Whether you like potatoes mashed, baked, boiled, chipped or cut into fries, potatoes are a versatile vegetable and staple ingredient for many meals. Learning to grow potatoes is easy. As a novice gardener, then you should consider growing potatoes for the following reasons;
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• Potatoes are easy to plant, care for and harvest
• They do not require much land to grow
• They can last for months if stored in the right conditions
• Potatoes are full of nutrient making them healthy alternatives for grains
There are potato varieties you can grow that are suitable for different types of climate and are classified as either as earlies or maincrop potatoes depending on how long it takes before they are ready for harvesting. Here is a complete guide on how to grow potatoes.
Shop Potatoes Or Seed Potatoes
There is always a disagreement between potato experts and potato enthusiasts on whether shop people should plant shop potatoes. The reason behind this disagreement is because the store-bought potatoes are meant to be eaten rather than planted after harvest. Seed potatoes, which are also called tubers, are potatoes grown and supplied to farmers and gardeners to be replanted. Seed potatoes reduce the risk of soil and crop damage. They also produce superb quality potato plants and high yield as well. As a beginner gardener, you should go with the seed potatoes.
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Preparation For Planting Potatoes
Before you get to planting, you must prepare the seed potatoes and the soil to provide optimum growth conditions for high and quality yields. Fit and foremost, you need to chit your potatoes.
What is chitting potatoes? – Chitting potatoes is allowing them to sprout compact shoots or tuber. The reason why it is crucial to chit potatoes is to enable it to thrive when the potato seed or the tuber is planted. Potato chitting boosts the growth process of the tuber as the growing season is short, and time is of the essence.
The process of potato chitting involves storing them in a cool, well-lit area and free of frost. The best place for chitting potatoes is in a porch or garage by the window for the light. Place the seeds potatoes in an egg carton or tray with most eyes upright until the tuber shoots to 1-2 cm long. Place newspaper or rolled sheets between the potato seeds to keep them apart. The chitting process could take to six weeks, but it is a wait that is worth your while.
As you chit the potatoes, it is also best that you consider where you are going to plant the seeds and find the best soils to use even if it means buying. You can either grow potatoes in pots, grow in bags, or grow potatoes in the ground.
How To Chit Potatoes Fast
Chitting potatoes faster involves investigating conditions that can trigger sprouting in the tubers. Don’t worry, though! You don’t have to do the investigation part – there are experts that have already done the heavy loading for you. You can simply reap the benefits of their hard work to grow potatoes faster!
Once the tubers are harvested, until they sprout again for the next growing cycle, the potatoes are dormant. This is their natural dormant period, which typically lasts for 6 months. However, there are ways you can speed up the process. The key is to create certain conditions that will signal the potatoes to start sprouting and initiate the next growth cycle.
Here are some tricks to speed up chitting:
Once potatoes start sprouting, they need to be exposed to light to grow healthy and strong. However, darkness can trigger dormant potatoes to start sprouting. If you have a bunch of dormant potatoes you want to chit, place them in a dark corner of your refrigerator. Leave them in the fridge for 15 days before taking them out and placing them in a room with light. Remember not to leave the potatoes too long in the fridge since light is necessary for sprouted potatoes.
Warmth also speeds up growth in the sprouting potatoes. After you take it out of the refrigerator, bring it to a well-lit, warm room. Warmth speeds up the growth of young sprouts.
Humidity is another trigger that potatoes will accelerate green growth in response to. Place layers of potatoes with moistened paper towels between the layers. Alternatively, you can place potatoes in an egg carton and mist the outside of the carton frequently to create a humid environment inside for the potatoes to grow fast.
Ethylene is the gas that speeds up the ripening process in fruits. It’s often used for ripening tomatoes off the vines. You can use the same compound to trigger sprouting in potatoes. Ripening fruits produce this gas naturally to promote the ripening process. Storing potatoes with ripening fruits or vegetables can speeden up the ripening process.
Use Already Sprouted Potatoes
If you want to skip the whole process of chitting potatoes, there’s a way to do that too. Roomage through the potato storage in your pantry. Often, there are plenty of potatoes that have already started sprouting by the favorable conditions created in the area.
Sprouted potatoes in your pantry, even those that have started showing green growth, are safe to plant in your garden. If the potatoes in your pantry have too many sprouts, you can cut them into pieces or remove some of the spouts before planting. Ideally, there should be 3 or 4 shoots on the potato that you plan on planting in soil.
When To Plant Potatoes
The best time to start planting is around two weeks after the last frost has settled on the ground. Consider checking with your local meteorology department for the frost dates. For those living in warmer areas, consider starting the preparation a fortnight before spring begins.
How To Plant Potatoes
There are many ways of planting your potatoes. You can decide to use your garden or have an expert build you a greenhouse. If you decide to plant on beds, consider building the bed 36 to 42 inches in height.
Growing In Bags Or Pots
When you decide to grow potatoes in pots or bags, then you will need to find a good number of them to increase the number of seeds you plant. Most potato enthusiasts use towers for the potato bags. These towers are designed to hold multiple potato bags with plants. The benefit of growing in bags on towers is to minimize footprints on the greenhouse or garden, thus increasing yield per square foot.
If you prefer growing in pots, it is best if you use material pots. The non-toxic material with permeable edges allows air to flow through the material for the potatoes to breathe.
Growing In The Ground
The most common way of growing potatoes is growing straight in the soil directly. However, you can also prepare beds in the ground. Dig a channel in the garden to make a bed and move the soil to form a trench that is 6 to 8 inches deep and 3 inches wide by tapering the bottom. In these channels, plant each tuber with the cut side down every 10 to 12 inches and cover it with 3 to 4 inches of soil and compost. Adding manure or compost when you grow potatoes in the ground adds nutrients to the soil.
If you have a clay soil then growing potatoes will help break up the soil and made it easier to grow other vegetables in the same soil the next season.
Remember the two types of earlies and maincrop potatoes? Each of these types has a different planting procedure. For the earlies, plant the tubers in rows that are 2 feet apart and the potato seeds about 12 inches apart from each other. Plant the maincrop potatoes about 15 inches apart and in rows that are 2 feet and 6 inches as apart as well. Since you are planting more than one row, ensure that the rows run in North to South direction to allow each potato plan access to sufficient sunlight.
When To Cover Potatoes With More Soil
Whether you are growing in the ground, in pots, or bags, the potatoes need to be hilled up with organic material to push the tuber to grow wide and deep for new potatoes to form over the maturing potatoes. When the potato tubers or vines grow to about 6 to 8 inches about the ground, you need to add cover them with more soil.
If there is a late frost, the young and immature potatoes need to be covered with more soil to protect them from the damages caused by the cold.
When to harvest potatoes
Ideally, the earlies will be ready for harvest before the maincrop potatoes. Time to harvest is also dependent on the size of the potatoes you want. If you wish to harvest the small potatoes, around the size of golf balls, then you need to harvest two weeks after the flowering has stopped. To harvest the mature potatoes, wait for three weeks once the vines die. You must wait for the foliage to die before you embark on harvesting. One of the challenges is how to harvest potatoes without damaging them.
The three weeks waiting period is the maximum wait time as the potatoes might begin to rot. It is important to note that you need to harvest on a hot and dry day by digging 2 feet around the base of the potato plant to avoid destroying the tuber.
Download Free Grow Potatoes Instructions
I have made a easy to follow printable guide on how to grow potatoes. Click here to download.