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Growing Potato

(Solanum tuberosum)

Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
P                 P P P

(Best months for planting Potato in New Zealand - cool/mountain regions)

  • Harvest in 110-140 days
  • Plant tuber.
  • Best planted at soil temperatures between 10°C and 30°C.
  • Space plants: 30-40cm

Seed potatoes

Potatoes sold in nurseries and produce stores are certified seed potatoes. Seed potatoes are small potatoes (usually fairly dried up and wrinkled) which are free of viruses and other diseases. You are more likely to get a good crop from certified seed potatoes.

Before planting expose seed potatoes to light to start shoots growing. Avoid direct sun as this can burn or par-cook the seed! Let the potatoes grow shoots up to 1cm long - this can take a few weeks. In hot or dry climates sprout seed potatoes in seed trays of dampened potting mix.

Large seed tubers can be cut into pieces - just make sure each piece has at least one 'eye' or shoot. Let the cut pieces dry for a few days before planting or else they will probably start rotting.

Growing in the ground

Prepare the soil by digging in plenty of well-rotted animal manure or compost (don't use fresh manure as it will 'burn' plants). Dig a trench for the seed potatoes about 30 - 40cm wide and 10 - 20cm deep. Add a bit more compost/manure to the bottom of the trench and cover with some soil. Put seed potatoes 20 - 30cm apart in the trench, shoot-side up. Fill in the trench to cover the potatoes.

As potato shoots start to appear, cover them up with soil from either side of the trench. 'Hill up the crop' this way a few times in the first four or five weeks of growth, which gives the potatoes an nice loose mound of soil in which to grow. Now leave the shoots to develop on to form leaves.

Keep potatoes well-watered. The soil should be damp enough to stick to your fingers.

No-dig and container growing - ideal for home gardens

If you don't have a ton of space then no-dig and container growing both work well for home garden growing. Using container growing you can produce potatoes in any handy space, even on balconies.


Make a no-dig bed of potatoes by layering newspapers (or flattened cardboard boxes) at least six layers thick on an area to be planted. Spread your seed potatoes on top of the newspapers about 30cm apart, trying to get the shoots pointing upwards.

Cover the potatoes with layers of compost, weed-free straw, rotted animal manure, and other mulch materials, until the potatoes are covered by about 20 - 30cm. Don't flatten the cover down.

Water well. As the potatoes start to grow through, add more layers of mulch material and keep watered. After about four weeks of growing through and covering up, let the potatoes grow on without covering. As the mulch breaks down keep adding more mulch to keep the tubers covered.

Container growing

Get a container at least 40 - 50 cm deep with holes in the bottom for drainage. Shrub-sized flower pots work well. An old wheelbarrow will work if holes are drilled in the bottom. You can also make a 'container' using loose bricks or chicken wire.

Put about 10 - 20cm of mixed compost and potting mix in the bottom of the container and put your seed potatoes on top, about 30cm apart. Cover with about 10 - 20cm of compost mixed with mulch (straw, grass clippings. Water well.

As the potato shoots start to grow through, cover up with more compost and mulch mix and keep watered. Keep on covering up for about four weeks (but stop if you reach the top of the container!)

For both no-dig and container growing, keep the mulch well watered - wet enough to stick to your fingers but not sopping. If the potatoes dry out they will probably go scabby.

  • The longer potatoes grow, the bigger the tubers will be.
  • Don't grow potatoes in the same place as other solanum crops as they share many diseases - for example, don't grow potatoes to follow a tomato crop, or vice-versa.
  • You can start harvesting a few tubers as soon as they are big enough to eat - dig around under the plants and retrieve a few, and cover up the rest to keep growing.
  • Potatoes exposed to light will go green, so keep them covered up with straw and soil as they grow. Green potatoes are poisonous!
  • Potatoes accumulate cadmium and other heavy metals, so avoid fertilizers which contain these elements. Similarly, avoid using tyres as containers for growing potatoes as they can leach heavy metals.

Your comments and tips

16 Nov 15 Dianne Allen (New Zealand - cool/mountain climate)
we are growing potatoes for the 1st time in soft containers bought from the warehouse at the moment they have prolific growth, the good thing is that they are easy. to move anywhere in the garden, we are looking forward to seeing the results
18 Dec 15 Ian burney (New Zealand - cool/mountain climate)
A query....why do tui products seed potato guide harvesting times vary greatly from the mitre ten guide times? Ilam hardy tui says 130 days v mitre ten 70-80 days... ( mitre ten was correct for my Hamilton garden). Other discrepancies : tui rocket 90 days v m ten 60-70 ; tui Nadine 140 days v 80-90 ; tui Desiree 140 v 90-100 ; tui red rascal 150 v 90-100. Hmmmm.
29 Dec 15 DIanne Allen (New Zealand - cool/mountain climate)
We have just harvested our first lot of container potatoes /perfect to xmas and we are going to plant our 2nd crop if we can get seed potatoes, they were so easy and delicious
25 Jan 16 Ken Thackeray (New Zealand - sub-tropical climate)
We are growing Desiree potatoes in our old metal bath removed from our house. We layered our seed spuds with a mixture of potting mix and compost. The plants are now huge with flowers worthy of a good flower garden. Great fun and the kids are looking forward to lifting the crop.
18 Mar 16 Milika Whitehead (New Zealand - sub-tropical climate)
I just clean my garden and pull out the old leftover crops. I want to try the potatoes on container. But just want to know can I plant kumara now ?.
12 Apr 16 ian easterbrook (New Zealand - temperate climate)
I have just moved from the Far North to Whakatane and would like to know what kinds of potatoes I can plant in April/May Thank you,Ian
13 Apr 16 Regan (New Zealand - cool/mountain climate)
Hi, I have just finished our first crop and was wondering if we could grow potatoes over winter in Christchurch is this possible? I was thinking Pea-straw may enable enough sustained heat in soil to achieve some sort of results but wound not have a clue and would really appreciate any feedback. Cheers
13 Aug 16 Geoff (New Zealand - cool/mountain climate)
I wonder if Marris Piper potatoes will be available in NZ anytime soon.
08 Nov 16 DIanne Allen. Marton Rangitikie (New Zealand - cool/mountain climate)
this year we have planted Rocket. potatoes ,planted about a month ago and going very well ,this year we have planted them in plastic containers this year last year, we put in a 2nd crop of potatoes last year about Jan and we never got one potatoe I wonder what went wrong the first crop was great
21 Nov 16 Michael Lookman (New Zealand - temperate climate)
I have small dark worms making holes in my potatoes. growing everything organic, and suggestions? thanks

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This planting guide is a general reference intended for home gardeners. We recommend that you take into account your local conditions in making planting decisions. GardenGrow is not a farming or commercial advisory service. For specific advice, please contact your local plant suppliers, gardening groups, or agricultural department. The information on this site is presented in good faith, but we take no responsibility as to the accuracy of the information provided.

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