Planting Tips for a Better Potato Harvest

Reader Contribution by Benedict Vanheems
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Chit (sprout) your seed potatoes in a cool, well-ventilated area before planting to give them a head start and help boost yields. Plant potatoes in a sunny spot, into rich soil. You can add extra nourishment for the plants using a slow-release organic fertilizer such as chicken manure pellets.

Growing Potatoes in Trenches

Growing potatoes in parallel trenches makes them easy to hill as they grow. Plant seed potatoes with shoots facing upwards a foot apart, in rows one and a half to two feet apart depending on variety. If your soil is loose enough you can excavate a hole for each seed potato instead of digging a trench.

Hilling up increases the amount of organic matter around the roots so there’s more space for the tubers to grow. It also prevents any that grow near the surface from turning green. You can hill up using the surrounding soil plus other organic matter such as dried leaves, well-rotted manure or grass clippings.

Start hilling once the shoots are up to your ankle, and keep doing so until the foliage has filled out between the rows.

No-Till Potatoes

Potatoes can also be grown in a no-till system. Simply nestle the sprouted potatoes into the soil surface, then cover them with an eight-inch-thick layer of organic matter such as compost, dried leaves, hay or straw. Check with your supplier that there’s no risk of any herbicide residues if you’re using hay or straw.

There’s no need to hill. When the potatoes are ready, simply pull back the now partially decomposed organic matter to reveal the tubers beneath.

Extra Early Potatoes

You can plant extra-early potatoes up to three weeks earlier than normal in generous-sized tubs or sacks in a frost-free greenhouse or hoop house.  This method works best in cooler climates, as potatoes will stop producing tubers if the roots become too hot.

Place the tubers onto a four-inch deep layer of potting soil, then cover with another four inches of potting soil. Hill up by adding more potting soil whenever the foliage reaches about six inches high. Keep hilling until you reach the top of the sack. Once the weather has warmed up, move the sacks outdoors to finish growing.

Harvesting Potatoes in Winter

Plant ‘second early’ varieties in late summer in a container, then bring them under cover when the weather cools for a fall crop.

In milder climates, plant a maincrop variety in garden beds in late spring. When the foliage begins to die back, cut the stems to the ground and simply leave the tubers in the soil until you need them. They should store in the ground for several months.

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