Growing Potato

Jan F M A M J J A S O N Dec
P                 P P P

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

P = Plant seed potatoes

  • Plant tuber. Best planted at soil temperatures between 50°F and 86°F. (Show °C/cm)
  • Space plants: 12 - 16 inches apart
  • Harvest in 15-20 weeks. Dig carefully, avoid damaging the potatoes.
  • Compatible with (can grow beside): Peas, Beans, Brassicas, Sweetcorn, Broad Beans, Nasturtiums, Marigolds
  • Avoid growing close to: Cucumber, Pumpkin, Sunflowers, Tomatoes, Rosemary
  • An 'earthed-up' row
  • Potato flowers

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.

No-dig

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.

Culinary hints - cooking and eating Potato

Peeled or unpeeled and scrubbed, potatoes can be boiled, baked, fried and roasted. - The only way they are not used is raw.

Keep in a pot of cold water after peeling, otherwise they will discolour.

Your comments and tips

18 Jul 20, Judy Osborne (Australia - temperate climate)
I have grown potatoes before only to find the potato to be a clear waxy look when harvested. I waited for the plants to die down before harvesting but they have always looked like that and not the usual solid white like normal bought ones. What couild the problem be?
20 Jul 20, Anon (Australia - sub-tropical climate)
Look up a company called NUTRIEN AG SOLUTIONS and call them and ask them.
12 Jul 20, Denese Schick (New Zealand - sub-tropical climate)
Hi potato growers! i have been married for 18 years, and all that time i have searched for Red Dakota seed potatoes. i see a few people on here mention them. cant get them up north here. my elderly husband grew them for many years, and i would really love to grow them too. i grow Maori, red deseri, Concord, Dragar, and a few others. i have saved my own seed for nearly 25 years. and would love to grow this special red dakota, which he says are different from other spuds. thand in advance. i would be keen to deposit a few $ in exchange for just 3 or 4 seed in good condition. please be sure of your variety
13 Jul 20, (New Zealand - temperate climate)
Go on the internet and do some research. Look for small and large potato seed selling companies. I just looked at Morton Smith-Dawe but they don't have them, ring them and ask if they know of anyone growing them. Or ring the Potatoes New Zealand and ask.
12 Jul 20, Sue (Australia - temperate climate)
Hi, we are going to try potatoes in bags and would like to grow indeterminate varieties, does anyone know which ones are, as there is no info on any of the seed bags I have read, thanks in advance.
13 Jul 20, (Australia - temperate climate)
I had never heard of indeterminate potatoes. There are thousands of varieties of potatoes but only about 6-8 are grown commercially in Australia. Ring a seed selling company like The Diggers Club to see if they can help you.
14 Jul 20, Sue (Australia - temperate climate)
Thanks, I never thought to do that.
11 Jul 20, Michael (Australia - temperate climate)
hi, I have a raised garden bed 1.2x1.2x400, how many seed potatoes would be appropriate to grow in this area?
13 Jul 20, (Australia - temperate climate)
2 or 3 rows and plant 35mm apart.
14 Jul 20, Michael (Australia - temperate climate)
Thank you for your advice
Showing 1 - 10 of 671 comments

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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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