Potatoes are probably the most common yet wanted crops. They do not look appetizing at all. At first sight, one could not possibly guess the delicious side dishes they can be turned into. However, by far the most attractive feature about them is that they can remain edible for a long time in large quantities outside the fridge. This trait makes them a perfect stash of food during cold seasons. So, let’s see how to grow potatoes and the tricks to make this process go smoothly.
Where Did Potatoes Come from?
Even though we see them today in all corners of the world, potatoes were first turned into domesticated crops in modern Peru and Bolivia where people first learned how to grow potatoes. This process took place between 8000 and 5000 BC which makes this plant a pretty ancient vestige of human culinary culture. However, it was only during the Spanish colonization boom in the 16th century when the Spanish introduced the crop to Europe.
In today’s world, there exist almost 5,000 types of potatoes across the world. Peru and Bolivia host more than 300 of them. They are herbaceous perennials that can reach even 24 inches high. The potato plant flower comes in purple, white, red, pink or blue color. Small green fruits follow the flowering process. However, these are toxic thus not suitable for consumption. Nonetheless, this still is a meaningful mechanism as the toxic compounds are actually protecting the plant from predators.
Now that we get to learn more about the cultural background of this produce, it is time to learn how to grow potatoes! This is an extended edition of our previous guide with the same topic. This time, we added extra tips and tricks that will ensure you a rich stash of food right in your garden.
Choose One or Several Potato Varieties
Once at the market, you will realize that there are more kinds of commercial potatoes than you ever thought. However, the best choices for your garden are the ones that suit your eating habits best. However, you should also consider consulting the USDA planting zone. So, before delving into tips on how to grow potatoes, let’s take a look at the range of species.
Even though there are a lot of types of potatoes, usually the crops can be classified into three main classes: high starch, medium starch, and low starch. The concentration of this white substance determines how the crops can be utilized in cooking.
High Starch Potatoes
This category may have too much starch for some people. However, they are perfect for baked dishes, and they go well with any meat that needs a fluffy side dish. On the other hand, they can ruin all tasty soups, stews, and even a simple salad.
On top of that, their durability is not their strong point. People should eat their high starch potatoes as soon as they are cooked. The representative types in this category are Brown Russet Potatoes and Blue Peruvian Potatoes.
Medium Starch Potatoes
This is people’s favorite class of them all. Their popularity stems from their versatile nature. With just the right amount of starch in their tubers, these potatoes can host a large selection of cooking methods. Their content is moister which makes them perfect for roasting.
The most common types in this class are white potatoes which can be baked, fried, mashed or roasted. Other representative names are Yellow Finns, Yukon Golds, Adirondack Blue Potatoes, and Purple Majesty.
Low Starch Potatoes
People often refer to their flesh as waxy. They are best in dishes that respect their shape and don’t intend to change it too much. These recipes could be soups, stews, parsley buttered potatoes, and potato salads.
The varieties that represent this class are red potatoes and fingerlings. The latter one looks like chubby yellow fingers, and they are actually considered an heirloom crop. This denomination sets its price tag a little higher than for others.
Miscellaneous Potato Varieties
There are other potato species that don’t fall in any of the above categories. This is because they developed differently than their parent variety. Some of these are new potatoes and sweet potatoes.
General Advice on How to Grow Potatoes
While potatoes are the least demanding vegetables of your own food, there are some general rules that make their development easier. First off, potatoes thrive best in extremely sunny spots. They need space and energy to expand their roots aggressively. The ideal soil acidity is a PH between 5.0 and 7.0.
Nonetheless, even if gardeners don’t respect these conditions, there are still high chances that the crops will be generous. Potatoes can adapt to almost any environment.
Another secret of the trade is to make sure you never grow potatoes in a patch that hasn’t been free of them for 3-4 years. These crops should be rotated in the garden. Moreover, the patch should be protected against weeds at all times.
Ideal Time for Planting Potatoes
The ideal season for planting your chosen potatoes is spring. This is when the soil is soft for work. The main sign that your garden is ready for this kind of vegetable is when the soil temperature is at 45 degrees F. Moreover, make sure the soil is not too wet, but just moist enough.
If a late season freeze shows its teeth, you should take some protective measures for your potatoes. Even though they can withstand a light freeze, it is better not to take chances. For abundant storage, you can organize a second planting on June 15th. However, the harvest, in this case, should take place as late as possible.
Preparations Before Planting Potatoes
There are some steps you should follow before putting the seeds in the ground. These methods will ensure the best results during the harvesting process. Therefore, just a week or two before your selected day for planting, you should keep the potatoes exposed to sunlight. The temperatures should be between 60 to 70 degrees F. These conditions will urge potato seeds to sprout.
Moreover, a day or two before planting, you should slice any larger seed in two with a clean knife. The rule of thumb dictates that the ideal size is around 2 inches square. At this point, all seeds must have at least two buds.
Don’t worry about rotting! It will take the seed two days at most to cover the open cut with a new protective layer.
How to Plant Potatoes in Your Garden
Usually, potatoes grow better when they are aligned in rows. As such, you can dig a trench that is 6 to 8 inches deep. Place each seed in the trench with a 12 to 15 inches space between them. At the same time, the rows should be interspaced by three feet apart from each other.
When it comes to your halved seeds, the cut side should face down while the eyes are pointing up. However, if you can’t allocate a generous space to your potatoes, there’s no problem if you give your plants less room.
As for the filing part, the 8-inch or so trenches should receive only approximately 4 inches of soil in the beginning. As soon as you see sprouts in the ground, you can continue to add new layers and even mound them in the soil.
Offer Your Potatoes Some Companions
Almost all crops thrive best when they have some soil companions. They can create a nourishing relationship by exchanging nutrients or offering protection to others. Even potatoes have their best buddies and this is one of the tips that will help you master how to grow potatoes.
If you want to make the most of your garden and obtain more food, you can adopt the “buddy system.” As such, you can plant your potatoes together with corn, eggplant, marigolds, cabbage, horseradish or beans.
Water Your Potatoes
Especially during summer time when temperatures reach uncomfortable levels, you need to take care of your potatoes by watering them regularly. Intensify your efforts when the flowers appear and after the flowering stage as well.
As a guiding line, potatoes enjoy around 1 to 2 inches of water each week. The moment the foliage turns yellow, you can stop from watering. This will trigger a curing process which will make your potatoes better for harvest time.
The Best Time to Harvest Potatoes
Now that you learned how to grow potatoes, it is time to see how and when to harvest the fruits of your labor. The optimal harvest time is two to three weeks after your potatoes finished flowering. You can collect the tubers by digging around the plants for an easy pull.
There is no spoil if you leave potatoes longer in the ground. On the contrary, it is best to let the small ones growing further while you consume the larger ones. This is the very beauty of homegrown potatoes. Gardeners can dig them whenever they need them for fresh home-cooked meals.
Best Storage Conditions
For winter storage, potatoes should find a cool, dark, and well-ventilated place for hibernation. The perfect temperature to support long-lasting storage should be between 35 and 40 degrees F.
However, you should keep in mind that each variety of potatoes has its own special needs. You should consult local farmers for more details about your selected types of crops. For instance, Carola and Russets are the best potatoes for prolonged storages. On the other hand, Rose Gold and Red Gold should be consumed in the fall.
Save Seeds for Upcoming Planting
Don’t rush to large potatoes for a delicious mashed potatoes dish. On the contrary, you should select the most robust ones for your seed stocks. This is an essential lesson in learning how to grow potatoes. Usually, gardeners do not need to purchase seeds from the market any longer for several generations. Therefore, you should repurpose the best crops you find for future planting.
However, potatoes start losing their majestic size after several years of repurposing. This is when it is time to get some fresh seed stock that comes with a USDA Certification.
It is considered a luxury to know how to grow potatoes and supply your kitchen with your own vegetables, legumes, and herbs. Potatoes are a wonderful support for your natural lifestyle. They provide good carbohydrates and can last for a long time with minimum storage conditions. All in all, potatoes are a good choice for rounding up your garden supplies.