The Complete Gardener's Guide ,
Joe Lamp'l shows how to plant, grow and harvest potatoes.

Materials Needed

  • seed potatoes
  • enriched soil
  • egg crates
  • string
  • shovel
  • straw or other dry mulch

Step 1: Chit Potatoes Before Planting

"Chitting" potatoes requires gardeners to give potatoes an early start by growing them inside. Do this by placing the seed potatoes with their "eyes" facing upward in trays or egg cartons in a warm, light place so the green shoots appear. Once the shoots are 1/4-1/2-inch long, the tubers are ready to be planted. Mid-season and late crops can be planted unchitted. Only plant undamaged tubers.

Step 2: Plant the Potatoes

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Grow potatoes in an open, sunny site in well-drained soil. Plant early varieties one month before the last frosts are predicted, and main-crop types in late spring.

Dig a trench to a shovel's depth and fill the bottom with loose soil or compost. Plant early varieties 12 inches apart, in rows 20 inches apart, and main-crop varieties 16 inches apart, in rows 30 inches apart. Cover them with soil.

Tubers can be planted into individual holes if only growing a few or in long trenches for larger crops. Plant the chits facing upward.

Fill the holes or trench, covering the tubers with 1 inch of soil. When planting chitted tubers, be careful not to knock off the developing shoots.

Step 3: Add More Soil

As potato plants grow, their stems should be regularly covered with soil or "hilled up." In the early days, this protects the tubers from frost. Later on, it encourages the growth of extra tubers, leading to a larger crop. Hilling up also prevents the tubers from being exposed to light, which makes them turn green and inedible.

Step 4: Protect Plants

When seed potatoes are first planted out, hilling up may not provide enough protection from frost. In colder regions, add a layer of straw to prevent tubers from freezing.

Step 5: Harvesting

When the flowers begin to open, your potatoes are ready to harvest. Use a garden fork to dig them up from below, accessing them from the side of the mound, to avoid damaging them.

Step 6: Storing Your Harvest

Main-crop potatoes can be stored in paper sacks. After harvesting, brush off the soil and dry in the sun for a few hours. Pack away only the perfect tubers in a cool, dry area and check them regularly.

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