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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
This was my very first potato harvest ever. I planted after July, which was waaay too late.
As they grow you mound and they become sprawling. Some will set flowers and then develop seeds which looks like mini-green tomatoes.
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.
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.
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…
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.
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.
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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