The Best Way To Grow Potatoes
Well according to me at least. 🙂
Actually, there are many ways to plant potatoes, and many of them can produce great yields.
Potatoes are one of our staple carbohydrate sources that keep over winter, so I have experimented with several different ways of growing them.
The way I quantify “the best way to plant potatoes” is by measuring ease and time involved in planting and harvesting+quantity and quality of yield.
The traditional method of growing potatoes involves planting the potatoes in a deep-ish trench, and covering them with soil. Once the potatoes sprout and begin to really grow, you “hill” up more dirt around the plants to allow more room for the potatoes to grow, and to protect them from the sunlight. (potatoes that receive sunlight turn green and toxic.)
This method can produce a large crop, but it does take a good bit of physical work to plant, hill, and harvest. Plus, it is so easy to damage the potatoes when you dig them up, and once they are damaged, you must eat them right away or they will rot in storage.
The “no-dig” method of growing potatoes is the same in concept, but instead of digging a trench for the potatoes, you simply lay them on the surface of the ground, and cover with 4-6 inches of straw or leaves. Once the potatoes sprout, you mulch them again to make more room for the potatoes to grow- just like you would “hill” them up with the traditional method.
Harvesting the potatoes is a total breeze with this method! However, I have found that my yield is just not very satisfactory using the no-dig method.
For me, in the several different locations and soil types I have had, the best way to grow potatoes is by COMBINING the two methods.
Let’s start from the beginning, and I will take you through the entire process, step by step.
In my area of the world, potatoes can be planted in the early spring for an early crop, and late spring for a later winter storage crop. Anytime from St. Patrick’s day to Memorial Day is the appropriate time to plant potatoes, but keep an eye on the moon phase because potatoes get the best start when planted when the moon is waning, or getting smaller.
No matter what method of growing you will be using, you need to begin by cutting up your seed potatoes a day or two before planting.
A seed potato is full of little “eyes”, and you want to cut them in chunks that have at least 2 eyes left in each piece. You can expect to get somewhere around 12 pieces from each pound of seed potatoes. (this will vary with the variety and quality of your seed potatoes though.)
My helper is ALWAYS in full attendance…
Lay the cut potatoes on old towels or newspaper in a protected area, ie- no rain or sun can reach them. I like to use the floor of my laundry room or the garage. Let them dry for 24-48 hours before planting.
Once your potato pieces have dried for a day or two, you are ready to plant.
Instead of digging a deep trench or laying the potatoes directly on top of the ground, just bury the seed potatoes in 2-3 inches of soil. I can easily scoop a 2-3 inch hole with my hand in about 3 seconds, and drop the potato piece in the hole. Plant the potato pieces 12 inches apart.
Here they are uncovered.
Once you have covered all the potatoes with 2-3 inches of soil, lay on 2-3 inches of straw or leaves as a mulch.
Water your newly planted potatoes. If your ground is dry, then you will need to water them a couple times a week until they are established. I very rarely water my potatoes since spring is such a wet season where I live.
Once the potatoes sprout, cover with 4-6 more inches of straw or leaves + some compost. This accomplishes the same thing as “hilling up” the potatoes with soil, but it gives them more nutrients from the compost, is less work, and makes harvesting a breeze.
If the potatoes get super tall, you will need to mulch them again a couple times during the summer.
Once the potato tops begin to die off, it is time to harvest!
To harvest, simply pull away the mulch with your hands or a plastic leaf rake, and pick up the potatoes!
I love this method, because it is so easy, and it produces a great harvest every year for me. I am planting the majority of my potatoes this way this year, but I am also doing an experimental “potato tower” as well, to see how it performs against my current “best way to grow potatoes”. 🙂