Potatoes are one of the most satisfying vegetables you can grow! Then, there’s the harvesting! Unearthing those delicious tubers is like finding buried nuggets of gold. Here’s how to plant, grow, and harvest potatoes.
First, you need to decide what to grow.
There are three main types of potato: early, second early (or mid-season) and maincrop (late).
First early varieties are quickest to crop, in early to midsummer, with second earlies following a few weeks later. Early potatoes tend to be smaller than maincrop varieties but are very tasty, often with a waxy texture that makes them perfect for potato salad.
Maincrop potatoes are harvested in late summer or fall. They are normally high yielding, and many will store well.
Check the variety description to discover the recommended use for that variety. Some varieties also offer resistance to diseases such as blight, which can devastate a crop in warm, wet summers.
Preparing Potatoes for Planting
Large seed potatoes can be cut into smaller pieces, each with at least two ‘eyes’. Allow the cut to air dry for a day before planting.
In areas with later or cooler Springs, it’s a good idea to sprout or ‘chit’ your seed potatoes up to six weeks before planting. Place them in a single layer in trays or egg cartons with the ends with most eyes (where the shoots will sprout from) pointing up. Keep them in a cool, bright place to encourage thick, sturdy shoots.
How to Plant Potatoes
Choose a sunny spot with rich, free-draining but moist soil to plant your potatoes.
Plant first early potatoes once the soil has started to warm up in early spring, then second earlies a few weeks later, followed by maincrops a couple of weeks after that, in mid-spring.
Our Garden Planner can recommend the best times to plant in your garden based on data from your local weather station. The Planner is also a great place to browse variety descriptions and, of course, to plan where your potatoes will grow so you can see exactly how many you have space for.
Seed potatoes can be planted either in trenches or individual planting holes. Plant the tubers around six inches deep, and space them a foot apart along the row. Space rows of early varieties at least 18 inches apart, or at least 30 inches for maincrops.
After two to three week shoots will appear above the ground. Light frosts won’t harm them much, but protect them with a row cover if it will get really cold.
Start hilling your potatoes once they reach six inches tall. Hilling mounds soil along the row to help increase yields and reduces the risk of tubers turning green, which they will do if exposed to light. Draw up the soil around the shoots, leaving the very tops above the soil level. Repeat hilling each time the foliage reaches six inches above soil level. Continue till the mounds are either a foot tall or the foliage above has closed over.
You’ll need to remove weeds to begin with, but the dense foliage of potatoes soon crowds out competition. Keep potatoes well-watered in dry weather to avoid cracking and to produce the best yields.
How to Harvest Potatoes
Harvest potatoes small as ‘new’ potatoes once the plants begin to flower, a couple of months after planting. Continue harvesting early varieties in stages, leaving the remaining plants to grow on until needed.
For maincrop potatoes, wait until the foliage has died back towards the end of summer or in early fall. Leave the tubers underground for a two more weeks. Choose a dry day to dig up the tubers with a fork, taking care not to accidentally spear them. Brush off loose soil and let the potatoes air dry for a few hours.
Store in a dark, cool, but frost-free place.
See our Potato Growing Guide for more information on planting, growing, varieties, pest control, harvesting, storing, and recipes!
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