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How to Grow Your Own Potatoes

I’ve learned  there is nothing like when you grow your own potatoes. They are easy to grow, taste so much better than the grocery store, and are even better when you’ve dug them out of the soil yourself after months of waiting. My grandmother was an urban farmer, and she grew most of her own food including potatoes. Now I understand why. The flavor of home grown potatoes can’t compare at all to store bought, they barely need any butter at all!

How to plant a Victory Garden with Companion Planting

You can watch a farm to table video (video plays light music)  of harvesting potatoes and making amazing oven roasted potatoes which are about our favorite things to make for a meal ever and then skip on to the details of how to grow your own potatoes.

 

Planting your own potatoes takes  potatoes, a patch of bare dirt, and time. I plant mine in a few weeks before the last frost because it takes weeks for them to poke their noses (baby plant buds) out of the ground, so you can gain a few weeks that way. I’ve grown them in many places including a stone garden bed and a garden that looks like  a bed.
Potatoes growing in a garden with a bed headboard

While you can grow them in a container or in the ground, dirt or straw, I like planting them in the ground in the dirt in some not so great full-sun areas in my yard. The upside is that it gives bigger yields, and since I am adding dirt it fortifies areas where the soil is thin. The downside is that they are more susceptible to pests like chipmunks.

Potatoes growing eyes

Planting potatoes to grow your own is easy with a few steps and a little know-how.

When planting, start with either a whole certified seed potato , cut into 3 or four chunks with an “eye” each, or you can buy “sets” already cut and ready to plant from a mail order catalog or on-line or nursery. Potatoes from the grocery store have growth retardants sprayed on them so they may not sprout for you correctly.
What are Potato eyes
If you decide to cut your own from a whole potato, cut them into 3 or 4 pieces each with an “eye”. Let them sit on your garage for a few days exposed to air so they scab over and dry out a bit. They will look moldy and gross; but they are perfect for planting.
Potato plants emerging out of the ground
Put them in the ground a few inches down and cover them with soil. I put the “eye” sideways. Put a stick in where the potato is so you can remember and don’t dig it up by accident.
Small potato plant in the ground
As it comes out of the ground it will resemble tomato leaves a bit. as the plant grows, you want to mound the soil up around the stem, probably about once a week depending on how fast they grow so only about 6 inches of the plant is above the ground. This keeps the potatoes out of the sun. Potatoes exposed to sunlight become green and bitter and toxic. Never eat green or bitter tasting potatoes. This can happen in the grocery store too, so the same goes for them as well.
Purple and yellow potato harvest
This was my very first potato harvest ever. I planted after July, which was waaay too late.
Potato plant in the ground
As they grow you mound and they become sprawling. Some will set flowers and then develop seeds which looks like mini-green tomatoes.
What potato flowers look like
Never eat these, they are extremely toxic with high contents of solanine. I cut them off right away so my kids don’t get a hold of them and throw them away.
How do potatoes grow in the ground and tips for growing potatoes
After the plants flower, you can ” carefully” dig for new potatoes , you know, those expensive gourmet kind. You want to be extremely careful not to scratch other potatoes you aren’t digging up . The skin is very fragile. Cover back up the rest of the potatoes until you are ready to harvest them again.
Last year, when I stared digging, I wasn’t sure what I was going to get after the previous year’s harvest.
Hand digging potatoes
It was kind of like a treasure hunt. But, I had images of last years results and didn’t set my hopes too high…and then…
Digging potatoes out of the ground
Hey! Look at that! Holy cow! Is that what I think it is?! A real potato! My neighbors probably thought I’d lost it the way I whooped and hollered; it was like I had never seen a potato before. I squealed every time one came out of the ground it was so exciting and they looked so good.
potato in the ground
I ran in the house with a bowlful yelling “Look! Look! I grew these! Real potatoes! From our garden! How awesome is this?!
My hubby looked at me for a minute, and then I think he rolled his eyes.
Home grow potatoes in a bowl
Who can blame the guy?
All that for a root vegetable. Imagine if I had won a million dollars?
I had 4 plants and probably got about 6-8 potatoes per plant. This year I planted Russett and Yukon Gold varieties.
The full size potatoes are ready to harvest about 2-3 weeks after the tops die back. You can read more at the University of Ohio extension. WHen harvesting, brush off any dirt, but do not wash. Store in a cool, dark place until ready to eat.
 
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6 Comments

  1. Nice post, Jennifer. I have the same exhilaration about digging potatoes: I feel like I’m digging for gold. It is one of my “priceless cheap thrills” 🙂
    One tip for you and other readers: should some of the golden (or red, or purple, or brown) nuggets, i.e. potatoes, get sliced or poked when dug, no worries! Just wash them and slice through the place they were cut. Put in a glass jar, cover with water, top with the lid and store in the refrigerator . Use these the next time you cook potatoes. They stay fresh and crisp and you haven’t “lost” any of your gold.

  2. Where would you suggest is the best place to get potato starters or seeds? And i tried to grow some in some straw earlier this year and they got all rotted, so i am very confused on how to plant them. how often to water? what type of soil can they grow in? I live in kingman, az and my yard is very rocky with junk gravel and sand and organic material that has accumalated over the years but i am not sure if i can grow tubers in this type of soil even if i screen it or prepare it with admendments…please help!

    confused in the high desert

    1. I like to order them from catalogs like garden’s alive or other seed catalog. Then you can make sure they are certified free of diseases.I grow mine in garden dirt. My Mom likes to grow hers in a metal trash can with holes punched in the bottom with garden soil.Garden’s alive and a few other catalogs carry special bags for growing potatoes in. That might be a great option for you.

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