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March 5, 2024

Seed Potatoes

Growing potatoes is easier than you think and the results are delicious! So where do you start? Your first step is to have an idea what veggies you want in your garden then map out where each should grow. One of the keys to success is making sure that everything has enough room to flourish (for more information on this refer to the Berry Planting post).

You’ll need 1 to 1.5 feet between each seed potato you plant, and it would be ideal to have between 2 and 3 feet between each row.  

So what exactly is a seed potato? A seed potato is a potato grown specifically to be planted as a crop. The little sprouts you see on a seed potato are called “Chits”. Let these “Chits” sprout to about an inch tall for the best results. (But it’s ok to plant them before they sprout.)

The first step in preparing your seed potatoes is cutting then into chunks with Two Chits per chunk. (You can plant whole seed potatoes depending on size. If your seed potato is the size of a golf ball or smaller, go ahead and plant that whole) Once you have cut them, they’ll need a few days to “scab over” which is where the freshly cut sides begin to callous over (or “seal”) which prevents them from rotting. You can place them in an old egg carton cut side up to allow for the most air to move around them and allow the scabbing process to happen.

Now that your cut up seed potatoes have been prepared, it’s time to plant. Start by digging a trench about 6” deep. Place your seed potatoes (Chit side up) about 12” to 18” apart, then cover loosely with soil. If you pack the soil down too hard, it will make it much harder for the sprouts to emerge. Now we wait. Soon you’ll begin to see sprouts popping up. Once this begins, start adding loose soil around the greens to create a “mound”. As the greens continue to grow, continue to mound up around them. Your seed potato is going to send roots upwards. The far end of the roots are the greens you see emerging from the soil. Between the seed potato you planted and the top layer of the soil is the root system. Your new crop of potatoes is in that layer of soil. The more you mound the more room you’re giving the roots and your new crop to produce those tasty treats.

As the greens get taller and begin to flower, they’ll need regular watering. 1 to 2 inches of water per week will keep them growing well during the summer months. Once the flowering process stops, it’s time to stop watering. 2 to 3 weeks after the flowering ceases, you can begin to harvest “Baby”or “New” potatoes. Gently loosen the soil under the foliage. Carefully harvest the larger potatoes and leave the smaller ones in the ground to continue to grow. You can enjoy those fresh potatoes the day you remove them from the ground. For potatoes you plan to store, harvest the remaining crop two to three weeks after the foliage dies back. Use a potato fork to gently loosen the remaining potatoes from the mound. It won't take too much effort and you might be surprised just how many potatoes you can get from one single seed potato. If it’s dry, leave them in the garden unwashed for two or three days to cure, or move them into a protected area such as a garden or shed to cure.

On average, one pound of seed potatoes should yield about 10 pounds of edible potatoes. One pound of seed potatoes should plant a 5- to 8-foot row, depending on the variety. Maturity times range from 80-130 days on average.

When planting whole seed potatoes or pieces of potatoes, in general, more eyes per piece equals more potatoes. Smaller potatoes with one or two eyes per piece mean fewer potatoes, but they will be larger.

Companion Planting for potatoes:

Companion Planting can be defined as the practice of planting different species of plants close together based on their ability to enhance one another in some way.

Common reasons why some plants may be regarded as good companion plants include:

  • Non Competing Growth Habits
  • Similar Growth needs
  • Pest Deterrent
  • Soil Balance
  • Nutrient rich
  • Flavor enhancing

Some good neighbors for potatoes

Potatoes are deep-rooting vegetables, which logically suggests that the best companions will be those with above-ground growth habits that do not infer with the root systems of the potatoes. Lettuce, Spinach, Scallions, and Radishes are shallow-rooted veggies that are a good choice for occupying the spaces between potato plants. Since potatoes are harvested late in the season, the best choice for planting around the potato hills will be early-season vegetables that will be harvested well before you need to stomp around the garden and dig up the potatoes.

There are several plants that are said to enhance the flavor of the potato tubers, including chamomile, basil, yarrow, parsley, and thyme (they also welcome in beneficial insects). Beans, cabbage, and corn all will help potatoes grow better and improve the flavor of the tubers.

Pro Tip: Beans and other legumes are good companion plants for most vegetables since they increase nitrogen levels in the soil.

Horseradish is said to make potatoes resistant to disease, and petunias and alyssum will also attract beneficial insects that feast on insects destructive to potatoes. Colorado potato beetles are a particular problem for potatoes, and among the plants that repel this damaging pest are tansy, coriander, and catnip.

Neighbors to Avoid

Proper companion planting technique can also mean not putting some plant species close together if they have a bad influence on one another. Some reasons for avoiding close planting include:

  • Plants may influence the taste of other plants negatively
  • Plants may compete with one another for sunlight, soil nutrients, or space
  • Plants may lure the same destructive insects
  • Plants may have similar disease susceptibility

Although it is in the nightshade family,you should avoid planting potatoes near any other plants in the nightshade family. It is even best to avoid planting potatoes in the same soil where nightshade plants have recently been grown. This includes eggplant, peppers, and tomatoes. Since potatoes are in the nightshade family, and hence they are susceptible to many of the same diseases as other members of the family. Planting nightshade species close together (either in space or in time) creates optimal conditions for certain fungal and bacterial diseases to thrive. You should allow a full two years before replanting a nightshade plant in the same soil that has previously grown other nightshade plants.

There are a number of plants that apparently increase the likelihood of potato blight. These include raspberries, sunflowers, pumpkins, squash, and cucumbers.

Asparagus, carrots, fennel, turnips, and onions seem to stunt the growth of potatoes.

Good Companions for Potatoes:

Alyssum, Basil, Beans, Cabbage, Catnip, Chamomile, Coriander, Corn, Horseradish, Lettuce, Marigolds, Nasturtium, Peas, Petunias, Radishes, Scallions, Spinach, Tansy, Thyme, Yarrow.

Plants to Avoid planting next to Potatoes:

Carrots, Cucumbers, Eggplant, Fennel, Onions, Peppers, Pumpkins, Raspberries, Squash, Sunflowers, Tomatoes, Turnips.

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