When it comes to providing our family with the best quality nutrition to help them develop strong and healthy bodies, you can’t get any better than the food you grow yourself at home. This ensures that your food is grown without a bunch of unwanted chemicals. One thing that can be a lot more nutritious when grown at home is root or tuber vegetables like potatoes. Cultivated potatoes do not have the same quality of soil nutrition you can get when growing at home.
Growing and harvesting your own potatoes is easy and if you are sure to add enough quality nutrition to your soil your potatoes will be packed with nutrition that helps keep your family happy and healthy.
When to plant potatoes
When to plant your potatoes will depend on the area you are growing them. You should plant your potatoes after the threat of the last frost has passed and your soil is on average in the 70s to help promote growth. Many gardeners that chose to grow potatoes in containers opt to start their potatoes inside before the last frost allowing them to keep the potatoes warm and offer foliage a grow light to get a potato crop sooner.
How do you plant potatoes?
When planting your potatoes you need to plant them with the eyes pointing up. This will allow your plant to take off and start growing quickly without having to flip over to start developing upwards towards the warm sun. Gently cover the sprouted potatoes’ eyes with soil and continue to add more soil every couple of weeks to encourage your potatoes to continue growing upwards producing more potatoes in less time.
The key to growing healthy potatoes is to ensure that they have enough nutrition. You should never use the same soil for potatoes two years in a row and should always mix compost or another form of fertilizer into your soil before adding each batch of soil over the top of your potatoes. For the best potatoes, you want the best garden soil possible.
Potatoes should be given 1 to 2 inches of water per week to give them what they need to grow and transport vital nutrition. When growing in pots allow the soil to become dry to the touch between waterings to prevent overwatering your container potatoes.
Companion planting potatoes
For the best crop of potatoes in a large container with room to spare or an in-ground mound, you should consider companion planting your potatoes. For most plants, potatoes can leave them without what they need to thrive, but green beans and other lingams like peas and lima beans all make a great nitrogen-fixing companion planting companion for nutrient-hogging potatoes.
We like to grow bush beans in the containers with our potatoes after the last round of soil has been added. Brush beans will grow very fast allowing for the potatoes and beans to be harvested around the same time while the nitrogen from the bush beans address more nutrition to help your potatoes grow better.
Use seed potatoes to plant your potatoes
The most common way to plant potatoes is with seed potatoes. You can find seed potatoes online and at your local nursery in the early spring. Seed potatoes are organically grown potatoes that have grown several eyes that can be used for planting. Conventionally grown potatoes can not be used as seed potatoes due to the retreatments they have received to help prevent sprouting and make your potatoes survive longer in storage.
How to plant potatoes from eyes
Even with chemical treatments potatoes do often still develop eyes that sprout. This can even be encouraged by placing an onion in with your potatoes you are trying to sprout. The gas the onions let off promotes sprouting in potatoes and for this reason, it is recommended to store them separately despite both having the same ideal storage conditions.
Grow your potatoes the way your grandma did
Well, not my grandma, she couldn’t grow anything to save her life but someone’s grandma used to grow their potatoes this way. Large farms and homestead with room to spare can still be found growing potatoes with the hills or mounds method.
Generally, potatoes are planted in mounds or hills that allow the soil to be warmed faster and leave more room than a flat garden bed for vines to grow. Growing potatoes in mounds take up a lot of space and are best left to those that have a very large garden. For most families container growing potatoes allows for a larger output.
Before you begin to prepare your potato gardening bed. Your potato garden should not be the same soil you used to grow potatoes or other high-demand root vegetables the year before. This helps avoid soil depletion while supplying you with higher quality produce. To grow in hills you need to set up your rows with small mounds, add in your seed potatoes and sports, then cover with about 2 inches of dirt. After a couple of weeks return to add more dirt to the hills to encourage more potato production.
To keep growing your mounds and maximizing production keep adding soil and compost or fertilizer over the top of your plants that are 6 to 8 inches tall. This will allow your plants to produce more and have better quality soil. Another great method to improve the soil for your potato garden is to companion plant with green beans that are a natural nitrogen-fixing plant.
Growing Potatoes In Containers
I personally prefer to grow potatoes in containers to avoid having to dig for harvesting and to make it easy to save the soil and mix in more compost to use for growing other plants the following year.
Growing potatoes in containers make the growing process easier as well as the harvesting process. For the best results, you want a container that you can progressively raise the sides on to allow more sun to hit your potatoes but you can usually get away with a simple large container as long as you have a sunny enough area to ensure that the sun will hit the top of your plants in the early stages of growth. Popular options for growing Potato included grow bags, steal trash cans, and even homemade potato frames using wood frames to add layers along with more soil and fertilizer with each new layer.
When starting your potatoes you will need to place 4 to 6 inches of soil at the bottom of your container. This will provide soil for the thin roots the potato plants will form. Place your potatoes on top of this soil and loosely add another 4 inches of soil and fertilizer or fresh compost over top. Every two weeks or so as your potatoes reach 6 to 8 inches of height add another 4 inches of well-mixed soil and compost or fertilizer until you reach the top of your choice of container.
You can repeat that process until about 6 to 8 weeks before the first frost is expected to give the last addition of soil time to grow and mature the tubers in time for harvesting and storing.
Grow your potatoes in bags
Growing potatoes in bags is the same process as growing potatoes in another container but bags are a bit more covenant. Potato growing sacks can be rolled down to allow the sun to touch your potato plants as they grow and ruled up as you need to continue adding soil and fresh compost.
Some potatoes growing sacks even have a door on the side of the bag allowing you to open it up and harvest your early potatoes while enabling the potatoes on the top to remain undisturbed and even keep adding soil to the top of an entire season-long supply of fresh homegrown potatoes.
How do potatoes grow
Potatoes are root vegetables or more precisely tubers that form on the lower part of the plant’s stems. This is why you bury your potatoes more for several weeks after planting. As you add more soil to your potatoes you are burning the stems more to produce more tubers from the stems. This is why your potatoes will always be above the space you plant your potatoes instead of down at the bottom of the root system.
When you harvest your potatoes take a moment to show your children what the potato plant looks like under the soil. This is particularly useful for children to see if you are doing an early harvest to use right away rather than storing over the winter. Planting multiple containers gets you the best results for this.
When to harvest potatoes in containers and mounds
After planting and encouraging your potatoes to continue to grow more roots you will need to give your potatoes time to grow and mature. This will take several weeks. The tops of your plants will have flowered and matured before ultimately dying back completely. When the top of your potatoes have died off completely they are ready to be harvested from mounds and containers. These potatoes have matured and are ready to be housed in a cool dark place for the winter.
If you are looking for potatoes for immediate use like from a grow bag or container with a door that allows you to harvest while your potatoes keep growing you can begin to harvest after your potato plants begin to flower.
How to harvest potatoes
Harvesting potatoes from your garden is fairly easy but if you get carried away you can also leave cuts and bruises in your potatoes that will diminish their overall storage life. To unbury from mounds you will need to remove the dirt over your potatoes in the mounds setting it said for fertilizing and growing another plant next year. Continue to dig your potatoes out until your mound is flat to ensure you got all of your potatoes.
For harvesting in containers, the process is a lot simpler with less risk of hitting your potatoes with a garden shovel. Layout a large tarp or use the garden bed you plant to put your potato soil next year as a space to dump out your potato plant containers. After dumping your containers you can simply sift through the now loose dirt to remove the fully grown potatoes.
How to use your homegrown potatoes
Your homegrown potatoes are a great way to add more nutrition to your family’s diet by using them right in your favorite recipes like this sinful potatoes and sausage skillet dinner or my dad’s favorite pierogies recipe.
For storing your potatoes over their winter do not wash the dirt off of them. Place in a cool dark area with an apple to help prevent sprouting. Homegrown potatoes are great for freezing, drying, and canning as well.