How to Grow Potatoes in a Backyard Garden

How to Grow Potatoes

Potatoes are one of the first warm-season vegetables that we plant in the late winter and early spring months. When we use the term "warm-season," we're referring to vegetables that won't tolerate freezing temperatures. You'll want to plant potatoes a couple weeks before your average last frost date. For us in south GA (zone 9a), our ideal time to plant is in mid to late February.

Adding Compost for Planting Potatoes

Prepping Your Soil for Planting Potatoes

Potatoes can be grown anywhere! You can grow them in a traditional in-ground garden, raised bed, or even a 5 gallon bucket. Potatoes prefer well-drained soil that doesn't stay oversaturated after rain or watering. If your soil doesn't drain well, consider adding compost to improve water flow.

Potatoes prefer a balanced fertilizer, which makes Coop Gro Fertilizer a great choice. If you're growing potatoes in an in-ground garden, you'll want to make a planting furrow and sprinkle Coop Gro in the furrow prior to planting. If you're growing potatoes in a raised bed or containers, you'll want to sprinkle Coop Gro on the entire soil surface and mix it into the top 3-4" of soil.

For in-ground plantings, sprinkle 2.5 cups of Coop Gro in the furrow for every 10 row feet. For raised bed or container gardens, sprinkle 2.5 cups of Coop Gro for every 10 square feet of soil surface. Because it usually takes potatoes a couple weeks to sprout after planting, applying Coop Gro Fertilizer at planting will give it plenty of time to be available to plants.

Planting Potatoes in the Backyard Garden

Planting Potatoes

Place your seed potato pieces every 6-8" along the rows in your garden. For raised bed or containers, equally space the seed potato pieces 6-8" apart among the entire bed or container. Be sure that the "eyes" or sprouts of the potatoes are facing upwards, so that they have the path of least resistance when they sprout.

Lightly cover the seed potato pieces with 3-4" of soil. When planting in a furrow, you can simply refill the furrow with soil to cover them. When planting in a raised bed or container with softer soil, you can sometimes simply push the seed potato pieces into the soil.

Unlike planting corn or bean seeds, potatoes will not need water until they sprout. Excess water can cause seed potatoes to rot in the soil prior to forming roots. Don't plant potatoes if you're expecting a significant amount of rain in the next few days. Once you see leaves emerge from the soil, you can start watering them.

Fertilizing and Hilling Potatoes

Potato plants benefit from having soil mounded around the plants as they grow. This serves several purposes. It helps to support the plants, suppress weeds, and keep the potatoes from being exposed to the sun and turning green as they enlarge.

Once potato plants are approximately 6-8" tall, sprinkle 2.5 cups of Coop Gro Fertilizer per 10 row feet (or 10 square feet) alongside the plants. Pull soil around the base of the plants. Don't cover the entire plant, but pull enough soil around the plants so that only a few leaves are above the soil.

Depending on your soil fertility, potatoes may need one more fertilization and hilling 50-60 days after planting. If your potato leaves look dark green and healthy, an additional fertilization may not be necessary. But if the leaves are light green, sprinkle more Coop Gro alongside the plants and cover with soil.

When to Harvest Potatoes

When to Harvest Potatoes

Most potato varieties have a maturity date around 100 days, although some later-maturing varieties will take 120 days. As your potatoes mature, you'll notice that the plants will start to look like they are dying. Don't worry, this is completely normal for potatoes.

Once the plants start to fall and turn from dark green to pale green or brown, they're ready to dig. Pull the potato plants and dig in the soil to harvest your bounty of potatoes. When planted at the right time and fertilized well with Coop Gro Fertilizer,  you should be able to consistently harvest 8x as many pounds as you planted -- if not more!

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