How to Grow Potatoes in a Home Garden
All over the world, the good old potato is a staple food. This is partly down to how nice and versatile they are when it comes to finding something to ‘do’ with it, but also because it’s so easy to learn how to grow potatoes in your home garden. Of course if you’re new to this whole potato growing business, you will probably want to start with just one variety to see how it all works.
Speaking of being new and all, I thought I should be honest here by letting you know that I’m actually a relative newbie when it comes to growing potatoes. The stuff I’m about to share on this page are the basics, but they are useful nonetheless.
And yes the truth is, initially I was pretty clueless about the whole process. You know things like soil or container preparation, climate, cultivation method, disease and pest issues, storage, etc. I went to several sites and forums in order to get all the necessary info, but you know what I got instead?
Info-overload induced headache is what I got!
So many folks were providing different and conflicting info. However, I came across this over a hundred pages long potato growing guide by Lucia Grimmer who is a Plant Pathologist (I didn’t know there was such a thing—shameful me!), and I decided to download the guide.
I followed the tips and instructions she shared in her guide diligently, fast forward a few months later and BOOM! I’ve grown me some fiiiiiiiiine looking potatoes right in my backyard garden.
My gardening hat’s off to you Madam Lucia Grimmer for your splendidly helpful guide. There are diagrams in there, pictures and complete, easy to follow instructions. So if you’re actually looking for a complete and newbie-friendly bible-like guide to growing potatoes, I think you’ll really love this one. Here’s a photo of the guide with a clickable button in case you want to get more details on it.
I apologize for blabbing a little too much there. Now, let’s get to the basics of growing potatoes. Very quickly, you’ll discover how easy a hobby it is and you can try different varieties and have home grown potatoes for many months of the year. There are so many more varieties available to the home potato grower than you’ll find in the supermarkets, and growing potatoes at home is an ideal way to try some different types.
When learning how to grow potatoes, you need to remember that irrelevant of the type of potatoes you decide to grow, the soil preparation is the same. Potatoes need to grow in well-drained soil that is fertile and dug deeply to allow the roots to spread and the potatoes to form. The soil needs to have plenty of organic matter in it, perhaps in the form of well-rotted horse manure. This will help guarantee a good crop.
Home grown potatoes need a sunny site that is quite sheltered and out of any frost pockets. A late frost could well hinder the progress of early varieties. In my garden, I grow my potatoes in a raised bed. It’s nothing fancy, just old scaffold planks and chunks of old fence post at the corners. It means I can dig it over so much more easily, and dig in plenty of manure and the weeding is so much less unpleasant!
I prepare my potato bed in the autumn, where I just dig it over, take out any weeds and leave it. In the following march I dig in some manure, about a wheelbarrow full per square meter, water it and leave it a bit longer. Potatoes don’t like lime in the soil, so don’t bother with that.
You don’t have to prepare that far in advance, you can just decide to plant some and get on with it. I just do it that way as part of the summer tidy up. Potatoes tend to fall into three groups: Earlies, Second Earlies and Maincrops.
The Maincrops need the longest time to grow, and should be planted first. The Earlies need the shortest amount of time to grow and should be planted last, although they will be ready first and harvested first. Earlies will be ready about mid-June-July, and will take about 15-16 weeks to mature.
Second Earlies will be ready from June through till August, depending on when you planted them, and will have taken about 16-17 weeks to mature. Maincrop potatoes generally take 18-20 weeks until they’re ready, and will be ripe anytime from August until end of September or later. The maincrop potatoes are the best ones for storing into the autumn.
The seed potatoes you will be planting need to be about the size of an egg when they go in. They should have shoots on them that are about 2 inches long. Handle them carefully to avoid breaking them off. Seed potatoes that are larger than this can be cut in two, lengthways, making sure that there are eyes and/or shoots on both halves.
If your seed potatoes sprout more than two shoots, gently rub off the weaker looking ones. The seed potatoes will need planting in furrows about 3-5 inches deep, but take advice from the supplier’s instructions. Earlies need to be spaced about 12 inches in rows about 16-20 inches apart.
Maincrops need to be spaced 16 inches apart in rows about 30 inches apart. Carefully place the seed potatoes in the furrows, and sprinkle over some grass cuttings as this will help prevent scab disease. Cover over the seed potatoes by drawing the soil over them and creating a ridge along the planting line.
The raised soil is needed to protect the seed potatoes from the frost and sunlight. If frost is forecast, make sure any green shoots are covered over, with soil and/or horticultural fleece. As the shoots grow, they need continually covering with soil. This encourages the plant upwards and aids the development of the new potatoes.
By the end of the growing time, the ridge should be about 6 inches high and at an angle of about 45degrees, just to give you some idea of where you’re headed. Once the tubers are about the size of a marble, they must have plenty of water; otherwise the crop will be poor. You can harvest your potatoes as soon as they are large enough.
If they seem too small, leave them awhile. They can double in size over a two week period. Maincrops can be left in the ground for much longer, even though the green stalks above ground may be looking grim. If you cut off the greenery above the ground two weeks before you plant to harvest, the skins of your home grown potatoes will toughen up and storing them after harvest will be more successful.
So, that’s the basics of how to grow potatoes. Don’t forget, an extremely detailed yet easy to follow step-by-step downloadable guide is available for your perusal. Go ahead and check out the image with the clickable button below for more info.