Information On Growing New Potatoes In Your Garden

Information On Growing New Potatoes In Your Garden



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By: Bonnie L. Grant, Certified Urban Agriculturist

Raising your own crops is a fun and healthy family activity. Learning how to grow new potatoes provides you with a season long crop of fresh baby spuds and a storable crop of the tubers for after the season. Potatoes can be grown in the ground or in containers. Planting new potatoes is easy and there are only a few special care tips to keep your plants healthy.

When to Plant New Potatoes

Potatoes are best started in the cool season. Tubers form best when soil temperatures are between 60 and 70 degrees F.(16-21 C.). The two periods when to plant new potatoes are spring and summer. Plant early season potatoes in March or early April and late season crops are started in July. Early season plantings that sprout can be damaged by rogue freezes but will bounce right back as long as soils stay warm.

Planting New Potatoes

Potatoes can be started from seed or seed potatoes. Seed potatoes are recommended because they have been bred to resist disease and are certified. They will also provide you with the earliest and fullest harvest when compared to seed started plants. The methods for how to grow new potatoes varies only slightly by variety. As a general rule, growing new potatoes requires well drained soil with plenty of organic matter incorporated. Growing new potatoes requires plenty of water to fuel production of the tubers.

The planting bed needs to be well tilled and amended with organic nutrients. Dig trenches 3 inches (8 cm.) deep and 24 to 36 inches (61-91 cm.) apart. Cut apart seed potatoes into sections that have at least two to three eyes or growing points. Plant the pieces 12 inches (31 cm.) apart with the majority of the eyes facing upward. Lightly cover the pieces with soil when growing new potatoes. As they sprout, add more soil to cover the green growth until it matches soil level. The trench will be filled and the potatoes are grown on until ready to harvest.

When to Harvest New Potatoes

Young tubers are sweet and tender and can be dug from near the surface of the soil where the underground stems are layered and produce the spuds. Harvest new potatoes at the end of the season with a spading fork. Dig down 4 to 6 inches (10-15 cm.) around the plant and pull out the potatoes. When growing new potatoes, keep in mind that the majority of the spuds will be close to the surface and your digging should be as cautious as possible to avoid damage.

Storing New Potatoes

Rinse or rub off the dirt on your tubers and allow them to dry. Store them at 38 to 40 degrees F. (3-4 C.) in a dry, dark room. The potatoes can be stored for several months in these conditions. Put them in a box or open container and check frequently for rotten potatoes as rot will spread and can ruin the entire batch quickly.

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Growing potatoes in home gardens

Potatoes grow from seed tubers, not true seed. They originated in the Andes, and come in a variety of types, colors and shapes. Generally, there are russet types that are starchy with brown skins and that are good for baking red potatoes that can have white, yellow, or red and starchy or waxy flesh white potatoes with white or yellow flesh purple colored potatoes and fingerling types. Potatoes need sunny locations to grow well.

Soil pH and fertility

Soil testing and fertilizer

  • As you prepare, plant and tend your garden, treat your potato patch differently because potatoes require more fertilizer than other vegetables.
  • Potatoes grow best in well-drained, sandy soil. A poorly drained soil is more likely to produce diseased tubers.
  • Have your soil tested.
  • The ideal soil pH level for potatoes is somewhat acidic, between 6 and 6.5, but they will tolerate soil with pH as low as 5.
  • Addition of manure or compost can add micronutrients and organic matter to soil.
  • Side-dress (place fertilizer alongside of the row) about four weeks after planting.
    • As you hill up soil around the plants, incorporate 0.15 pounds actual nitrogen per 50 feet of row.
    • Repeat the hilling and fertilization two weeks later.
    • Note that this fertilizer recommendation is different from Extension recommendations for most other crops.
  • Do not use any fertilizer containing a weed killer ("Weed and Feed"), as it may kill your vegetable plants.

Selecting plants

Choosing potato varieties

Use mealy or dry-fleshed potatoes, like russets, for baking, frying and mashing. As mashed potatoes, they will not be gluey, and they will absorb gravy, butter or sour cream. They may fall apart in a soup, or when boiled for a potato salad.

Waxy or moist-fleshed, round potatoes hold together when cooked. Potato chunks in soups, curries, frittatas, and salads are usually waxy varieties. You can pan-fry leftover boiled potatoes without them falling apart. When you mash waxy potatoes, they can become sticky.

Many potato varieties fall somewhere in between truly waxy and completely mealy. All-purpose potatoes such as ‘Yukon Gold’ usually have a balance of waxy and mealy starches.

Start potato plants from tubers or pieces of tubers, not from true seed. Buy disease-free seed tubers from a certified grower or seed distributor. Most garden centers carry seed potatoes in the spring.

Commercial seed tubers will grow into stronger, more vigorous, longer-lived plants. The plants may produce fewer tubers, but the total yield from each plant will be higher.

Do not plant potatoes purchased at the grocery store, as the store may treat them with chemicals to keep tubers dormant, in which case they will be slow to grow. Diseases may also infect the potatoes, which can remain in the soil for a long time.

Potatoes saved from your own garden may not be a good choice either. They can carry disease spores from the previous year. Although your garden may seem disease free, re-introducing more fungi or bacteria could cause crop failure for your potatoes, tomatoes, peppers and eggplant in the future.

Both grocery store potatoes and your own saved tubers have been grown as food, not with seed use in mind, which makes them less suitable as seed.


Growing New Potatoes

Many gardeners harvest a few small, immature potato tubers early in the season, because they are extra tender and sweet.

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Irish potato plants begin producing edible tubers within about three months of planting. While most gardeners wait another month or so to dig the entire plants to harvest mature, larger potatoes, many prefer to harvest a few very early in the season while they are still small, calling them new potatoes.

On top of being early to harvest, which brings their own bragging rights to proud gardeners, and usually relatively small in size, the tubers of many early potatoes are a little sweeter than larger “main crop” varieties because all their natural sugars have not had time to turn to starch. Plus, they can be grown easily in containers, and harvested before common diseases start to appear.

All potatoes are planted about the same, whether in garden rows, low mounds, raised beds, or containers. Start with mature tubers cut into small, egg-size pieces each with one or two “eyes” which are actually stem buds. To avoid rotting in cold, wet soils, let them dry a few days until the cut areas heal over, then dust with garden sulfur (available at garden centers) to further reduce diseases.

Potatoes require full sun and very well drained soils, and about three or four months of cool weather – neither freezing nor remaining above the mid-80s. This means planting early potatoes in late February, March, or early April in most areas, or planting in the late summer or fall, at least three months before winter’s first anticipated freeze.

Adding compost to the soil helps with drainage. A small amount of all-purpose fertilizer at planting time is generally enough to get things going, with a small extra helping a month or so after planting. As plants grow, it is very important to “hill” them – pile soil or mulch around the bases to keep lower stems completely covered. This reduces “greening” of tubers, which turns them bitter and can lead to a buildup of poisonous plant alkaloid called solanine which makes the tubers dangerous to eat.

Harvesting New Potatoes

About two and half months after planting, generally around flowering time, you can gently sift through the soil at the base of each stem to feel for the right size potatoes, leaving smaller ones to continue enlarging. New potatoes can be left in the ground for a month or more, but those that are harvested tend to be more tender and generally do not store very well. Once harvested they should be eaten within a week or two before they shrivel or begin to decay.

Though any potato can be harvested early, some varieties have been bred to produce a very early crop of small, somewhat sweet early new potatoes. They are marketed as such, and include a few very well-known varieties.

Yukon Gold is a widely-available yellow fleshed variety with a buttery flavor its small plant size allows for closer spacing and better harvests. Irish cobbler is an irregularly shaped light brown variety ideally suited for early planting. Some of the best red-skin varieties with white flesh include Norland, Colorado Rose, and Rio Colorado. Red Gold has red skin and a golden yellow flesh.

In Britain, where new potatoes are prized and generally very expensive, home gardeners grow the ultra-early, high-yielding Lady Christi, Home Guard (which is the traditional first early potato grown in Ireland), and Red Duke of York.

There are many others, of course, but these are great starters. Look for and purchase seed potatoes for these very early because the more popular ones usually sell out quickly. Irish potato plants begin producing edible tubers within about three months of planting. While most gardeners wait another month or so to dig the entire plants to harvest mature, larger potatoes, many prefer to harvest a few very early in the season while they are still small, calling them new potatoes.

On top of being early to harvest, which brings their own bragging rights to proud gardeners, and usually relatively small in size, the tubers of many early potatoes are a little sweeter than larger “main crop” varieties because all their natural sugars have not had time to turn to starch. Plus, they can be grown easily in containers, and harvested before common diseases start to appear.

All potatoes are planted about the same, whether in garden rows, low mounds, raised beds, or containers. Start with mature tubers cut into small, egg-size pieces each with one or two “eyes” which are actually stem buds. To avoid rotting in cold, wet soils, let them dry a few days until the cut areas heal over, then dust with garden sulfur (available at garden centers) to further reduce diseases.

Potatoes require full sun and very well drained soils, and about three or four months of cool weather – neither freezing nor remaining above the mid-80s. This means planting early potatoes in late February, March, or early April in most areas, or planting in the late summer or fall, at least three months before winter’s first anticipated freeze.

Adding compost to the soil helps with drainage. A small amount of all-purpose fertilizer at planting time is generally enough to get things going, with a small extra helping a month or so after planting. As plants grow, it is very important to “hill” them – pile soil or mulch around the bases to keep lower stems completely covered. This reduces “greening” of tubers, which turns them bitter and can lead to a buildup of poisonous plant alkaloid called solanine which makes the tubers dangerous to eat.

Harvesting New Potatoes

About two and half months after planting, generally around flowering time, you can gently sift through the soil at the base of each stem to feel for the right size potatoes, leaving smaller ones to continue enlarging. New potatoes can be left in the ground for a month or more, but those that are harvested tend to be more tender and generally do not store very well. Once harvested they should be eaten within a week or two before they shrivel or begin to decay.

Though any potato can be harvested early, some varieties have been bred to produce a very early crop of small, somewhat sweet early new potatoes. They are marketed as such, and include a few very well-known varieties.

Yukon Gold is a widely-available yellow fleshed variety with a buttery flavor its small plant size allows for closer spacing and better harvests. Irish cobbler is an irregularly shaped light brown variety ideally suited for early planting. Some of the best red-skin varieties with white flesh include Norland, Colorado Rose, and Rio Colorado. Red Gold has red skin and a golden yellow flesh.

In Britain, where new potatoes are prized and generally very expensive, home gardeners grow the ultra-early, high-yielding Lady Christi, Home Guard (which is the traditional first early potato grown in Ireland), and Red Duke of York.

There are many others, of course, but these are great starters. Look for and purchase seed potatoes for these very early because the more popular ones usually sell out quickly.


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Frequently Asked Questions

Once cut, let your seed potatoes fully dry and scab over. This prevents them from rotting in the soil.

Q: Can I grow potatoes from store-bought potatoes?

A: You can, but it’s not without risks. Store-bought potatoes may carry diseases that do more harm to your garden than good.

Q: What’s the difference between seed potatoes and regular potatoes?

A: The seed potato is used for the sole purpose of growing potatoes for harvesting.

Q: How many potatoes do you get per plant?

A: You can usually get 25 pounds of harvest potatoes from 1 pound of seed.


Watch the video: Prepping and Planting Potatoes