Growing White Potatoes

White potatoes are classics with light tan skin and pure white flesh, and are indispensable for using in nearly any recipe but are superb when boiled or fried.
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How to Grow Potatoes 05:02

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

White potatoes, with their smooth, light tan skin and white flesh, are the most common potato varieties used for processing, especially for making potato chips and fries in fast food restaurants. The all-purpose tubers are good in nearly any potato recipe; when baked, steamed, or boiled they are healthier alternatives to being fried. Their skin is thin and delicate enough to leave on even when making mashed potatoes.  

Good Varieties

Onaway  is somewhat rough-looking and has light tan skin and a buttery flavor when cooked; it is an early-producing variety, harvested often after just three months which is very handy for growing in areas with a short period of cool weather. Elba, another early variety, is a dependable producer in home gardens with outstanding resistance to disease and drought, and firm white flesh. Superior produces tremendous yields early in the season and holds up very well when cut and fried.

Maris Bard is a popular British variety with a soft waxy texture good for boiling. Kennebek, one of the top ten potatoes grown in the Northeast, is well-suited for growing in harsh conditions, and superb for baking in skins. Irish Cobbler is a widely-grown heirloom with a strong, consistent yield and a strong potato flavor; it is a favorite for making mashed potatoes.

Growing Potatoes

Potatoes are tubers that sprout from the lower stems of leafy plants set out during cool weather when there is no danger of a freeze but when temperatures remain below the mid-80s. Fresh mature tubers are cut into small pieces, each with one or two small buds called “eyes” and planted where soil or thick mulch can be piled up around the young plants as they grow. This keeps the lower stems in total darkness, which is important for the new tubers to form and to prevent greening which makes the tubers taste bitter and can indicate high levels of solanine, a natural but poisonous alkaloid.

Supermarket potatoes often do poorly because they may not be the best varieties for your area, or may even be treated to prevent sprouting. Get seed potatoes for cutting and planting at local garden centers or online; order early while supplies last.

Potatoes need at least seven or eight hours of direct sunshine, well-drained acidic soil, and good fertility, with an all-purpose fertilizer applied at planting time and a little more when the plants are about half grown.

Plant potatoes in rows, individual mounds or hills, raised beds, or in containers such as plastic bags, large buckets, or even stacks of used tires with the bottom one filled with soil and the others filled with leaves or straw.

Lower stems which are exposed to sunlight often fail to produce tubers later, so as soon as the plants begin to grow a few inches, pile more loose soil or mulch over the plants so only a few leaves show. Do this every week or so until six or more inches of stem are completely buried. Any potatoes exposed to sunlight may turn green, which can be poisonous.

Harvesting Potatoes

Small early or “new” potatoes can be harvested about three months after planting, or when the plants are in flower. For larger, mature tubers wait until the plants begin to turn yellow, or about four months after planting, at which time any still-growing plants can be cut a few days before harvesting the buried tubers.

Store tubers in a cool, dry, dark area for up to four or five months, checking regularly for decay.

Next Up

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 New Potatoes

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

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 Rooster Potatoes

Rooster potatoes, produced by the Albert Bartlett company, are a popular but patented new variety of red-skinned, yellow-flesh potato which are currently not legally available for growing by American home gardeners.

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.

How to Grow First Early Potatoes

Early potatoes, varieties that grow quickly and are harvested while small and tender, save money and time in gardens while providing unique growing and eating experiences. “First earlies” are the cream of the crop.

Are Potatoes Poisonous?

Are green potatoes safe to eat? In a nutshell, no. But there are some ways you can reduce the likelihood of problems.

Planting Seed Potatoes

Potatoes make seeds - but they are not what you plant. Potato seed is what gardeners call small pieces of cut-up whole potato tubers, each with a growing bud that will form a new potato plant.

What Are Irish Potatoes?

Irish potatoes are not Irish – they are a type of white potato from South American which are forever associated with an infamous potato-disease famine in Ireland.

Potato Plant Basics

Potato plants are attractive vegetables that grow in cool weather. Though all above-ground parts are poisonous, they form perfectly safe, delicious and nutritious edible tubers on the lower stems.

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