Growing and Harvesting Potatoes

When you live in Idaho, it is common for people to think you grow your own potatoes.  Let me put this idea to rest.  Local farmers grow potatoes and the rest of us typically benefit by gleaning potatoes in the fields after the harvest.

Learn how to grow potatoes and the best methods for harvesting and storing.

    When someone passes away or a family is in need, they'll get potatoes.  So for the average Idaho home garden, there isn't always potatoes in the crop.  But that doesn't mean we can't or don't grow our own potatoes.

    how to grow potatoes

    In fact, we started growing our own just so we could have a variety of potatoes like russet, red potatoes and Yukon gold.

    We've found that growing potatoes isn't really difficult.  You just need enough space, plenty of sunshine and a love of digging in the dirt.  

    Learn how to grow potatoes and the best methods for harvesting and storing.

    Preparing Soil for Potatoes

    Start by choosing a location that has healthy, well draining soil.  A well-drained soil is essential for successful potato growth. Potatoes can easily rot if left in water or muddy soil.  

    It's also important to test the pH level of the soil, as potatoes thrive in a slightly acidic environment with a pH of 5.0-7.0. You can grab a soil testing kit off of Amazon or in your local garden store.

    how to grow potatoes

    Planting Potatoes

    When deciding what potatoes to plant, carefully choose your potato starts, or seed potatoes. These can be purchased from a garden supply store for new to you varieties of potatoes.  Or you can used saved seeds from your own harvest from the previous year.  

    How do you know if your seeds from last year will work?  If your potatoes are sprouting or have a noticeable "eye", they should grow into a plant and produce potatoes.  That's how easy it is.

    To use your potato seeds, simply grab a sprouted potato.  Notice how many "eyes" are on the potato.  Each of those eyes can be it's own potato plant after planting.  You'll cut the potato into pieces making sure each section of potato has an "eye".

    If you purchase potato seed from the store, you'll have a similar experience with multiple potato seeds with "eyes". 

    Place each cut potato piece into the soil about 6" deep.  You can create a trench for a row of potatoes that is 6" deep or you can dig holes for each of your potato plants.  You'll want the seeds to be between 12-18" apart.  This will give the roots room to branch out.

    Cover the seeds and water well.  

    Growing and Harvesting Potatoes

    Caring for Potato Plants

    Proper watering and mulching of your potato plants is super important.  Potatoes thrive best in a a warm, well drained soil.  They even like it a little sandy.  Sand helps in harvesting later too.

    Potatoes need about 1-2" of water each week.  That can look different in your area depending on your temperatures and humidity.  Since we live in Idaho, we usually need to water our garden 3 times a week to keep our plants happy and thriving.

    Water at the base of the plant.  Many pests and insects are attracted to wet leaves and plants.  When you water at the base, it keeps the bugs away and helps prevent mold and mildew.  Correct watering can prevent potato blight and scab.

    Sunlight can also damage your potato tubers as they grow.  Many gardeners will "hill" up their potato plants.  This means a couple times during the season, the soil around the potato plant is pulled up over the roots of the plant to cover them more thoroughly. 

    By hilling potato plants you can prevent sun damage and keep your potatoes from turning bitter from sun exposure.

    I'll be honest, we don't typically hill our potatoes.  But it is suggested and some people swear by this method.

    VIDEO: How to Harvest Potatoes


    Harvesting the Potatoes

    You'll know your potatoes are ready to harvest when the potato plant completely dies.  Why?  A dead potato plants means it has given all its energy to growing the most potatoes.  If the plant is still green, the potatoes have not grown and developed all the way.  You'll harvest will be small and your potatoes not as large as they could have been.

    how to grow potatoes

    Use a pitchfork to dig up your potatoes.  Start about 20" on the outside of the plant and work your way around the plant.  This way you are less likely to pierce the potato tubers and damage them.

    Dust or rinse of the potatoes and allow them to dry.  Place in a box, bin or crate with lots of air circulation and store in a cool, dry area.

    You can place them in a refrigerator, in a dark closet, under a bed, in a basement.  Try to keep them between 45-50°F and in the dark.  Sunlight will discolor the potatoes and can turn them bitter.

    Growing and Harvesting Potatoes

    Look how easy it is to grow potatoes.  Plant, water and harvest.  The biggest problem with potatoes usually happens with bugs or getting over or under watered.  Just make sure to check on the plants regularly and make sure they look happy and healthy.  If they do, you should have a nice harvest of potatoes and you'll be making foil dinners or breakfast potatoes in no time.

    how to grow potatoes

    If you are looking for alternative ways to preserve your potato harvest.  Check out these great methods of freeze drying potatoes.

    Learn how to grow potatoes and the best methods for harvesting and storing.


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