Home grown potatoes are excellent. We may say this a lot, but it’s true! Up there with tomatoes, onions, (most other things) store bought just can’t hold a candle to home grown potatoes. Plus while you’re roasting up this wonderful tuber you’ll be proud of yourself for growing them!

First off, quick anatomy lesson: Potatoes are not roots, but actually off shoots of stem called tubers. They are chock full of vitamins and minerals when prepared right (eat the skin folks, eat-the-skin!) and they’re a great carb choice.

When to Grow Potatoes

Potatoes are a cool to warm season crop and that means mid February to March is the best time to plant your seed potatoes in Central Texas. You can also plant potatoes for a fall crop, you will want to get them in the ground by mid to late August.

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What to Grow Potatoes In

Potatoes grow well in containers such as barrels, buckets, large grow sacks, or anything with good drainage. Containers allow you to mound up the soil around the potato stems as they grow and are one of our favorite options for growing potatoes. Raised bed gardens also work very well too. And lastly, If you have the space and good soil, growing potatoes in the ground is another option.

How to Prepare Potatoes for Growing

Potatoes grow from small potatoes, or pieces of larger ones. We encourage you to not use potatoes from the store, they’re treated with sprout inhibiters. It is best to buy certified seed potatoes from your local garden nursery. If in a pinch, then choose organic potatoes from the store.

Once you have your seed potatoes, sprout them a bit. It’s called chitting. Just lay them somewhere light and warm, out on a tray (single layer, spaced apart) in a window or the porch for up to 2 weeks. Once you see little sprouts you can cut and prep them. Sprouting your potatoes a little gives them a quicker start, but skipping this step will still get you potatoes.

Once sprouted, carefully cut into large egg sized pieces, or leave small ones whole. Make sure each piece has 2-3 eyes (sprouts). Leave potatoes to air dry for 2-3 days. This allows the cuts to dry and callous over. Now they’re ready for planting!

Fall planting tip: Only use small whole potatoes without cutting to prevent them from rotting in the heat.

How to Plant Potatoes

Potatoes are a bit different in how they’re planted, which is fun and great for kids!

Potatoes need 6-8 hours of sun. Make sure you are planting in a sunny location. Some shade is ok.

Add a balanced organic fertilizer to soil planting area. Plant seeds pieces about 10 inches apart in a big container and cover with only an inch or so of soil. Potatoes planted closer together will produce smaller potatoes. Or if planting in a raised garden bed then dig a trench at least 4-6 inches deep and place seed potatoes and cover with a couple of inches of soil.

When the seedling is about 4-6 inches high, carefully add more soil and mound it up around the plant stems. Repeat this process every so often or until the top of the container or bed is reached. Potatoes grow along the stems above the original seed. Picture a Christmas tree. with the base as the seed, potato ornaments all the way up the stem, and a really big the star top showing above the ground.

How to Tend Potato Plants

Potatoes plants need consistent water to grow nice potatoes. Too little and they’ll shrivel, too much and they’ll split or divide into multi-lump tubers. For vigorous healthy plants, give them a fertilizer side dressing when they’re 6-8″ high, and water it in. Keep in mind that the tops are not frost hardy, so be prepared to cover should a freeze strike.

If potatoes show up at the surface, be sure to cover them up with more soil! Light will turn potatoes green, which is not what you want. A little can be peeled away, but lots of green isn’t healthy. (On potatoes that is.)

When to Harvest Potatoes

Potatoes mature around 3 to 4 months after planting, depending on if you pre-sprouted them or not. Baby or “new” potatoes can be harvested sooner, by gently unearthing them with your fingers. Young potatoes will have delicate skin that can rub off with your thumb.

When the potato plant tops begin to die back and flop over, don’t panic! They’re ready. You can check by testing a potatoes to see if the skin is more set and firm.

Here’s harvesting 3-ways: Either gently dump out the entire barrel and gather, gently lift one plant at a time with a pitch-fork beginning away from the plant being careful not to pierce any tubers, or gently dig tubers out with your hands or a spade. Did I mention gently? If they’re damaged they will spoil quite quickly.

*Do not wash your potatoes! Dry them on the porch for a few days, brush off any loose soil, and store them in a cool dark place. Check them once in a while to ensure they’re staying fresh. Or cook them up right away because you’re bursting with pride and can’t wait to display your tuberous triumph at the table!

Potato Varieties that Grow Well in Central Texas

Whites potates cook up the best, but reds store better. Most gardeners plant some of both, and eat the whites first.

– Red: Norland, Red LaSoda

– White: Gemchip, Superior

– Yellow: Yukon Gold, a crowd favorite to be sure!

– Russet Century Russet, Russet Norkatah, good bakers.

 

Happy Gardening Folks! If you would like some help or some muscle, we can coach you or help plan for the garden you have, or take care of an entirely new bed installation. Follow this link to schedule and we would love to help you! CLICK HERE TO SCHEDULE