The Q&A Archives: growing potatoes -Russets and Red

Question: Had a garden for 7 years and grew up with one. Tried growing potatoes(russets) with little to no luck ended up with a hearty plant but marble sized potatoes. Started from eyes off potates. What is soil requirement and should I not use potatoes from store? Stack and build soil as plant grows? Best time of year in San Diego area? How long to harvest?

Answer: Potatoes from the grocery store are not good candidates for growing in your garden. They've grown in a completely different climate from yours, have been sprayed with a growth inhibitor to retard sprouting, and may carry disease pathogens that you wouldn't really want to introduce into your garden. Instead, purchase certified disease free seed potatoes for planting in your garden. Seed potatoes should be available from any large nursery. Now for the culture: potatoes need space, sunshine, and fertile, well draining soil. Plant seed potatoes whole, or cut them into pieces, each with 2-3 eyes. Space the pieces 6" apart and cover them with 4"-5" of soil. As the vines grow, hill soil, leaves, straw or compost over them to keep the developing tubers covered. Once the plants blossom, stop hilling up the soil and apply a thick mulch to conserve moisture and keep down weeds. When the foliage wilts and dies, harvest your potatoes carefully, brush off excess dirt and allow to cure for a few hours in a sheltered, airy place. Then store in a cool, dark location (40F is ideal. It takes anywhere from 2-4 months from planting to harvesting, depending upon the weather. Plant in April or May in your gardening region. Good luck with your potatoes!

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