvest that will give your food storage supply a major boost!

Starting Out Right

The very first step you can take in the direction of an abundant potato harvest, is picking out the best variety for your growing conditions and making sure you have the best seed going into the ground.

The Perfect Variety

The first thing to decide is what variety of potatoes you wish to grow, dependent on how you and your family plan to consume them. It is also important to understand how that potato variety is going to grow so you know how to assist the plant throughout its life.

Determinate varieties will take up less space, as they only grow in one layer. While indeterminate varieties are going to require a bit more space, work and attention, as they continue to grow up the plant until something (either disease, frost or neglect) takes them out.

Check out our guide on indeterminate vs determinate potato varieties!

The Ideal Seed Potato

Growing potatoes via seed potatoes is the absolute best way to get an abundant harvest! You can plant potatoes you get in the store, or you can purchase seed potatoes from a reputable supplier.

The most ideal seed potato is one that resembles a large, round egg, and is free of nicks or rot spots. The best situation would be to go to your local nursery and pick out your own seed potatoes, instead of just dealing with whatever a supplier sends, which most of the time, is not the best of the best.

Another plus of getting seed potatoes from a garden center is they should be able to help you know how your chosen potato variety is going to grow (either determinate or indeterminately), so don’t be afraid to pick their brains while you pick your seed!

It is also possible to grab a bag of potatoes from your local, organic store. It is best to ensure the potatoes are organic because most non-organic varieties are sprayed with an antigrowth chemical and most likely will not produce a harvest.

Chitting (Sprouting) Seed Potatoes

Sprouting your seed potatoes before they go into the ground is really going to help give your harvest a boost! Sprouting, or chitting your seed potatoes is a very simple process that is going to give the plants a head start, expand the yield, and produce a more vigorous plant.

If you’ve ever forgotten about a few potatoes in the back of the pantry and pulled it out to find long, spindly sprouts popping out everywhere, then you’ve chitted potatoes before. However, there is a huge difference in plant vigor when the dark pantry sprouts the potatoes verses when you intentionally sprout potatoes.

The long white sprouts on forgotten potatoes is a sign that the potato has been expending energy in its search for light, stretching out as far as it can to find it. This is referred to “leggy” potatoes. These sprouts are often weak and will produce a weak plant in return. In order to sprout the potatoes for maximum growth and plant vigor, follow the simple steps listed below, immediately after purchasing your seed potatoes;

  • Step 1: Use a tray or box to lay out the potatoes in a single layer. One side of the potato will have a darker brown spot where the mother roots once were, called the rose end. Lay this end down.
  • Step 2: Place the tray in a bright, frost free, yet cool location. It is best to keep the temperature at 50°F (10°C) and supply enough light for the forming chits to come out short and fat.
  • Step 3: Allow the potatoes to sit for a few weeks before going back to check on them. If you prefer your harvest to have more potatoes, allow as many chits as possible to form. This is best for determinate varieties that are often small regardless. If you prefer to have larger potatoes, remove the weakest chits, leaving only 2-3 to grow out.
  • Step 4: Plant the potatoes before the sprouts reach an inch in height.

Chitting potatoes is also a great way to ensure you get the varieties you want without worrying about your seed rotting before planting time. Seed potatoes usually sell out pretty fast so it is often best to get them as soon as they become available. This is not always consistent with planting times. However, when a potato is in a tray sprouting, you won’t have to worry so much about it becoming rotten because a growing potato doesn’t die!

planting potatoes

Tips During Growth

Besides setting up young plants for maximum growth, there are a few things you can do while the potatoes are growing in order to increase yield and health.

Nutrients

Just as your body requires nutrients to thrive, as does the potato plants. We have a full list of nutrients a potato requires during its life cycle. However, there are some optimal times during the plants life that it will benefit from a boost. Here are some signs that potato plants are lacking in a certain nutrient:

  1. Nitrogen: If potato plants are lacking in nitrogen, the leaves will turn yellow or pale green, especially on the older leaves. The plant may also appear stunted or smaller than normal.
  2. Phosphorus: A lack of phosphorus can result in slow growth and a purplish tint on the leaves. The plant may also have smaller root systems and produce fewer tubers.
  3. Potassium: A potassium deficiency can result in weak stems and leaves that curl or turn yellow. The plant may also be more susceptible to disease and produce smaller tubers.
  4. Calcium: If potato plants are lacking in calcium, the growing tips may die back and the tubers may develop black spots or rot.
  5. Magnesium: A magnesium deficiency can cause yellowing between the veins on the older leaves. The plant may also have stunted growth and produce fewer tubers.

Soil

The best thing you can do for the plants nutrient wise is planting in a loose, balanced compost. It is also beneficial to support the microbial life of the soil, using methods such as no till, wood mulch, and compost teas. A healthy microbial life in the soil will help make the nutrients available for the potato plants as it requires them. Nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, calcium and magnesium at planting time will help the plant vigor and health, leading to a large harvest.

Potatoes need to be planted in a very loose and well draining medium. If the soil is too compact, it could prevent large tuber growth. Peat moss can be added if the compost is on the thicker end, keeping in mind that peat doesn’t add too much in the way of nutrients. Peat moss is more on the acidic side, and since potatoes benefit most with a soil pH around 5.2-6, it makes the perfect addition to loosen the soil.

Water

Suppling potato plants with adequate watering will help produce large tubers, prevent rot, and prevent disease. Supplying 1-2 inches of water a week will keep the plants happy and strong, remembering to account for any rain fall. If the soil is dry an inch or more below the surface, it’s time to water! Always water at soil level in order to water deeply and prevent splashing on the foliage. Wet leaves will leave the plants more vulnerable to disease and offers no benefits to tuber growth.

Pests & Diseases

Regularly inspect potato plants for signs of pests or diseases and take appropriate measures to control them. One such measure that can be taken at planting is pairing the potato plants with companion plants such as horseradish, alliums (such as garlic and onions), thyme and basil. Stay vigilant of pests, such as the potato beetle, and remove them by hand. Never plant a new crop in a spot where disease once was and remove any infected plants immediately. Disease such as blight are very difficult to control once it begins, so avoid planting potatoes by other plants that are also susceptible, such as tomatoes.

potato gardening tips
best tips for growing potatoes

BONUS TIP

As the potato plants grow, both determinate and indeterminate plants will begin to produce flowers. Remove these flowers as they appear in order for the plants to keep their energy focus on producing large tubers!

Growing potatoes can be a walk in the park, and by following these specific tips and tricks, your harvest can go from lack-luster to abundant in a season! What are your potato growing tricks? Drop them in the comments so we all can learn!

Hey Beautiful! I’m Tara, garden enthusiasts, keeper of chickens, herbal homesteader and stay at home mom of 3 tiny humans and a sourdough starter named Ma. I love teaching others how to live a self-sufficient and sustainable life through homesteading, scratch cooking, and remembering to live barefoot, wild and free!

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