Ask a Question forum: Potato growing

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Name: Jared Nicholes
Post Falls, Idaho
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jnicholes
Feb 14, 2016 9:09 PM CST
Hello!

I just had a question, how do you grow potatos? I want to try it this spring.

Thanks!

Jared
Name: Sandy B.
Ford River, Michigan UP (Zone 4b)
(Zone 4b-maybe 5a)
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Weedwhacker
Feb 14, 2016 10:41 PM CST
"How do you grow potatoes?"

Jared, first you need "seed potatoes" -- which are either small whole potatoes or cut-up larger potatoes; you can probably find them at a local garden center, or order them from one of the seed companies. (Two varieties that I really like are Red Gold and German Butterball, but there are a LOT of different potato varieties out there.)

Once you have your seed potatoes, spread them out somewhere where they will get light, and they will start to grow some sprouts. You don't want to have them in the dark, because if you do the sprouts will grow really long and weak.

Once you have nice sprouts, and the weather is suitable, you can plant your seed potatoes. Where I am they can usually be planted by early to mid May, sometimes even earlier. If you're planning to grow them in the ground you'll want to dig a trench or holes about 8 inches deep, put your seed potato pieces in the bottom, and then cover them with a couple of inches of dirt (in other words, don't completely fill the hole back in right away). As the plants start to grow, add back more dirt so there is always some of the plant above ground, burying the stem. Something that I learned in just the past few years is that all of the potatoes that your plant will produce will be above the level of the seed potato that you originally planted; so keep adding dirt and pull dirt up to mound around the plants, particularly making sure any potatoes near the surface stay covered so they don't turn green.

When your plants start flowering, you can dig up some of the potatoes to use as "new potatoes," although, some varieties don't seem to actually do much in the way of flowering so then it's more of a guessing game. And when the tops die back your potatoes aren't going to do any more growing and it's time to dig them all up.

After I dig my potatoes I spread them out on some screens made with hardware cloth, in the shade (actually, in my garage), where they will have good air circulation to dry them out somewhat. After a couple of weeks of drying, or more, I brush off the majority of the dirt and store them in paper grocery sacks out in the garage (don't use plastic bags, they hold too much moisture in which causes the potatoes to rot).

They can also be grown in containers of various types, but I don't have any actual experience with that so maybe someone else can advise you if that is what you are interested in doing; at any rate, however you plant them the principle is the same, you start with seed potatoes and gradually cover with dirt (or some other material; straw can also be used, for instance).

I hope this is helpful -- they're really pretty easy to grow!
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Name: Jared Nicholes
Post Falls, Idaho
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jnicholes
Feb 14, 2016 10:53 PM CST
Hello!

Thanks! Ever since I saw the movie The Martian I wanted to try it! One more question, how early do you put them in the ground? According to ATP calendar for my area, it says March 7. Would you advise this?
Name: Sandy B.
Ford River, Michigan UP (Zone 4b)
(Zone 4b-maybe 5a)
Charter ATP Member Celebrating Gardening: 2015 I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! I helped beta test the first seed swap Region: United States of America Region: Michigan
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Weedwhacker
Feb 14, 2016 11:04 PM CST
Jared, since I don't have experience gardening your particular area, it's hard to say -- but that sounds pretty early to me and I would lean more toward the later date suggested on the calendar, which I think is April 7 or something like that. The best thing would be if you could ask someone locally -- again, maybe the County Extension people Smiling

I really loved "The Martian" ! (maybe because it makes gardening where I live look easy Hilarious! )
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Name: Cindy
Hobart, IN zone 5
aka CindyMzone5
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Shadegardener
Feb 15, 2016 6:38 AM CST
Weedwacker - approximately how long does it take the potatoes to sprout before planting?
Name: Jared Nicholes
Post Falls, Idaho
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jnicholes
Feb 15, 2016 8:36 AM CST
Hello!

Amazing! I just woke up and I was just about to ask that! How long does it take to sprout?

Isn't it funny that I'm from Idaho, the state famous for its potatoes, and I don't know how to grow them? Funny!

Jared
Name: Sandy B.
Ford River, Michigan UP (Zone 4b)
(Zone 4b-maybe 5a)
Charter ATP Member Celebrating Gardening: 2015 I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! I helped beta test the first seed swap Region: United States of America Region: Michigan
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Weedwhacker
Feb 15, 2016 8:45 AM CST
Shadegardener said:Weedwacker - approximately how long does it take the potatoes to sprout before planting?


Probably about 3 weeks to being ready to plant; I usually allow them a month -- as long as they're out in the light the sprouts stay short so there's plenty of leeway with the timing.

Also, if you're using larger potatoes and need to cut them up into pieces to plant, do so several days before planting so the cut edges can dry up a bit, which helps to prevent rotting (I believe some people dust them with sulfur after cutting, although I've never done that). The chunks should be roughly the size of a golf ball, with at least 2 "eyes" on each one.

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Name: Sandy B.
Ford River, Michigan UP (Zone 4b)
(Zone 4b-maybe 5a)
Charter ATP Member Celebrating Gardening: 2015 I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! I helped beta test the first seed swap Region: United States of America Region: Michigan
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Weedwhacker
Feb 15, 2016 8:49 AM CST
jnicholes said:Hello!

Amazing! I just woke up and I was just about to ask that! How long does it take to sprout?

Isn't it funny that I'm from Idaho, the state famous for its potatoes, and I don't know how to grow them? Funny!

Jared


LOL, Jared! They actually grow lots of potatoes commercially where I am, too... which makes them pretty cheap to buy and I sometimes wonder if it's really worth taking up the garden space for them.

"Blessed is he who has learned to laugh at himself, for he shall never cease to be entertained."
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Name: Cindy
Hobart, IN zone 5
aka CindyMzone5
Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Plant Identifier
Shadegardener
Feb 15, 2016 9:13 AM CST
I hear folks rave about the great taste of freshly-dug potatoes and I thought it would be fun to try. I have no illusions about growing enough to store since I'm growing them in Smart Pots.
Name: Jared Nicholes
Post Falls, Idaho
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jnicholes
Feb 15, 2016 9:27 AM CST
Hello!

That's what I'm doing, I'm growing mine in large pots to try it out until spring comes to plant them in the ground. I have seed potatoes already, and I am starting them.

Jared
Name: Cindy
Hobart, IN zone 5
aka CindyMzone5
Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Plant Identifier
Shadegardener
Feb 15, 2016 10:07 AM CST
Good luck with your early start! Just make sure they get as much light as you can possibly give them.
Name: Daisy
Reno, Nv (Zone 6b)
Not all who wander are lost
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DaisyI
Feb 15, 2016 12:06 PM CST
My daughter spent 6 years in Pocatello. Everyone grew their own potatoes, which I thought was funny as you could go down to "Freddies" in the fall and buy a 50 lb box for $5.

Anyway, the people she knew grew them in giant wood boxes with one side that could be taken off to dig the potatoes. So a mound of dirt sitting beside the giant wood box. Plant the seed potatoes at the bottom and fill the box from the mound of dirt as the potatoes grow. I think they used the same dirt year after year.

My grandmother grew them in Unionville, NV (Zone 7a). She planted them out in the pastor and left them year round. When she wanted potatoes, she sent the kids out to dig up a bucket full.

Daisy
Name: Cindy
Hobart, IN zone 5
aka CindyMzone5
Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Plant Identifier
Shadegardener
Feb 16, 2016 1:11 PM CST
How early can potatoes go into the ground? Before last frost?
Name: Shannon
Burkeville,Va (Zone 7a)
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Shannon
Feb 16, 2016 1:23 PM CST
Thank you for asking that question Jared Smiling I have a thing they call a Potato bag.. Do you think I can grow a
couple seed potatoes in that ??? It's 24" around and tall
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Name: Jared Nicholes
Post Falls, Idaho
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jnicholes
Feb 16, 2016 1:31 PM CST
Hello!

Youre welcome Shannon! I was curious so I asked!

Jared
Name: Sandy B.
Ford River, Michigan UP (Zone 4b)
(Zone 4b-maybe 5a)
Charter ATP Member Celebrating Gardening: 2015 I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! I helped beta test the first seed swap Region: United States of America Region: Michigan
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Weedwhacker
Feb 16, 2016 1:48 PM CST
Cindy -- yes, you can plant a couple of weeks before the last frost; potatoes like growing in cooler weather.

Shannon -- I've never grown potatoes in containers of any kind myself, but yes, you should be able to do them in a "potato bag." I'd fill it about half full of planting mix, put the seed potatoes a few inches deep, and then fill in with more mix as the plants grow. If the bag is 24" across I would think you could do 4 or 5 plants in it.

Jared and Shannon (and anyone else) -- I'd love to see photos of how your plants do in the containers! (You might want to start a new thread in the "Vegetables and Fruits" forum, I'm sure there would be lots of interest in it there and more people would be likely to see it Smiling )
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Name: Jared Nicholes
Post Falls, Idaho
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jnicholes
Feb 16, 2016 1:57 PM CST
Hello!

We will DEFINITELY post pictures! I am also going to the "Vegetables and Fruits" forum. I think you're right, there will be plenty of interest there!

Jared
Name: Cindy
Hobart, IN zone 5
aka CindyMzone5
Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Plant Identifier
Shadegardener
Feb 16, 2016 6:28 PM CST
My seed potatoes should arrive early April so that will give them time to sprout before planting.
Jared - my thanks too for starting this thread! I probably would have just stumbled through starting them.
Name: Bob
Vernon N.J. (Zone 6a)
Charter ATP Member Plant Database Moderator I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Forum moderator Heucheras Echinacea
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NJBob
Feb 16, 2016 8:24 PM CST
I do not have pictures , but used the potato grow bags and had good results. I tried large containers but the sun did not really get into them so growth was slower , where in the grow bags you pull the bag up as they grow. I know some people that use old tires but did not like the idea of what might leach out of the tires.
Name: Sandy B.
Ford River, Michigan UP (Zone 4b)
(Zone 4b-maybe 5a)
Charter ATP Member Celebrating Gardening: 2015 I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! I helped beta test the first seed swap Region: United States of America Region: Michigan
Seed Starter Vegetable Grower Birds Butterflies Dog Lover Cat Lover
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Weedwhacker
Feb 16, 2016 8:27 PM CST
I feel the same way about the tires, Bob... years ago (when I was first starting to garden) everyone seemed to be growing in tires up here so I gave it a try; but I hated the way they looked in the garden, plus started thinking about the "leaching" factor Sticking tongue out . No more tires here!
"Blessed is he who has learned to laugh at himself, for he shall never cease to be entertained."
- John Powell / Cubits.org - A Universe of Communities
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