The Q&A Archives: Growing Potatoes

Question: I planted a 100 ft. row of Kennebec potatoes in late April/early May. I planted them 12 in. apart and 4-6 in. deep in rows 3 ft. apart. I made sure to have at least 2 eyes on each piece. As they grew, I mounded them. For a while they were big bushy and green. Recently, the plants have started falling over and some of the leaves have turned yellow and brown. I have looked at their roots, and have not noticed any potatoes forming. No flowers have formed yet on the the plants. What could be wrong? Should flowers and/or potateos have formed by now? I try and water them at least twice a week with sprinklers.

Answer: I suspect that your plants haven't been getting quite enough water. Potatoes should be easy to grow. Here are some basics: Potatoes need space, sunshine, and fertile, well-drained soil. Work plenty of organic matter into the soil prior to planting. Purchase certified seed potatoes and then cut them into pieces. Each piece should have 2-3 eyes. Plant potatoes in rows spaced 3' apart, placing the seed pieces 6" apart, and cover them with 4-5 inches of soil. As the vines grow, hill soil, leaves, compost or straw over them to keep the developing tubers covered. Leave just the top of the stem and a few leaves uncovered. Once the plants begin to flower (an indication that the tubers are beginning to develop underground), stop hilling and apply a thick mulch to help the soil retain moisture. When the foliage begins to wither and die, harvest potatoes by digging with a spading fork. Allow them to dry, then brush off any dirt and store the potatoes in a cool (40F degrees), dark place. By following these guidelines you should have a bumper harvest next year.

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