Gardening

12 Steps On How To Grow Potatoes

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The root vegetable potatoes are loved by many of us. Their starchy nature and delectable taste make everyone fall into it. One of the integral staples for various dishes, these tubers are multifunctional and relatively easy to grow.

These easy-growing potatoes come from the nightshade family. They are cultivated as annual plants but are usually grown in the spring and harvested in the fall season. Planting this tuber is always a worthwhile journey as it does not even demand a big yard to grow successfully. They are happily grown in your small backyard or in large containers, bags, or even pots. Below we have explained a few tips to grow them well.

1.Choose Sunlight Spot

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Choosing the best spot for growing potatoes usually involves considering factors such as sunlight, soil quality, drainage, and space. Because they require at least 6-8 hours of direct sunlight every day you need to choose such a spot that could receive ample sunlight throughout the day. However, excessive heat can cause damage to their leaf and roots. So, keep in mind that the location does not get too hot.

Potatoes can not thrive in poor drainage as this might lead to root rot and other diseases. Poor drainage also causes the tubers to rot in the ground and thus it is important to ensure that the soil has good drainage before planting these versatile starchy tubers.

2. Select Quality Seeds

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Because potato seeds are vegetatively propagated, it is crucial to prioritize their quality for a healthy and robust crop. Quality seeds for potatoes are those that are certified, disease-free, and have high germination rates. To obtain those seeds you need to source from reputable suppliers or you can even obtain them from healthy, mature potato plants that you have grown previously.

Choosing the best quality seeds always depends on the variety of tuber you are planning to cultivate. They should be of your desired variety, as different potato varieties have varying characteristics and are suited for different uses and growing conditions. For instance, Russet tends to prefer slightly more acidic soil, with a pH value of 5 or 6, whereas Red potatoes can thrive even in less acidic conditions, with a pH of 6 or 7.

3. Allow Sprout To Grow

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Unlike other root vegetables, potatoes have unique growing conditions. These tubers are grown from their sprouted seeds. Once these sprouts are planted, they develop into new potato plants from their buds. So, after bringing your desired sprouted seeds, the next step for you would be to allow them to sprout further. 

Sprouting potatoes at home is a simple process that can be done in just a few steps. For that, you need to choose healthy seeds that are free from any signs of decay or damage. Place them in a cool, dark, and well-ventilated area for about two weeks. This will allow them to develop small sprouts or "eyes." In most cases, suppliers sell seeds that are already germinated. In this, you can plant them directly into the soil.

4. Cut Seed Potato

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Potatoes with a small size are suitable for planting whole, but those with a large size should be cut into chunks around 5 cm wide, each containing at least two sprouts. Usually, just cutting them in half is enough.

After you cut the potato seeds, just leave them in the open air for 2 to 3 days at room temperature. This helps stop bacteria from growing and lowers the chance of them going bad. Also, use a clean and sharp knife so that dirt doesn't spread any germs, making it less likely for the seeds to rot.

5. Prepare The Soil

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Preparing the soil for growing potatoes is a crucial step because the quality of your spuds depends on the type of soil you use. To ensure their optimal growth, you have to pay attention to the soil and its composition. Potatoes prefer slightly acidic soil with a pH between 5.0 and 6.0. To know the pH content of your soil, you need to test it using a soil testing kit, and if necessary, adjust it by adding lime to raise the pH or sulfur to lower it.

Removing weeds, rocks, or debris from the designated planting area is paramount. This not only provides sufficient space for potatoes to thrive but also minimizes competition for essential nutrients. Enhancing the soil with organic matter, such as compost or well-rotted manure, further improves its structure and fertility.

6. Plant Potatoes

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Growing potatoes in a row is a common and effective method. To plant them, start by digging a trench about 4-6 inches deep. This depth is just right for planting and ensures good soil coverage to help your potatoes grow healthy.

Now, put your halved potatoes in the trench that you have dug earlier, with the cut side facing down and the sprout pointing up towards the sun. Cover them with soil and give them a good watering. They need to be watered with 1 to 2 inches per week, including rainfall. Remember to keep your soil moist but not too soggy.

7. Hill Potatoes After Four Weeks

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Hilling is a practice of piling soil or mulch around the base of potato plants. Typically, this process is carried out after 4 or 5 weeks of planting, once the plants have reached a certain height. Here, hilling will encourage the growth of additional tubers and protect the developing potatoes from sunlight. Exposure to sunlight can cause your tuber to turn green and become toxic. 

In addition, it also helps prevent weeds by providing additional support for your plants. Some studies have shown that hilling spuds at least twice during the growing season can enhance tuber yield by 10%–20% compared to not hilling. If hilling is not done correctly, it can harm potato plants by exposing tubers to sunlight, higher temperatures, and pests.

8. Add Munch For Protection

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The layer of any material, including wood chips, straw, leaves, or even plastics that is spread over the surface of the potato soil is usually a mulch. It is one of the creative approaches widely used by farmers around the globe. Incorporating this layer serves several other purposes in protecting potatoes, some of them include:

  • Weed Suppression: suppresses the growth of weeds, which can compete with potato plants for nutrients, water, and sunlight.
  • Moisture retention: reduces evaporation and retains moisture in the potato beds
  • Temperature regulation:  prevents extreme temperature fluctuations that can stress potato plants.
  • Disease prevention: reduces the risk of soil-borne diseases like late blight

Overall, munch for potato protection helps to create optimal growing conditions for potatoes, promoting healthy growth.

9. Water Regularly

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Generally, potatoes need about 1 to 2 inches of water per week but the amount can vary depending on factors such as soil type, weather conditions, and stage of growth. If you feel dry at this depth then it's time to water. Hence, it is vital to monitor the moisture level of the soil to determine whether to water them or not.

Moreover, Your potato vines need more water during the summer, especially when they are flowering and right after. This is a critical time when they are developing their spuds, and having enough water is crucial for a good harvest.

10. Harvest Potatoes

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Potatoes are ready to harvest after about 19 to 20 weeks of planting. So, after going through all these steps, it's time to gather your potatoes. You can do this by carefully digging them out. But if you've grown potatoes in a container, carefully take them out from the pot using your hands or by turning the pot upside down and sifting through the soil to find your tubers.

Additionally, check each potato's skin for any white or mushy spots, as these might mean there's a fungus. And those potatoes may not be safe to eat. You should look for potatoes that have a consistent color and firm skin. They are the ones you will want to keep.

11. Curing potatoes

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After successfully harvesting, they should be placed into the curing process, as this helps them develop thicker skin and improves their storage quality. Harvested spuds should be cured in a cool and dark place, as direct sunlight can cause them to turn green and potentially damage their overall quality. Curing further enhances the taste and flavor of your spuds.

It's crucial to maintain the right conditions during the curing process. The favorable spot for curing potatoes is at a temperature of about 45-60°F, with humidity levels ranging from 85-90%. These specific conditions play a key role in preventing the potatoes from sprouting too soon and also work to inhibit the growth of bacteria and fungi.

12. Storage

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When storing potatoes, it's crucial to begin by choosing high-quality ones and promptly removing any spoiled tubers from the batch. Afterward, gently brush off excess dirt or debris without washing them, as moisture can accelerate spoilage. This practice helps maintain their dryness and extends their shelf life.

For optimal storage conditions, identify a suitable location with a consistent temperature range of approximately 45-50°F. Utilize a well-ventilated container or a wire bag to ensure proper air circulation, which discourages moisture buildup. You have to store the potatoes away from direct sunlight to preserve their quality and prevent sprouting.