How to Grow Potatoes

Abigal Gordon's Home Grown Potatoes







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Many varieties of potatoes, as well as sweet potatoes and yams can be grown in backyard vegetable gardens. Potatoes are aggressively rooting plants, and require full sun to grow. They will produce the best crop when planted in a light, loose, well-drained but moisture retentive soil.

Planting Potatoes    


  Planting can commence as soon as the ground can be worked in the early spring.


Potato plants are generally not sold in nurseries. Seed potatoes from a catalog are generally the best way to go as supermarket potatoes are treated with a chemical growth inhibitor to prevent sprouting. See Online Nurseries and Seed catalogs to the right of this paragraph.


Seed potatoes can be planted whole or cut into halves, or, quarters on larger varieties, with each

piece containing an eye or two . Because potatoes can rot if the soil is  cool or wet,

I prefer to allow the cut pieces to callus over, by leaving them exposed overnight.

Some varieties, particularly sweet potatoes are best started with sprouts.

See Potato Types and Planting Tips  which has an excellent article on this topic.


The soil should be evenly moist, but not wet or soggy. Soil temperature should be a minimal of 45 degrees F. If the soil is waterlogged when you dig, your seed potatoes will probably rot before they grow. Potatoes are a hardy crop and can tolerate climatic aberrations, light frost etc.., but you should provide some frost-protection for the young plants. A temporary ground cover (ventilated), or mulch.

7-12 days before your planting date, be sure to put your seed potatoes somewhere warm 60 - 70 degrees F. with abundant light. This will induce the sprouting process.



A day or two before planting, slice the larger seed potatoes into "seeds". Each seed should be approximately 1 1/2-2inches square, and should contain at least 2 buds. Smaller potatoes can be planted whole.  Your seed potato should have formed a thick callous over the cuts, which will help prevent it from rotting when planted. 



Dig the soil to a depth of 10-12 inches and be sure to remove rocks and other debris that could obstruct the tubers as they grow. Work in plenty of compost to ensure the right soil texture, but be sure to avoid adding manure, which can cause a disease called scab.





Companion Planting

 Potatoes do well in proximity of  Beans, Cucumber, Corn, Kohlrabi, Parsnip, Pumpkin, Rutabaga, Squash family, Sunflower, Turnip, Fennel,  Do not plant near to or and in succession with [The following season]  Eggplants ,Tomato plants or strawberries as they carry and transmit the same blights and will infect one another.

Horseradish, planted at the edges of the potato patch will provide protection against some insect scourges, as will marigolds.

The sweet alyssum has tiny flowers that attract beneficial insects, such as predatory wasps. Plant sweet alyssum alongside potatoes, or let it spread to form a living ground cover.




Irrigation prior to and after planting should be applied . Do not water excessively as this can promote root rots and fungus in potatoes. Drip irrigation provides the plants with a more uniform application of water, placing it near the root zone and using less water. Drip irrigation also minimizes the amount of foliage and fruit disease compared with overhead irrigation .   Inexpensive drip systems are available



When setting out seed potatoes, apply a common starter solution . For sandy loam soils or coarser soils -  fertilizer based on soil tests should be used --See Soil pH for more extensive data..  If heavy rainfall occurs during early in the season apply an extra side dressing.


Soil for potatoes should be high in phosphorus and potassium and very low in nitrogen , as nitrogen encourages foliage growth at the expense of the tubers. If your soil is very heavy, grow your potatoes in raised beds.


Recommended Varieties of Potatoes for Home Growers

Traditionally most people grow three basic types of potatoes in their gardens - reds, bakers, and boilers . However many new and heirloom varieties are now available through catalogs and specialty producers than ever before.

Yellow-fleshed potatoes not only have a rich buttery color, they are flavorful, creamy and moist in texture, without having to add butter or sauces. Yellow-fleshed varieties include Yukon Gold, Russian Banana, and Yellow Finn.  Fingerling potatoes, small in size but big in flavor, are popular in other countries and gaining favor here with gourmet cooks. Most are smooth textured, moist and great flavored. Fingerling varieties include Blue Potatoes and Various Sweet Potatoes.


The following are my personal favorites, you of course may prefer to scan any of the many online nurseries and seed catalogs.


Traditional Style Potatoes   Novelty Varieties

Zolushka Potato white skinned and white flesh tubers make excellent table potatoes. Fairly firm texture when boiled. They are highly recommended for fries and chips. Plants are compact and erect with pointed smooth leaves and; numerous big white flowers with slight reddish purple tinge on backs.

  All-Blue Potatoes  Crisp flesh and thin skin are a delightful shade of blue. Looks different but tastes like regular potatoes. Easy to grow, with generous yields
  Yukon Gold Potato Golden Yellow flesh Produces big, early, great-tasting crop of yellow-fleshed spuds for baking, mashing. Gold skin is shallow-eyed. Sprout resistant, super for storage
    Sweet Potatoes
Kennebec Potato Excellent all-purpose cooking potato flavored for its crisply flavorful flesh. Ideal for frying, thin skin makes peeling a snap. Stores well. Resists late blight, tobacco mosaic virus
  Sweet Potato Beauregard
Ready for harvesting earlier than most other sweet potatoes. Rich reddish skin wraps deep orange flesh that cooks up sweet, moist and meaty. Record high yields of uniform, crack-resistant tubers

Red, White, and Blue Collection   stunning blue-skinned Caribe, hot Red Cloud, and buttery Yukon Gold! Potato lovers, your dream garden awaits! This collection gives you 3 exciting varieties of spuds to grow


  Sweet Potato Centennial   Produces big, early yields. Appealing red-orange skin wraps sweet, meaty bright orange flesh. Plants. 100 DAYS.
Seed & Nursery Catalogs



Pests and Diseases of Potatoes  

  1. Colorado potato beetles are a serious threat to tomato, eggplant, and pepper as well as potato plants. This insect is notorious for development of resistance to insecticides over short periods of time. A rotation among different classes of insecticides is recommended to discourage resistance. There is a new commercially available strain of Bacillus Thuringiensis Thuricide that is effective against small larvae (less than 1/4 inch) and should be applied at egg hatch or when larvae are first seen
    1. Prevention and Control
      1. Pyola
      2. Lady Bugs
  2. Nematodes are microscopic roundworms that feed on plant roots. They live in soil and plant tissues, and several species may occur in any given field.
    1. Root knot nematode larvae invade tubers and roots and establish feeding sites before developing into adult stages. Adult females lay eggs in a gelatin mixture on or just below the roots surface. The eggs hatch and the larvae infest neighboring roots and tubers. Root knot nematodes reduce the vigor of plants and cause blemishes on potatoes [tubers].
    2. Lesion nematodes damage roots by feeding and moving through plant tissue. In addition, they increases the susceptibility of potato plants to Verticillium wilt and cause blemishes .
      • Prevention and Control
      • Beneficial nematodes
      • Crop rotation can be useful in reducing nematode populations, nematode resistant tomato varieties.
      • Infested potatoes  left in the ground after harvest will be a source of re-infestation. Destroy potato plants that subsequently emerge from these tubers to restrict nematode reproduction
  3. Potato Tuberworm. Typical damage from tuber worms result from larvae mining in the tubers/ potatoes. Small larvae enter the potato at the eyes. Deposits of excrement can generally be seen in webbing around an eye where the larva has begun to tunnel. The larvae usually feed just below the surface of the potato leaving a dark tunnel. Occasionally they bore deeper . The tunnel is filled with excrement and can be described as a dirty tunnel compared to the clean tunnels made by wireworms or other soil-inhabiting insects.
    1. Prevention and Control
  4. Wireworms.  Wireworms, are the larvae of click beetles, they cause damage by penetrating into the potato tuber as they feed. They are yellowish-white to copper, hard, smooth, and vary in size from 1/2 to nearly 2 inches in length. Depending upon the species, wireworms may spend up to 5 years in the soil . You can test your soil for wireworms by spearing quartered potatoes on sticks and burying them aproximately 3 inches deep. Dig up the potatoes after a week and inspect for wireworms . Rescue treatments are nonexistent. Preplant soil applied insecticides are highly recommended for control of these insects
    1. Prevention and Control


See Pest Control for more extensive data


1. ] Purchase vigorous, healthy plants from a reputable supplier. Pepper Plants, being susceptible to diseases,

viruses and insects, some varieties have been bred or hybridized to be resistant to certain pests.

Resistance to these pests is usually listed on the plant label using the following abbreviations:

V = Verticillium Wilt
F = Fusarium Wilt
FF = Fusarium Wilt race 1 and 2
N = Nematode
T = Tobacco Mosaic Virus
A = Alternaria (Early Blight)
TSW = Tomato Spotted Wilt

Remember that resistance to these problems does not mean they are 100 % immune,

good cultural practices are still important.


2.] Crop Rotation in your garden planting area

3.] Remove and destroy all plant refuse in the fall and use deep cultivation to bury any remaining refuse.

4.] Do not place diseased plants in the compost heap, as this will only serve to carry bacterial or

fungal infestation into the next growing season.

5.] Avoid over watering . Use surface watering methods. Do not handle plants when the vines are wet.

6.] Weeds compete with vegetables for soil moisture and nutrients and also serve as hosts for insects

and disease carrying bacteria and fungus. Control weeds in and around  the garden .

7.]  Control insect pests such as aphids, which are known to transmit diseases  from plant to plant.

8.]  Use plastic or organic mulches to reduce disease and blossom-end rot problems.

9.]  Choose a sunny location for your tomatoes. Leaf disease problems are much less likely  to occur in a

sunny location than in a shady one.

10.] Apply  recommended fungicides according to label directions at the first sign of leaf spot diseases


11.] Remove abnormal or unhealthy appearing plants as soon as they are observed.  To reduce the

spread of suspected diseases wash hands and tools with a mild detergent after handling suspect plants.

Garden Safe All Natural Fungicide3   Garden Safe Brand. 3 garden products in 1: Fungicide, insecticide, and miticide. Prevents and controls black spot, powdery mildew, and other fungal diseases. Kills eggs, larvae, and adult stages of insects.


Harvesting  and Storage of Potatoes


When you believe that you have early potatoes big enough to eat, dig gently into your early hills, feel for the best-sized potatoes and ease them out. The plants will keep on growing and producing as long as you are gentle and don't cause extensive root damage in this early harvest.

During seasons when the soil has been unusually moist, hunting for early potatoes by hand becomes more difficult.


You can dig up entire plants, harvest the young spuds you find and put the plants back in the ground. They will survive this rude transplant and continue to produce more potatoes. But working fast is important; freshly dug potatoes shouldn't stay in the sun very long.

In North regions [Zones 2-5 -See USDA Zone Map] , harvest the bulk of your potato crop in September, when the plant tops are dying and the days are getting cooler .Choose a warm, dry day after a period of little or no rain. Cloudy days are even better, since too much light turns newly dug potatoes green, changing their flavor.

Be gentle. Do not rough up or bump the potatoes. Each bruise lowers the storage quality of the potato.

When potatoes are exposed to light their skins turn slightly green , this is caused by a toxin called solanine . Solanine develops if potatoes aren't fully covered by soil while growing, or if you leave them in the sun too long after the harvest, or aren't stored in complete darkness.  Because solanine is slightly toxic, it's possible to get sick if you consume a large enough helping of greened potatoes. Peeling or cutting away green sections before cooking usually eliminates the problem, as most of the solanine is located in the potatoes skin.

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