How To Grow Potatoes From Seed: A Detailed Step-by-Step Guide
Growing potatoes from seed can be a rewarding gardening experience. You get a chance to cultivate a food staple right from the start and reap the fruits of your hard labor in a few months. The whole process can also serve as a fun learning experience for kids and engage them in a productive outdoor activity. This article will guide you through the process of growing potatoes from seed, step by step.
Choosing and Preparing the Seeds
Not any potato will work when it comes to planting your own. The best option is to use a seed potato. These are potatoes that have been grown specifically to be used as starter plants. They’re available at most gardening stores and online. Prior to planting, prepare your seed potatoes by cutting them into chunks making sure that each piece contains at least one or two ‘eyes’ or growth points.
Certified seed potatoes are preferred as they’re disease free. Once cut, let them dry at room temperature for a couple of days. This process, known as chitting, allows calluses to form over the cuts, which helps prevent rotting once they’re in the ground.
Preparing the Soil
Potatoes thrive in well-draining soil with a slightly acidic pH. Prior to planting, turn your soil over with a garden fork, remove any stones, and add some well-rotted compost or manure. This will help improve the fertility and drainage of the soil. Remember, waterlogged soil can cause your potatoes to rot.
Potatoes prefer cool weather and aren’t frost-tolerant, so you’ll need to start planting once the danger of frost has passed. In most places, this means planting at any time from early spring to late summer.
Planting the Potato Seeds
Plant the prepared seed potatoes about 12 inches apart, with the ‘eye’ or growth points facing upwards. Cover each one with about three inches of soil. If you’re planting multiple rows, space the rows about 36 inches apart to give the plants room to grow.
Remember to water your planted seeds well so they can germinate. However, don’t overwater — too much water will cause the potatoes to rot.
Caring for the Growing Plants
Once your potato plants are growing, they’ll need some care to ensure a good harvest. Regularly water your plants, especially during dry spells. Too little water will result in small potatoes, while too much can cause rot. It’s a careful balance.
When the stems reach about a foot high, begin “hilling” by raking soil up around the stems to form a mound. This helps encourage more potato development along the stem and also keeps any developing potatoes from being exposed to the sun, which can make them green and inedible.
Harvesting the Potatoes
When to harvest will depend on what type of potato you’re growing and how mature you want them. ‘New’ potatoes are harvested in summer, while fully mature potatoes are usually ready in early fall. The plant’s leaves turning yellow and wilting is usually a good sign that your potatoes are ready to harvest.
To harvest, use a fork to gently lift the potatoes out of the ground, taking care not to bruise or cut them. Allow them to dry before storing in a cool, dark place.
“Frequently Asked Questions”1. Can I use any potato for planting?‘Seed potatoes’ are the best option for planting as they are disease-free and bred especially to produce high yielding and healthy plants.2. How do I water my potato plants?Water regularly but not excessively. Potatoes require a balance, as too little water can lead to small potatoes while too much water can lead to rotting.3. How do I know when my potatoes are ready for harvest?Generally, the leaves of the plant turning yellow and wilting is a good sign that the potatoes are ready for harvest.