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Growing Potatoes in the Garden

One of my favorite things to grow in the garden are potatoes. Okay, so I say that about almost everything… but with potatoes I really mean it.

Why? Because potatoes are easy to grow, require very little effort, and reward you with huge yields. (You can’t beat that. Little work = Big harvest!) You can grow a good harvest of potatoes, with just a little bit of space. They can even be planted in containers, and could easily be part of a small patio or deck garden at an apartment. You just need the appropriate amount of sunlight. But we’ll talk about that a little later on.

For now, I’d like to talk about the pre-planting stage of growing potatoes.

Don’t worry, it’s not complicated.

If you are thinking about adding potatoes to your garden, now’s the time to get serious. There are a few preliminary steps you should follow.

Seed potatoes waiting to be planted

Seed potatoes waiting to be planted

1.  Buy seed potatoes.  While  it’s true that you can often use any store-bought potato to sprout a new crop, your odds are much better with seed potatoes.  One: they are usually guaranteed to be disease-free. Two: they are almost always going to sprout and grow, and are pretty much the closest thing you can get to a sure bet in gardening. Three: you can grow truly organic potatoes when you choose seed potatoes to start from. It’s no wonder old farmers and long-time gardeners often call seed potatoes “insurance” for their potato crops.

So buy yourself some seed potatoes and forget the store-bought ones.

Potatoes you find at the grocery store can harbor diseases that will prohibit or inhibit growth. Nothing will stop a potato crop in its tracks faster than fungus or disease. (Normally, there’s no sign of the disease at the time of planting.) Not to mention, these store-bought potatoes are usually the same old tired varieties, that often lack taste and nutrients. With seed potatoes, you can grow all sorts of different potatoes with much more robust flavor, packed with vitamins and minerals. My personal favorites are Kennebec potatoes and the good ole’ trusty Yukon Gold. But this year, I’m itching to try purple…yes, purple…Viking potatoes! You can even grow blue potatoes. Fun natural colors might be a good way to get your kids to eat their veggies. Check out all the different varieties of seed potatoes you can try here. 

2. Sprout your ‘taters before planting. This is not a hard job.

A week or so before you’re ready to plant them, put your seed potatoes in a sunny window to sprout “eyes.” (see my photo above – my potatoes are still sitting in the dining room and will be ready for planting very soon). You will want more than one eye to sprout on each potato if possible.

If you have seed potatoes and you’re NOT ready to plant them, store them in a cool, dark, but dry place to keep them from sprouting before you’re ready to plant.

You can plant potatoes quite early, depending on where you live. The rule of thumb is not to plant them before 2 weeks before your last frost date. To find out a ballpark figure of what that date is for where you live, go here.

In a few days, I will give you a step-by-step tutorial on how to plant your potato crop, so stay tuned for more information. Until then, happy shopping & happy sprouting.


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