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Growing Potatoes: A Beginner’s Guide to Planting Big & Healthy Potatoes

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How to Grow Potatoes for Beginners

Home fries, potato chips, and potato salad, does any of that sound good to you?

Well, if they do, then you need to know how to raise your own potatoes. Then you could have all of the potatoes you need to make your favorite dishes and time.

So let this article serve as your guide to getting you started and learn most anything you need to know to raise a wonderful crop of potatoes.

Let’s get started:

Potato Varieties (And How They Are Best Used)

1. Russet Potatoes

Russet potatoes are some of the more common, larger potatoes. They are great for baking, French fries, hash browns, latkes (or potato cakes), and is one of the favorite types to make mashed potatoes with.

2. White Potatoes

These are medium sized potatoes that have a smooth flesh to them. They are great for frying, boiling, steaming, and using in salads too. They have a low sugar content with a mild sweet flavor.

3. Waxy Potatoes

Waxy potatoes are potatoes like Yukon Gold and Red Potatoes. They hold their shape very well so they are good for boiling, using in chowder, potato salad, and scalloped potatoes too.

4. Colorful Potatoes

photo by npr.org

photo by npr.org

These are different potatoes and some that you may not be as familiar with. They are potatoes like All-blue potatoes. They have a bluish outer skin and purplish inside. They are filled with different vitamins in comparison to other potatoes because of the different colors that they contain.

5. Fingerling Potatoes

photo by pickycook.com

photo by pickycook.com

Fingerling potatoes are a favorite around our household. They are smaller and sort of look like little fingers. They are great for potato salad too since they hold their shape pretty well.

6. New Potatoes

photo by wisegeek.com

photo by wisegeek.com

New potatoes are basically baby potatoes that are harvested in the spring. They are great for boiling and using as a side dish. They are very tender and great tasting too!

How To Grow And Care For Your Potatoes

You don’t need seeds to plant potatoes. You just need another potato. You’ll begin by placing ample of compost and manure in the area where you plan to plant.

Next, you’ll need to cut up a potato with eyes on it. However, do this at least a day or two in advance. You’ll want to do this because it gives the potato a chance to develop a protective coating. This coating helps retain moisture while also protecting the potato from rot.

Then you’ll want to be sure each piece of potato you are planting has at least two eyes on it. You’ll need to plant each piece of potato one foot apart and 4 inches deep. Be sure that you plant the potato with the eyes pointing up.

Also, be sure that you plant your potatoes in a place with well-drained soil, too. You will want to be sure to water your potato plants regularly. Once you see tubers developing be sure that your plants get ample water because they need it desperately.

Finally, when your potato plants are about 6 inches tall (but before they bloom) begin making hills around the roots in order to protect them. You will need to do this every few weeks as the plant grows.

Though this is one solid way to plant your potatoes, there are other methods as well. They are:

1. Raised beds

Just because you don’t have a large garden area, don’t let that deter you from raising potatoes. Build a few garden beds and begin growing your own potatoes.

2. In a compost bed with straw

photo by pinterest.com

photo by pinterest.com

Compost is a great thing to grow most any plant or vegetable in. The straw mulch helps to protect the plant. So if you have compost, a garden area, and some straw you have the right ingredients to raise them with this method.

3. In a bag full of dirt

I love this method. It is as simple as using a large outdoor trash bag, layering it with dirt and potatoes, and watching your potatoes grow.

5. In a wood box

Some people really prefer this method because it helps keep your potatoes organized. You plant everything in a pretty wooden box and then let your potatoes do their thing.

6. In a wire cylinder

The wire cylinder is another way of keeping your potato-growing efforts more organized. It looks neat, and the potatoes are neatly stacked inside a wire cylinder.

7. In a container

If you live in an area without much yard space, then you probably try to grow a lot of your food in containers. I like container gardening because it is condensed and organized. So if this is the category you fit in, then just know that potatoes can be grown in containers too!

Common Issues (And Solutions) When Growing Potatoes

1. Late Blight

photo by usablight.org

photo by usablight.org

Late Blight is a fungus. It strikes when your potatoes have been planted during an unusually wet period and when the temperatures are still very cold.

Then it progresses as the temperatures heat up. You’ll know you have it when your leaves begin to turn black and brown. Then your plants will begin to die off.

Solution: If you have this disease in your garden, all you can do is pull up all infected plants and remove them from the garden. This will help to keep the fungus from spreading to other plants.

2. Mosaic Virus

photo by vlu.du.ac.in

photo by vlu.du.ac.in

The Mosaic Virus causes potato plants’ leaves to curl and have splotchy spots on the leaves of light and dark green. The good news is this virus will not kill your potato plant.

However, it will seriously stunt the production of the plant. So you still want to avoid this disease if possible.

Solution: You can avoid this disease mainly by choosing plant varieties that are resistant to it. Plus, you can use insecticides to help keep this virus under control as well.

3. Potato Yellow Dwarf Virus

If you have this disease, you’ll most likely know it. First, it is spread by nasty little bugs called leafhoppers. Their name is rather self-explanatory.

Second, this disease will cause your plants to dwarf. Finally, this disease will cause your plants’ leaves to curl and turn yellow. Then the tubers will crack and lose their shape.

Solution: You’ll want to pick varieties of potatoes that are resistant to this disease. However, if you develop this disease in your crop of potatoes you’ll need to get rid of all infected plants and do not compost them because the disease will spread.

4. Potato Blackleg

photo by ag.umass.edu

photo by ag.umass.edu

If you encounter this disease, you will probably do so during a rainy period. The leaves will turn yellow and light green, while the stems turn dark brown and black right at the soil level. This disease will probably kill your plants, and the tubers will rot either before or after harvest.

Solution: The easiest way to avoid contracting this disease is to plant your potatoes in soil that will be well-drained. Plus, don’t plant your potatoes during an extremely wet period.

5. Potato Scab

You can contract this disease through the soil. It is a bacteria that is cultivated within the soil itself. However, this is usually just a cosmetic problem that impacts the appearance of the potato. So your potatoes should still taste just fine.

Solution: The best way to deter this disease is to use slightly acidic soil when planting your potatoes. This will help ensure that this disease doesn’t have the right breeding ground to form and take over your potatoes.

6. Bacterial Ring Rot

This disease looks basically like it sounds. Your potato leaves will curl and turn yellow. Then the stem will be filled with white goo and will rot on the inside. Sounds lovely, doesn’t it?

Solution: If you realize that your potato plant has contracted this disease, you’ll need to get rid of every part of the plant. Do not compost it either just to be sure that the disease won’t spread via your compost the following year.

Then you’ll need to make sure that you are rotating your crops each year to keep from cultivating more disease in the same area.

7. Bugs

A lot of bugs love potatoes. The Colorado Potato Beetle, Flea Beetles, Aphids, Wireworm, Cutworms, Slugs, Spider Mites, Potato Psyllid, and Leaf Hoppers all love to make a meal out of your potato plants. So you’ll need to keep a close eye on your plants to see if you have any of these pests hanging around them.

Solution: You can use mulch to protect the plants from pests. Keeping soil off of your plants is always a good idea because it does help to keep pests and disease at bay.

Also, you can use insecticidal soaps to keep pests off of your plants as well. So just keep these few pointers in the back of your mind if pests decide to move in on your potato crop.

Best Companion Plants for Potatoes

Almost every plant has other plants that they like to hang out with in the garden.  They are able to receive protection or nutrients off of these other plants. Potatoes are no exception.

If you are wanting to try the ‘buddy system’ in your garden, then try to plant your potatoes with: beans, corn, cabbage, horseradish, marigolds, or eggplant.

Hopefully you will see great production from your potatoes and their planting companion, too. Being able to up your crop production by simply arranging plants next to a buddy is an easy way to get more food from your garden.

Worst Companion Plants for Potatoes

As much as potatoes have friends in the garden, they also have a few foes as well. So try to remember to not plant potatoes near their garden nemeses.

Potatoes do not want to be planted near: pumpkin, squash, cucumbers, sunflowers, tomatoes, or raspberries.

You probably notice that some of these items are vines which means they will choke potatoes out. Others block sunlight and attract certain pests that will kill your potato crop.

So it is best to remember these certain plants and be sure not to plant them near one another. It could potentially harm both crops, which does not make for a fruitful garden.

How to Harvest and Store Your Potato Crop

Potatoes are actually really easy to harvest. You begin by cutting the water off of the crop for a few weeks before you are planning on harvesting. This helps the plant dry up.

Then you’ll want to make sure that the plant is completely dead. Look for dried leaves and the vines to be completely dried out all the way to the base of the plant. When you see this, then you know that the potatoes have reached full maturity.

So your next step will be to dig the potatoes out of the ground. You can usually do this by hand or using a tool like potato pitchforks or a small spade to help loosen the soil.

Finally, you’ll bring the harvested crop inside to prepare it for storage. You’ll want to clean the potatoes off. I don’t recommend using a lot of water to do this. You can either wipe them with a dry cloth just to get the excess dirt off, or a very lightly dampened cloth if you have some stubborn dirt that just won’t come off.

Then you’ll want to place them in a dry box or brown paper sack. If you have an area that is around 65 degrees and at about 95% humidity that you can store them in for around a week to 10 days, then definitely utilize it. This is to cure the potatoes.

However, if you don’t, then just skip that step and store the potatoes in a dark cool place like a root cellar or a dark, cool spot in a basement. Your potatoes should keep for about 3-4 months.

But, I should mention, do not store your potatoes around apples or other fruits that put off gases. This will cause spoilage to your potatoes.

How to Use Your Potato Crop

Depending upon the size of your crop, you might be eating a lot of potatoes over the next few months. So we wanted to provide you with a few delicious recipes to help you to use them.

Cheesy, Leftover Mashed Potato Cakes

potato-pancakes

I love potatoes, but I love recipes that allow me to not waste my left over mashed potatoes (because you know every time I make them, I make enough to feed a small army.)

Which is exactly what this recipe allows me to do. Plus, it adds a different flavor to my left overs. So if you don’t like to waste then transform you leftovers with this recipe.

Make this recipe ›

Loaded Baked Potato Salad

loaded-baked-potato-salad

This recipe looks so good! I am actually not a huge fan of regular potato salad, but this recipe, I could eat.

So if you like loaded baked potatoes, then you might want to give this recipe a go. It not only looks delicious but also appears easy enough to make. Anything that doesn’t have a mile long ingredients list is a winner in my book.

Make this recipe ›

Mashed Potatoes

perfect-mashed-potatoes

You can’t grow potatoes and not have mashed potatoes. I am a mashed potato girl, and I’ll be honest, when I cook them I add enough butter that I’d probably put Paula Deen to shame!

But we won’t go there. So if you are like me and love your mashed potatoes, then give this recipe a try. You might really love them, and you also might lower your cholesterol a little since this recipe doesn’t call for nearly the amount of butter I use!

Make this recipe ›

Creamy Potato Soup

loaded-potato

To me, potato soup is a tricky thing. Either it is creamy, rich, and loaded with lots of great flavors. Or it is basically cream and potatoes that tastes like blah.

Well, this recipe seems to hit all of the right notes of flavor. So if you want a delicious and creamy potato soup recipe then give this one a try and see what you think.

Make this recipe ›

Cheesy Scalloped Potatoes

cheesyscallopedpotatoes-4

Anything that involves both cheese and potatoes sounds wonderful to me. However, I’m kind of a snob about my scalloped potatoes. I think my mom makes the best I’ve ever tasted.

So when I saw this recipe, it kind of reminded me of her recipe. Hopefully you’ll enjoy them as much as I think I’m going to.

Make this recipe ›

And with that, it ends our fantastic ride on this journey of learning how-to grow potatoes. I hope you’ve been able to glean some helpful information and that you will have an amazing crop.

But I’d love to hear your thoughts. Do you have a specific trick or tip that boosts your potato crop each year? Do you grow your potatoes with a specific method (wood box, trash bag, etc.) and you’d like to share your experience and how you made it work well for you?

 

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