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.

| February/March 2014

Basket of Multicolored Potatoes

You’ll be amazed how much better fresh, homegrown potatoes taste.

Photo by Fotolia/Joachim Opelka

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.

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 ?
2/7/2014 9:14:55 PM

Once you gain the experience of working with nature, you’re a better person — and if we have a country full of people like that, we have a better country. Now that's some Real American Philosophy. Admire your stand against the evil empire Monsatin and appreciate your fight for the betterment of your fellow citizens. Yes ALL GMO FOODS are poison do not listen to the paid shills & Lobbyists as all the poison Glyphosate in GMO crops will destroy the healthy beneficial bacteria in your guts & what sends the Killer White Tcells to fight infection and disease that attacks your body ? Yep them beneficial bacteria. Cancer is epidemic all across America & one of the main causes is from the foods we eat. If GMO crops become the norm , the cancer rate will accelerate in proportion - ie instead of 1 in 5 it will become 1 in 2. Everyone must do all they can to stop the progression of GMO crops , for their lives & their family's lives depend on stopping Monsatin aka Monsanto Jim - sounds like he has alot of hard bark. One of the best articles I have read here on Mothershipearth , loaded with awesome information . Much Obliged Sonny

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