Learn how to plant seed potatoes to provide your family with a root crop that can give delicious meals long into winter.
Living in South Dakota, there isn’t many meals that don’t include meat and potatoes. Potatoes are one of the main food groups in this family. So, when I had to learn how to plant seed potatoes to provide my large family with our own potatoes all winter long, there were some trials and errors. However, now, when it’s time to harvest potatoes, I get the best crop out of my own garden year after year. Growing potatoes is actually more simple than I thought when I first started gardening.
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What are seed potatoes?
Seed potatoes are essentially just potatoes that will be used for seed. Personally, I have never saved my own potatoes to plant my own seed potatoes, I just buy certified seed potatoes every year. We do a large amount of russet potatoes and a few rows of yukon golds, as well as purple potatoes for fun! There are over 200 potato varieties to choose from, so have fun shopping! Look online, at garden centers, or even farm stores to find a pound of seed potatoes to plant in your garden.
Make sure to buy certified disease-free seed potatoes so there are not any diseases brought into your vegetable garden. Store-bought potatoes could have a fungal disease that you don’t want to introduce.
When to Plant Seed Potatoes
Living in garden zone 4, it is well-known to plant potatoes on Good Friday. However, in early spring 2023, there was still had 5 feet of snow covering my garden. So while home gardeners can do good to listen to elders who say when to do things, it’s important to know that sometimes, things need to be changed.
Ideally, plant potatoes 2 to 4 weeks before your average last frost date. If the soil is too cold, potatoes can rot. Therefore, make sure the soil temperature is at least 45 degrees F before planting seed potatoes. They can handle a light frost, but a hard frost will take them all out.
Also, wait until the seed potatoes have been prepared to plant.
How to Prepare Seed Potatoes to Plant
Before planting seed potatoes, you need to “chit” the potatoes. You know how when you leave potatoes in your pantry for too long and they start sprouting? That’s exactly what it means to chit potatoes. Allow the potatoes to chit so you get a head start on growing.
To chit, place potatoes in a cool spot that allows light in. Some people will place potatoes in an egg carton and allow them to chit sitting in there. Using a flat tray or something where you can lay the potatoes out so they aren’t piled on top of each other. Start this process 2-3 weeks before planting.
About 2 days before planting, use a clean knife to cut the seed potatoes into 2 inch sections. Each section should have at least one eye on it. Each eye will grow into a sprout which will make new potatoes. This allows the potatoes to dry out a bit before planting. It will prevent rotting when potatoes are sprouting.
If you choose to plant whole seed potatoes without cutting, that works as well. However, I feel like it’s a waste of money to not get as many seed potatoes from each as possible.
How to Plant Seed Potatoes
Choose a spot with full sun for the potato growing season. Prepare well-drained soil by making rows of shallow trenches, about 6-8 inches deep.
Place seed potatoes cut side down with the sprouts pointed up so you can see them. Space seed pieces about 12 inches apart.
Cover potato seeds with loose soil.
Cover with straw, about 4 inches deep.
As potato plants grow, if any of the potatoes show themselves, cover the new plants with more soil, making small hills or more straw. However, if enough straw was added after planting this shouldn’t be necessary to do.
There shouldn’t be any of the potato showing. That is a good way to get green potatoes. Direct sunlight is not good on the potatoes themselves. The flavor of potatoes improves in a dark place.
No, soaking seed potatoes before planting is not necessary. However, you should chit and cut the seed potatoes.
Plant seed potatoes cut side down. The eyes of the seed potatoes should be looking back at you. You will see eye-to-eye. Bet you never forget now. 🙂
Avoid heavily watering potato plants before they sprout. However, make sure soil stays moist. Once the plants emerge up out of the straw, start watering 1 inch per week.
Potatoes like 1-2 inches of water per week. A good choice to make is to do1 inch per week until you see flowers and then increase to 2 inches per week. Stop watering when foliage turns yellow.
Harvest baby potatoes once potato plants start blooming. Dig around the plants carefully to remove new potatoes for fresh eating, and leave the smaller potatoes to continue growing into larger potatoes. These will taste so much better than grocery store potatoes so enjoy all your work!