How to Grow Organic Potatoes: No. 1 Potato Expert Shares His Best Tips

In this exclusive interview, professional potato producer Jim Gerritsen gives the full scoop on how to grow organic potatoes, how to store your spuds, and much more.

  • Basket Of Multicolored Potatoes
    You’ll be amazed how much better fresh, homegrown potatoes taste.
    Photo by Fotolia/Joachim Opelka
  • Straw Bale Growing Potatoes
    Mulch with a material such as straw to conserve moisture and keep light off developing potatoes.
    Photo by Dreamstime/Vhamrick
  • Digging Potatoes
    Use a shovel or digging fork to harvest, taking care not to spear your spuds.
    Photo by Fotolia/eag1e
  • Chitting Greensprout Potatoes
    Greensprout, or “chit,” your potatoes by exposing them to light in a cool spot for a few weeks.
    Photo by Photoshot/Gary K Smith
  • Freshly Harvested Potatoes
    After you harvest your potatoes, store them in a cool, moist place (such as a root cellar or basement) for up to six to eight months.
    Photo by Photoshot/Cultura
  • Striped Colorado Potato Beetle
    Control Colorado potato beetles by destroying their eggs.
    Photo by Fotolia/Marianne Mayer
  • Plant Sprouted Seed Potatoes
    Plant sprouting seed potatoes when your soil warms to 50 degrees Fahrenheit.
    Photo by Photoshot/Gary K Smith/Bruce Col
  • Jim Gerritsen GMO Rally
    Potato expert and GMO-labeling advocate Jim Gerritsen speaks out against GMOs at a rally in New York.
    Photo by Organic Seed Growers and Trade A

  • Basket Of Multicolored Potatoes
  • Straw Bale Growing Potatoes
  • Digging Potatoes
  • Chitting Greensprout Potatoes
  • Freshly Harvested Potatoes
  • Striped Colorado Potato Beetle
  • Plant Sprouted Seed Potatoes
  • Jim Gerritsen GMO Rally

Jim Gerritsen and family have been growing seed potatoes for 37 years at Wood Prairie Farm in Bridgewater, Maine. Gerritsen, a potato farmer whom many consider the No. 1 organic potato expert in North America, has a lot to say about the benefits of homegrown spuds.

“If you do a good job, you can harvest about 70 to 90 pounds per 100 square feet — that’s a lot of calories and a lot of nutrition,” he says. To get to that point, though, a grower first needs to learn the ins and outs of how to grow organic potatoes on a home-garden scale. Gerritsen agreed to share his potato wisdom with MOTHER EARTH NEWS, and his tips are sure to raise your potato-growing IQ. Let’s dig in!

What’s the No. 1 most important key to growing organic potatoes? 
I would say it’s the seed. Seed is the most important key to growing any organic crop, and that’s especially true for potatoes. There’s a wide variation in seed potato quality, and certified seed potatoes will always do best in terms of yield, storage and overall quality.

How do you grow your seed potatoes?
We start with tissue-cultured, diseasefree mini-tubers that are produced in a greenhouse or hydroponically. We plant them in spring, and after a couple of generations we have enough to sell. Currently, we cultivate two to four generations each of 23 varieties.

Why can’t gardeners just plant potatoes sold in grocery stores?
You can use supermarket spuds, but they won’t grow well because they’re sprayed with chemicals to inhibit sprouting. Some people buy organic potatoes, thinking they haven’t been sprayed, but even these won’t do as well as certified seed potatoes that have been handled properly and are physiologically young. The proof’s in the pudding — or, in your mashed potatoes.

What are ideal growing conditions for potatoes?
The most important thing to remember is that potatoes are a cool-season crop. They simply can’t take a lot of heat and can actually die in temperatures above 95 degrees Fahrenheit.

Carol Rosen
2/21/2018 8:56:15 PM

Why is there no concern or discussion about the need to keep potatotoes out of light. Potatoes exposed to light will develop a harmful enzyme. This is seen when a potato sitting a the store bin has green on it. Why is the not considered in organic potatoes?

12/30/2015 3:17:33 AM

Hi I live in the Caribbean and i bought a bag of red skin potatoes at the grocery store and wanted to plant a few of them. I know they have been treated with sprout inhibitor before i got them but is there a way that i can still sprout some of the potatoes for planting even though i might get smaller yields? I just want to grow them myself with the chemicals being applied to them and to my body.

2/8/2014 7:18:05 AM

how many potatoes will a potatoes plant produce ?

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