There are so many delicious ways to cook potatoes—mashed, hash, fried, baked, etc—but for those who want to know how to grow potatoes, there’s only one way if you want to turn out tasty tubers.
Perfect Growing Conditions
While some people might think potatoes are temperamental and difficult to grow in a backyard garden, they really aren’t. That said, they can be a little labor intensive. The key is knowing when to plant, tend, and harvest. Here’s a basic timeline of what to do and when to do it.
- When to get started
Generally speaking, potatoes are an early crop. They prefer the cooler spring temperatures instead of summer’s heat. Once you are confident there won’t be any more deep freezes, you can start preparing to plant.
- How to prep
Sure, you could go to the garden store to buy seed packets or seedlings, but according to The Old Farmer’s Almanac, there’s no need. You can develop starter plants from old potatoes.
• A couple of days before planting, cut up some old potatoes into chunks (a small whole potato will work, too) and let them develop eyes. This “aging” process allows the tuber to create a protective outer layer that will retain moisture within.
• Once the chunk has at least two eyes, it’s ready to be planted.
- Set up the soil
Dig a trench several inches deep. Next, add a layer of compost that will feed the plants over time. Place the starter tater on top of the compost with the eyes facing up. Of course, cover with dirt and water well.
Tip: Potatoes prefer loose soil, so don’t pack it down too tightly.
- Tending the young plants
This is when potatoes become a little high maintenance. As soon as the plants bloom and grow about 6 inches, it’s time to “hill” them. This process entails mounding dirt up around the newly sprouted plant to keep roots, tuber and growth protected from sunburn. Pile up enough soil so it covers at least half of the stem. As the plant continues growing, do the hilling at least one more time. Additionally, water regularly so the area stay moist.
- Carefully harvest
Although the potatoes may ready to be pulled approximately 10 weeks after planting, the tubers are very tender. The thin skins can easily be rubbed off if you’re not careful. The first step to harvesting is to wait for a dry day. Gently dig around the plant to loosen the dirt and then pull them up. Brush the dirt away from the potato, but do not wash. Early on, you can pull potatoes as needed, but once the vines start dying, then harvest the remaining crop so it does not rot.
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