Growing Russet Potatoes

Russet potatoes are classic big, brown cut-and-fry or baking potatoes – large, uniform, and dependable producers in the home garden.

How to Grow Potatoes 05:02

Joe Lamp'l shows how to plant, grow and harvest potatoes.

One of the definitions of russet refers to a coarse reddish-brown homespun cloth worn in centuries past, which perfectly describes the russet potato’s patchy brown skin and rough textured flesh. Because of their uniform large size, oblong shape, and flesh texture, regardless of where they are grown, russet potatoes are ideal for chopping and frying, making them very popular with commercial processors; in fact, most the French fries sold in fast food restaurants are made from russet potatoes. They are also great for boiling, roasting, mashing, and making hash browns and home fries.

Russet Potato Varieties

While russet potatoes are commonly called Idaho potatoes, only those labeled with the registered Idaho® trademark are true Idaho-grown potatoes. 

Most of the russets in America are Russet Burbank, created by horticulturalist Luther Burbank in the 1870s. At the time the oblong tubers with white flesh were easier to grow, more resistant to diseases, and had better taste than other potatoes. It is known as the Idaho potato because so many are grown in Idaho.

Goldrush is similar to Burbank but has a somewhat higher yield when watered during later stages of growth. Norkotah is an early to medium producer with very uniform, lighter brown tubers, while Norgold is one of the earliest varieties, very important in areas with fairly short cool seasons.

Growing Russet Potatoes

Potato plants need three or four months of cool weather – neither freezing nor consistently above the mid-80s – to produce well. They require at least six or eight hours of direct sunshine and moist, well-drained soils.

Note: Because russets, like other large potatoes, tend to form hollow spots in large tubers, they require more attention to watering, especially during and after flowering when tubers begin to form. 

Supermarket spuds may be treated to reduce sprouting; look for certified disease-free “seed” potatoes in area garden centers or online. Cut seed potatoes into small pieces, each with one or two small leaf bud “eyes” and allow the cut pieces to dry a few days before planting. Dust with sulfur to reduce disease problems.

Plant three inches deep and a foot or so apart in rows, hills, raised beds, or containers. Work in an all-purpose fertilizer before planting and add an extra bit around the sides of plants a month after plants start growing.

Potato tubers grow on short stolons on lower stems, which can turn green if exposed to sunlight. Avoid this and its bitter flavors and the buildup of a poisonous plant alkaloid called solanine by piling soil thick mulch around small plants, repeating as needed until six or eight inches of lower stems are buried.

Harvesting Potatoes

Harvest when plants begin to turn yellow, or after about four months cut the plants down and allow the tubers to dry a few days before digging. While digging, avoid cuts and bruises, and only gently brush off soil instead of washing which can lead to decay during storage.

Store mature russet potato tubers in a cool, dry, dark area for up to four or five months or longer, checking regularly for shriveling and decay. 

More Potato Varieties

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Potato ‘Red Duke of York’

A vigorous first early, producing abundant, good-sized, red-skinned tubers with delicious pale yellow flesh. Perfect in salads when small, and boiled or baked when larger. Young shoots need protection from frost.

Plant: Early spring
Harvest: Early to midsummer
Soil Preference: Well-drained soil, moist soil
Sun or Shade: Full sun

Photo By: DK - Vegetable Gardening ©2007 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Potato ‘Mimi’

The ideal first early for containers, producing masses of small red tubers with incredibly tasty, waxy, cream-colored flesh. An excellent salad potato with good scab resistance. Protect new shoots from frost.

Plant: Early spring
Harvest: Early summer
Soil Preference: Well-drained soil, moist soil
Sun or Shade: Full sun

Photo By: DK - Vegetable Gardening ©2007 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Potato ‘Foremost’

Harvest this useful early variety from early summer or lift as required throughout the summer. The white-skinned, white-fleshed crop has a firm texture, ideal for salads and boiling. Protect young shoots from frost.

Plant: Early spring
Harvest: Early to late summer
Soil Preference: Well-drained soil, moist soil
Sun or Shade: Full sun

Photo By: DK - Vegetable Gardening ©2007 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Potato ‘Charlotte’

A supermarket favorite because of its long, smooth, yellow tubers, with fabulously flavored, waxy flesh.This second early is easy to grow in the garden, and one of the best salad potatoes.

Plant: Mid-spring
Harvest: Mid- to late summer
Soil Preference: Well-drained soil, moist soil
Sun or Shade: Full sun

Photo By: DK - Vegetable Gardening ©2007 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Potato ‘Arran Pilot’

A popular first early, excellent for gardeners eager to enjoy large yields of small potatoes with creamy, waxy flesh. Good scab resistance and tolerance of dry spells. Young shoots need protection from frost.

Plant: Early spring
Harvest: Early to midsummer
Soil Preference: Well-drained soil, moist soil
Sun or Shade: Full sun

Photo By: DK - Vegetable Gardening ©2007 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Potato ‘Saxon’

For baking, boiling, and french-frying, try this floury textured second early. The large, white tubers have a mild, creamy flavor, and the plants display a useful resistance to both blackleg and eelworm.

Plant: Mid-spring
Harvest: Mid- to late summer
Soil Preference: Well-drained soil, moist soil
Sun or Shade: Full sun

Photo By: DK - Vegetable Gardening ©2007 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Potato ‘Royal Kidney’

An old maincrop salad variety, ‘Royal Kidney’ produces delicious, yellow-fleshed salad potatoes from late summer. It is also tempting to dig up the plants earlier for crops of tender baby potatoes.

Plant: Mid-spring
Harvest: Late summer
Soil Preference: Well-drained soil, moist soil
Sun or Shade: Full sun

Photo By: DK - Vegetable Gardening ©2007 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Potato ‘Kerrs Pink’

This versatile and high-yielding maincrop variety is reliable in most soils. The blush pink tubers have delicious floury cream flesh that is perfect for mashing, french-frying, roasting, and baking. Stores well.

Plant: Mid-spring
Harvest: From early fall
Soil Preference: Well-drained soil, moist soil
Sun or Shade: Full sun

Photo By: DK - Vegetable Gardening ©2007 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Potato ‘Ratte’

The long, slightly knobby tubers harvested from this maincrop variety are a real treat. Their dense, waxy, yellow flesh has a strong nutty flavor, making them perfect for salads.

Plant: Mid-spring
Harvest: Late summer
Soil Preference: Well-drained soil, moist soil
Sun or Shade: Full sun

Photo By: DK - Vegetable Gardening ©2007 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Potato ‘Sante’

An excellent choice for organic gardeners because of its excellent pest and disease resistance, this maincrop variety yields large cream tubers that are great for baking, boiling, and roasting. Stores well.

Plant: Mid-spring
Harvest: From late summer
Soil Preference: Well-drained soil, moist soil
Sun or Shade: Full sun

Photo By: DK - Vegetable Gardening ©2007 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Potato ‘Pink Fir Apple’

A curious old maincrop variety, producing long, irregular tubers with pink-tinged skin that is best left on during cooking. The waxy flesh, with its earthy flavor, is popular in salads, and the tubers store well.

Plant: Mid-spring
Harvest: From early fall
Soil Preferences: Well-drained soil, moist soil
Sun or Shade: Full sun

Photo By: DK - Vegetable Gardening ©2007 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Potato ‘Nicola’

Resistance to eelworm and blight makes this variety a good option for maincrop salad potatoes. Large crops of long, yellow, waxy tubers are reliably produced and store well over winter.

Plant: Mid-spring
Harvest: From late summer
Soil Preferences: Well-drained soil, moist soil
Sun or Shade: Full sun

Photo By: DK - Vegetable Gardening ©2007 Dorling Kindersley Limited

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What are purple potatoes? They are natural varieties with deep purple skins and flesh, high in antioxidants which makes them extra healthful to eat.

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Red potatoes are generally easy-to-grow small potatoes with thin, edible red skins and white flesh, and are the most common potatoes used for boiling and steaming.

Growing Fingerling Potatoes

A fingerling potato is grown to maturity like most other potatoes but comes from a special variety known to produce unusual tubers that are shaped much like fingers.

Growing Blue Potatoes

Blue potatoes are not just fun-to-grow, interestingly-colored for cooking, but also often have subtle flavors and are very high in antioxidants, making them extra nutritious.

Growing Organic Potatoes

Growing organic potatoes requires careful attention to soil preparation, choosing early-producing disease-resistant potato varieties, and following good cultural practices, and using natural fertilizers, crop rotation, row covers, and if necessary, the careful application of organic pesticides.

Growing New Potatoes

Many gardeners harvest a few small, immature potato tubers early in the season, because they are extra tender and sweet.

Growing Waxy Potatoes

Waxy potatoes can be any shape, size, or color, but tend to be relatively low in starch, which causes them to retain their shape when cooked, making them ideal for boiling and chopping, not for mashing or baking.

Growing Small Potatoes

Many gardeners love hand-harvesting small, immature potato tubers early in the season from beneath still-growing plants. They tend to be extra sweet and tender.

Growing Yellow Potatoes

Easy-to-grow yellow flesh potatoes are a bit sweeter and have more antioxidants than America’s more popular white fleshed potatoes.

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