New gardeners often ask how to grow potatoes in their home garden. Although potatoes do require room to grow, they are easier to grow than you may think. With a little investment of time and energy, you can grow potatoes in all USDA plant hardiness zones.
Getting Ready to Grow Potatoes
Potatoes grow best in a sunny location that receives six to eight hours of sunlight a day. They need humus-rich, well-drained soil that is evenly moist soil. Typically potatoes require one inch of rain a week, and benefit from supplemental watering during dry spells.
Preparing the Soil to Grow Potatoes
Prepare the garden bed to grow potatoes by tilling deeply and amending with a 2 to 3 inch layer of organic matter such as compost or well-rotted manure. Apply 10-10-10 fertilizer following the directions on the container and work it into the soil. Adjust the pH to 4.8 to 5.5, as growing potatoes require acidic soil.
Preparing the Tubers to Grow Potatoes
Potatoes grow from cut sections of the potato tuber. Cut the tuber into 2-inch chunks with at least two eyes on each chunk. You may notice a tiny bud forming in the center of the eye. This is normal, as potatoes begin to form sprouts as spring approaches.
Place the cut sections of potato in a paper bag and roll down the top to allow the cuts to heal for a day or two.
Planting Instructions to Grow Potatoes
Plant the potatoes in loose soil in the spring as soon as the soil has dried and is no longer soggy. Although growing potatoes are not harmed by the frost, cool wet soil will delay germination and may pose the risk of the cut tuber rotting in the soil. Soil temperatures should be at least 40 degrees Fahrenheit for potatoes to germinate.
Cover the potato tubers with 2 to 4 inches of soil, mounding the soil into a hill. Space potatoes a foot apart if you intend to allow them to mature. If you are growing potatoes to eat as ‘new potatoes’ they can be spaced 6 to 8 inches apart in rows spaced 36 inches apart.
Side dress with 10-10-10 fertilizer when the potatoes are 6 to 8 inches tall. Work it into the soil well with a hoe.
Hilling is Necessary to Grow Potatoes
Hill the potatoes by mounding the soil over the bottom of the plants when they are six to eight inches tall, allowing 2 to 4 inches of the potato plant to remain above the soil. This provides plenty of room for the new potatoes to grow without becoming exposed to sunlight. Hill again when the potatoes have grown another six to eight inches.
It’s Harvest Time
Tiny new potatoes form under the ground shortly after the potato plant blooms. Begin checking for new potatoes about a week or two after blooming. These baby potatoes are sweet and firm and can be eaten right away. For mature potatoes, wait until the foliage dies back before harvesting.
Learning to grow potatoes isn't difficult and will reward you with buckets of tender tubers ready for eating. For a New England treat, try new potatoes and peas with cream and melted butter as soon as the potatoes a big enough to eat.