Planting red seed potatoes

How To Grow Potatoes

Potatoes are one of the most rewarding vegetables to grow in a vegetable garden. They are fairly easy to grow and produce many delicious tubers that can be prepared in a limitless amount of dishes.

Growing potatoes takes just a bit of preparation, a little bit of work, and some fun digging at harvest time.

There are many different seed potatoes available to the home vegetable gardener today.

Some very popular potatoes to grow are:


Red Pontiac

Russian Banana

German Butterball

Russet Norkotah

Yukon Gold

Purple Majesty

That’s just to name a few! There is a great assortment of potatoes available through most seed companies because of the increase in popularity of growing potatoes.

If you are interested in growing your own potatoes there are a few things to keep in mind in order to have a bountiful harvest.

Here you can learn how to plant potatoes, care for them as they grow and mature, learn different ways of harvesting the potatoes, and common issues you may encounter while growing your own delicious spuds.

Before Planting Potatoes

Before we get to the subject of planting potatoes, let’s talk a minute about seed potatoes.

Certified seed potatoes are the tubers that you buy from seed companies, or garden centers.

Certified seed potatoes have been designated as disease-free and are the ideal choice for growing potatoes in your vegetable garden.

Being disease-free is important because you do not want to inadvertently bring soil-borne disease into your garden soil.

You can grow potatoes from store-bought potatoes if they have not been treated with some type of sprouting inhibitor.

It is still best to use certified seed potatoes to be absolutely sure you don’t bring any unwanted diseases into your vegetable garden.

Cutting the Seed Potatoes

Once you have your seed potatoes, you may need to cut them into plantable sections. Any tubers that are about the size of a small egg can be planted whole.

Larger seed potatoes should be cut into more plantable pieces.

Cut the seed potatoes using a clean, sharp knife so that each piece contains at least two eyes.

Pieces should be cut with plenty of flesh around each eye, since the plant will utilize this stored food during the first couple weeks of growth.

Now that your seed potatoes are cut into plantable pieces, you can plant them right away if it’s time to plant according to your frost date, or you can pre-sprout (chitting) them.

Chitting the Seed Potatoes

Chitting is simply letting the eyes of the seed potato grow out a bit before planting, and is typically performed about two weeks before planting. This can be done before, or after cutting the seed potatoes into smaller pieces.

Chitting has been known to help speed up the sprouting process and can help grow higher yields in less time.

To chit your seed potatoes, simply spread the tubers out onto open-top crates, boxes, or flats. Place the tubers with the seed end pointing up.

You want to place the tubers in a warm location (about 70°F) with medium light.

The warmth will promote the sprouts to grow, while the light will help keep them short and strong. This is important so the sprouts will not be easily broken when planting.

Now that your seed potatoes are well-prepared, it’s time to plant.

How To Plant Potatoes

Potatoes require good soil that is well-drained and, at the same time, be able to retain some moisture. A sandy loam soil with a pH of 6.0 – 8.0 is ideal.

Avoid soil that is alkaline as this can promote scab, and soil that is too cool, or too moist as this can cause the seed potato to rot.

Raised beds can help to alleviate issues with compacted soils and improve drainage.

The earliest time you should plant is about two weeks before your last frost date.

Optimum soil temperature is between 50°F and 70°F. Check with your local cooperative extension office for ideal planting times for your area.

Planting Potatoes In Rows

The width between rows is determined mainly by the size of your garden space.

The ideal distance between rows is 30 inches to 36 inches, but you can get by with 20 inches to 26 inches for smaller spaces.

Planting potatoes farther apart can help deter issues during droughts or if you have poor soil.

More narrow spacing can help to create a canopy in summer, keeping weeds at bay while also shading the soil keeping it cooler.

Dig a shallow trench about six to eight inches deep, and three inches wide. Plant the seed potatoes about twelve inches apart.

Cover the seed pieces immediately after planting with four inches of soil maximum. Do not cover them too deeply.

Planting Potatoes Using a Cage

If you have limited garden space, you can grow potatoes in boxes, or cages.

Set the cage on loosened, prepared soil, and plant seed pieces six to eight inches apart. Cover lightly with no more than four inches of soil.

Once the plants emerge and grow to about six to 8 inches tall, add soil around the plants, leaving the top four to six inches of the plant exposed.

Continue adding soil around the plants every few weeks as they grow upward.

This method can produce more potatoes in far less space.

When planting the seed potatoes make sure the eyes, or sprouts, are always facing up towards the sky. This goes for any planting method you may use.

How To Care for Potatoes

Potatoes grown in rows will need to be hilled as the plants grow.

Once the plants reach a height of eight inches, hill soil around the plants just leaving the top four to six inches exposed.

Hilling helps cool the soil and gives more room for new tubers to grow.

This will need to be repeated every two to three weeks depending on the rate at which the potato plant grows.

Providing mulch in the form of hay straw, or dried grass clippings will also improve tuber growth, keep the soil cooler, retain soil moisture, and suppress weeds.

Potatoes arte thirsty plants will developing so make sure to keep the soil consistently moist until the plant begins to bloom.

Avoid overwatering since soggy soil conditions can lead to rotten tubers.

Once the blooms begin to emerge you can water less often. As the tubers mature, they need to slow their growth.

Too much water towards the end of the season will cause the potatoes to become disfigured.

How to Harvest Potatoes

There are two main ways that you can harvest your potatoes: digging for “new” potatoes, and harvesting the main crop.

You can also harvest using both methods, but the more new potatoes you harvest, the less you will have for the main crop.

Harvesting New Potatoes

New potatoes are those that are small and newly grown on the plant. About 40 – 60 days after planting these new potatoes can be gently harvested from the plant.

Carefully dig under the potato plant to see if you can find any new potatoes. They are generally anywhere from one inch to two inches in diameter.

Avoid damaging the plant roots and stressing it out while stealing a few of the delicious new potatoes. The best practice is to try to harvest a few new potatoes from each plant.

Harvesting Main Crop Potatoes

For later potato varieties, harvest the potatoes when the plant dies back.

Once the plants begin to brown and wilt leave the tubers in the ground for about two weeks.

This will cause them to cure, or toughen up a bit, and can help to prolonge their storage life while prevent bruising.

Harvest the potatoes in the morning hours while it is still cool. Avoid harvesting during the hot times of the day.

You can hand dig for the potatoes, or use a small garden fork to carefully dig the potatoes out of the soil.

It’s always best to harvest potatoes when the soil is dry. If the soil is wet, wait a day or so for it to dry out before harvesting the potatoes.

Common Pests and Diseases of Potatoes

Potatoes are susceptible to a few diseases, the main one being blight. Potatoes are in the same plant family as tomatoes, and are susceptible to the same diseases.

Use good sanitary gardening habits to help reduce the chances for soil-borne diseases.

Avoid wetting the plant leaves when watering. Direct the water stream at the soil not the plant to reduce the risk of blights.

Always use crop rotation methods.

Gophers can be a problem will growing potatoes if you have them in your area.

The best way to deal with gophers is by trapping them, or luring them away from your potatoes with different scent repellants found at most garden centers.

The Colorado potato beetles is the most common insect pest of potatoes. Just a few of these beetles can strip a potato plant of most of its foliage in a couple days.

Keep a close watch on signs of the beetle and hand pick off the plant if found. Drop them in a bucket of soapy water, or crush them.

Try These Awesome Potatoes!

Potatoes Need Some Room To Grow

A Primer on Tubers

Tubers are plants that generally grow long, underground stems that thicken and which eventually develop into such foods as:

  • Potatoes
  • Yams
  • Jicama
  • Taro
  • Celeriac

Because these kinds of plants spread out underground, they require a bit of room to grow well.

Potatoes can be grown in containers, boxes, tires, towers,and bags, and each of these methods has a way of providing growth space; when planting your spuds in the ground, though, there is a need to plant with plenty of space allowance so you get the best potatoes possible.

Space the Rows

Planting your potatoes directly into the ground will usually require that you create rows in your garden. To do this, just dig shallow trenches, about three inches deep, that run the length of your planting area. Each row after the first should be about three feet from the previous one.

Your actual trenches needn’t be particularly wide, provided your seed potatoes can be planted three inches deep and completely covered with soil. Dirt from the area between rows will be used later on in the growing process, so leave plenty.

Space the Seed Potatoes

After you’ve dug your trenches and left plenty of space between rows, it’s time to plant your seed potatoes. This, too, requires that you allow for distance. Seed potatoes should be placed in their trenches, about 12 inches apart.

This will allow each plant to spread out and grow, creating new potatoes for you to harvest later. Once placed in the trenches, properly spaced and with their new shoots facing upward, cover your seed potatoes with about three inches of soil, ensuring that they are fully covered.

As the Potato Grows

In addition to spreading out underground, your potatoes will also send stems upward to emerge from the ground, which is a signal that you need to add more soil to the garden. When these new stems are about ten to 12 inches tall, you’ll want to mound soil around the new growth.

Using the soil from between your rows, cover the growing stems to about three inches from their tops. While you’re doing this, add whatever dirt might be necessary to ensure that your growing potatoes will remain fully covered and out of the sunlight.

3 Tips To Know How To Know How Far Apart To Plant Potatoes

3 Tips To Know How To Know How Far Apart To Plant Potatoes

How Far Apart Should You Plant Your Potatoes?

As a rule of thumb, potatoes should, on average, be planted at least twelve inches apart from each other. Distance-wise, they should ideally be planted 30 to 36 inches, although 20 to 26 inches can work as well.

You will also need to plant them along the rows, in order to ensure that they are not overcrowding each other and otherwise creating a competition in sharing nutrients and fertilizer from the soil. After all, you do not want to have inadequately-grown potatoes in your garden!

​Take this video for more information:

How Do You Measure The Distance Of Your Garden To Get Started?

While it is true that measuring the distance of your garden for spacing out potatoes requires the help of a measuring device (e.g. measuring tape, measuring sticks), you might find that it will also depend on just what type of layout you would like for your garden.

Some are more efficient than others, at least depending on the plant that you would like to plant, so taking that into consideration will be important.

In any case, there is one of two possibilities you might find yourself incorporating for this particular assignment. We show the two strategies down below:

1. Square Foot Garden

Using this technique, crops are placed in a block formation, rather than in a traditional row. This is to maximize the number of square feet in a plot of land to grow as much crops as possible in one batch.

Using string to mark off each foot of land, you will also need to make sure that there is a minimum distance between each crop, so that they do not crowd each other. You might also need to trace lines in the soil to make sure that the square is just right, before proceeding to make other squares in the rest of the plot of land.

2. Traditional Row Garden

As the name suggests, you will be planting crops along long, single-lined rows for a more spread-out feel to the garden. Especially if you grow different sorts of crops next to each other, it creates a sort of “patchwork effect,” or a multi-colored, diverse-looking plot of land that makes for a rather attractive garden.

To get started, you will need to measure out the length and width of the area that you are planning to grow the crops in. Next, you will need to do some math in order to determine just how many crops can fit into a row comfortably, without squeezing too many in.

You will need to divide the width of the garden by the space between the rows and the length of the garden by the space between plants. You will tend plot each point with a stick, before starting to plant your potatoes and other crops (if you so desire).

Any Troubleshooting Issues We Need To Know About?

If you perform all of the strategies’ instructions above in perfect order, then you should not have any problem with distances between potatoes. If anything, growing them farther away than usual is better than closer, which can create problems with soil and nutrient distribution. If you have any troubleshooting questions, though, please do let us know!


Overall, planting potatoes in terms of distance apart is not too difficult if you research beforehand and know what to expect. Soon enough, you will have big, full potatoes growing prosperously in your garden.

Minnesota gardeners, are you ready to plant veggies? Many vegetable plants require waiting until after last frost (usually around mid-May) to be planted, but there are some exceptions. So if you just can’t wait to plant, or you want to grow some cool season veggies, now is the time!

Cool season vegetables include onions, potatoes, peas, lettuce, kale, beets, radish, carrots, turnips and asparagus. These vegetables can be planted from seed (or tuber or set) as soon as the soil warms and is workable, early to mid-April in Minnesota. Broccoli, cauliflower, Brussel sprouts, and early cabbage are also cool season crops, and prefer to be planted before the weather gets too warm. These vegetables must be started from seed indoors or purchased as plants from a garden center.

Onion sets. From It’s Not Working, It’s Gardening

Planting onion sets

Onions can be purchased in sets. Onion sets are short day varieties and the bulbs usually grow as large as long day varieties. Onions need full sun and prefer a well-drained soil with plenty of organic matter. Plant the pointy side up, 1”-2” deep and 3”-4” apart. Firm soil around the bulbs. Soak the soil thoroughly when watering, to a depth of at least 1 inch each week during the growing season.

Harvest onions when about half the tops are falling over and dry. Undercut and lift bulbs with a spading fork.

Potatoes from Univerisity of Minnesota Extension.

If you’d like to plant potatoes, be sure to purchase seed potatoes that are fresh and firm. Cut potato tubers into 2-ounce pieces. Make sure there is at least one eye per piece. Allow pieces to dry on newspaper overnight.

Prepare a deep and loose soil bed. Adding compost helps add needed nutrients to the soil. Plant potato pieces 4 inches deep, eyes facing up, and cover with soil. Space tuber pieces 12 inches apart, in rows 36 inches apart. Hill the soil around plants as they grow to keep potatoes covered with soil.

Harvest by gently loosening the soil with a pitchfork – 7-8 weeks after planting for “new potatoes” or when the foliage has dried out and fallen over for fully mature potatoes.

These veggies prefer cooler temperatures and will do best when planted early. As the weather warms, cool season vegetables will begin to perform poorly – some lettuces may become bitter, peas will stop growing, and radish may bolt.

Some cool crops can be planted again in late summer or early fall depending on the amount of time each variety needs to grow and the plants cold tolerance. Cool season crops will grow well in the cooler fall weather and you’ll have another harvest. Some vegetables, such as carrots, parsnip, and some kales can even be harvested through frost and snow when properly mulched.

For more information about spring and late summer plantings of cool season veggies, visit the U of M Extension website

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