How to Grow Potatoes:
Growing Potatoes Organically

Learning how to grow potatoes successfully requires loose, rich soil that drains well along with full sun. They prefer cool weather, so if you live in an area that has hot summers, you'll want to make sure that you get your potatoes into the ground early.

How to Grow Potatoes: Plant Snapshot (Solanum tuberosum)

How to Grow Potatoes
  • Family: Solanaceae (Nightshade family)
  • Annual or Perennial? Annual – Ready to harvest 90 to 120 days after planting
  • Recommended varieties: Adirondack Red, Kerr’s Pink, Russet Norkotah, Desiree
  • Cold tolerance: Half Hardy – Will survive light frosts. Seeds germinate at low soil temperatures and can be planted 2 weeks before the average date of the last 32 degree F (0 degree C) temperature in spring.
  • When planning vegetable crop rotation, group with crops from this family: Solanaceae: aubergine, tomato
  • Companion plants (see Companion Planting Charts for more info):
    • Companions: Beans, Cabbage family, Corn, Collard, Coriander, Eggplant, Horseradish, Lettuce, Marigold, Onion family, Parsnip, Pea, Petunia
    • Avoid: Fennel, Kohlrabi, Melon family, Parsnip, Rutabaga, Squash family, Sunflower, Tomato, Turnip
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How to Grow Potatoes: Planting the Seed

Where to Find Planting Supplies...

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The time of year you plant potatoes depends on your climate. They need a soil temperature of at least 45 degrees F (7 C), which roughly translates to late winter for moderate climates and mid-spring in colder climates. Those in warmer climates can get away with planting them in the fall and will have a much earlier harvest.

Small pieces of potato are used as seeds when growing potatoes. A two-ounce (60 g) seed with at least one eye is considered sufficient for planting.

Cut seed potatoes a couple of days before you plan to plant them so they have a chance to dry. Seed pieces should be placed ten to twelve inches (25.4 to 30.5 cm) apart and covered with about three to four inches (7.5 to 10 cm) of soil.

It is also possible to grow potatoes in straw mulch by covering seeds with an inch (2.5 cm) of soil and placing four or five inches (10 to 13 cm) of straw around the plants.

Snapshot: Planting Potatoes

  • Planting depth: about 3 to 4 inches (7.5 to 10 cm)
  • Spacing in rows: about 10 to 12 inches (25.4 to 30.48 cm)
  • Germination soil temperature: 45 to 50 degrees F (7.22 to 10 degrees C)
  • Days to germination: 14 days
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How to Grow Potatoes: From Germination to Pre-Harvest

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Keep potato vines well-watered during their growing period. They will need one to two inches (2.5 to 5 cm) of water each week.

To help conserve moisture and prevent sunlight from reaching the potato, apply a layer of compost topped with a layer of straw after the vines have appeared. The compost/straw layer should cover at least half the plant.

If you don’t have straw handy, create a hill of well-composted soil around the plant, leaving only a few inches of the plant showing.

Any garden weeds that appear may be carefully pulled by hand so you don't disturb the plant’s growth.

Snapshot: Growing Potatoes

  • Preferred soil pH (see soil pH tester for more information): 4.5 to 6.0
  • Growing soil temperature: 60 to 75 degrees F (15.5 to 23.8 degrees C)
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How to Grow Potatoes: Harvesting Time

Potatoes are harvested once the vines have withered and died.

You will need a shovel to gently dig four to six inches below the soil to harvest your potatoes. If potatoes were grown in straw mulch, simply lift the straw to harvest them.

Early or new potatoes are harvested about 60 days after planting, and the fully mature potatoes will be ready between 90 and 120 days after planting.

Potatoes need to cure for two to three days, and this is done by leaving them on the ground in the garden if the weather permits. After the soil on them has dried, brush them off and cure them outside for another couple of weeks.

Snapshot: Harvesting Potatoes

  • Time to harvest: Between 60 days (for early potatoes) and 120 days
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Storing Potatoes and Freezing Potatoes

Store potatoes after curing in perforated plastic bags. Choose a cool area with high humidity. Do not store potatoes in the refrigerator as the starch will convert to sugar.

Cooked potatoes may be frozen in various ways, but freezing raw potatoes is not a good idea as they can become mushy. However, this texture will not be noticed when the potatoes are used in some recipes.

To freeze raw potatoes, peel, water blanch for five minutes, cool, drain, and pack in freezer bags.

Potatoes are viable as seed for about one year.

Snapshot: Storing Potatoes & Freezing Potatoes

  • Storage temperature: 57 degrees F (13.8 degrees C)
  • Humidity: 80 to 85% relative humidity
  • Storage life (unfrozen in above conditions): about 2 months
  • Storage life (frozen): about 6 months
  • Seed longevity: About 1 year
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How to Grow Potatoes: Pests & Diseases

The following pests and diseases have been known to affect the success of growing Potatoes. For more information about preventing and controlling them, see Organic Garden Pest Control.

Pests

  • Aphids
  • Cutworm
  • Flea Beetles
  • Jerusalem cricket
  • Leafhoppers
  • Nematodes
  • Potato beetle
  • Potato psyllid
  • Potato tuberworm
  • Snails/slugs
  • Whiteflies
  • Wireworms

Diseases

  • Bacterial ring rot
  • Bacterial soil rot and blackleg
  • Common scab
  • Early blight
  • Late blight
  • Mosaic viruses
  • Potato leafroll
  • Powdery mildew
  • Powdery scab
  • Seed piece decay
  • Verticillium wilt
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