How to grow potatoes is not hard to understand, but there are some interesting tricks and twists to actual potato growing. Spuds grow on the buried lower stems of plants grown in full sun, well-drained soil, and cool temperatures.
What grows well in Idaho may fizzle in Florida; first thing to know on how to grow a potato is which kinds are best for your area. Grocery store potatoes often fail in home gardens -better to cruise local garden centers for locally-adapted varieties. You may find more unusual kinds online, but order early to beat the rush. Buy only fresh, disease-free “certified” seed potatoes.
Prepare a bed that gets at least 7 or 8 hours of direct sunshine daily - well ahead of time if late rains may make digging difficult. Work compost into the soil along with a little all-purpose or good organic fertilizer.
A few days before planting, cut whole seed potatoes into pieces about the size of a large egg, each with one or two “eye” buds on them. Dry them indoors for a day or two to let cut sides heal over to prevent rotting in cold, wet soils. Dusting with agricultural sulfur can help protect against fungal diseases.
The best way to grow potatoes is in rows or hills, but they also do well in raised beds and even containers. Place seed pieces about a foot apart and two or three inches deep, cut side down, then water deeply.
Potatoes sprout on stems above the original seed pieces. Those growing shallow will get sunburned and will turn green and bitter – and can actually become poisonous. Once small plants get a few inches tall, pile soil or a thick layer of straw or hay over them until only the top leaves are left showing. Repeat this every couple of weeks until there are at least six or eight inches of soil covering the lower stems so that new tubers are never exposed to direct sun.
How do you grow potatoes without watering, and weed and pest control? Though too much water can cause root and stem rot, and dark or hollow spots in the tubers, plants need good soakings during dry spells to form uniform tubers, especially during flowering. Weeds, insects and diseases weaken plants; for good local information on potato pest control, contact your county Extension Service office.
Small “new” potatoes can be dug within about three months, but for larger, mature spuds allow plants to begin to turn yellow, or cut them down after about four months and let the tubers dry in the soil a few days. Dig carefully to avoid cuts and punctures; do not wash, but gently dust off excess dirt. What you don’t use quickly, can be stored for months in a cool, dry, dark place, with regular checking for shriveling or decay.