Age-Old Wisdom meets Modern Tools
Planting Tips for a Better Potato Harvest
Here are four different techniques for growing potatoes for a better harvest! You can plant in trenches the traditional way or save time and effort with no-dig gardening. And by tweaking your growing regime, you can even enjoy some out-of-season spuds. We’ll show you how to grow your own delicious potatoes to enjoy from early summer right through to winter.
When planting potatoes, choose a sunny spot and soil that has been amended with plenty of garden compost or well-rotted manure. You can also add a slow-released organic fertilizer such as chicken manure pellets to help to feed your potato plants as they grow.
Growing Potatoes in Traditional Rows
Arguably the most productive way to grow potatoes is the traditional way, by planting in trenches. Plant the seed potatoes about a foot apart, in rows one and a half to two feet apart, depending on variety. The shoots should point upwards.
If your soil is light enough, you can dig a hole for each seed potato instead of excavating a trench.
Hilling with organic matter gives the tubers more space to grow and prevents any that grow near the surface from turning green. Start hilling once the shoots are up to your ankle, then continue drawing up soil or laying down organic matter every few weeks until the foliage has filled out between the rows.
Planting No-Till Potatoes
Potatoes can also be grown in a no-till garden. Snuggle the sprouted potatoes into the soil surface, then cover them with an eight inch thick layer of compost, dried leaves, straw or hay. Check with your supplier that there’s no risk of any herbicide residues if you’re using straw or hay. You’ll also need to weigh down loose material such as hay and straw initially – sticks will do.
There’s no need to hill no-till potatoes. To harvest, simply push aside the now partially decomposed organic matter.
Growing Extra Early Potatoes
If you have a frost-free greenhouse or hoop house, you can plant early varieties of sprouted seed potatoes into generous-sized tubs or sacks up to three weeks earlier than you can outside.
Plant the tubers on a four inch deep layer of potting soil. Cover them to a similar depth with more potting soil. To hill them up, just add more potting soil every time the foliage reaches about six inches high. Stop when you reach the top of the sack.
Move the sacks outdoors once the weather warms up. Don’t allow them to become too hot, as the plants will stop producing tubers if the roots overheat.
Harvesting Late Potatoes
You can also extend the season into fall by growing potatoes in containers or sacks. Plant ‘second early’ varieties into containers in late summer and bring them under cover as the weather cools.
In milder climates, plant maincrop varieties in late spring then, when the foliage starts to die back, cut the stems to the ground and leave them in place until you’re ready to use them. They’ll store in the ground for several months.
Find more information about potato gardening on our Planting Growing Guide.
Also, see our video on how to choose the best potato varieties for your garden.