Fruit and Vegetable Gardening A-Z: Potatoes

Potatoes are tuberous vegetables that have countless applications in the kitchen. Mashed, fried, baked, or chipped, when it comes to versatility, these spuds are king.

Hardiness Zones:
6-11 (Find your hardiness zone.)

When to Plant:
Plant 3 potato “eyes” 3 inches deep in "hills" of soil, 1-2 weeks before the last anticipated frost in your area. The hills should be 3 feet apart.

Full sun is necessary. Potatoes thrive in soil that is soft and loamy, retains water well, and is rich in organic material. To avoid a common problem, potato scab, acidify the soil slightly by adding some cottonseed meal. Potatoes also need well-drained soil to avoid rotting.

Space Needed:
Space plants 3 feet apart in rows 2-3 feet apart. For small spaces, grow them in containers. Never replant potatoes in the same plot next year as it encourages disease. Wait at least 3 years before planting in the same place.

Side dress the tubers with a nitrogen-rich fertilizer (such as bone or blood meal) once or twice during the growing period. Once the plants emerge from the soil, cover the plant with soil so only 3-5 inches of the plant show above ground. Do not let the potatoes themselves be exposed to sunlight. Water is especially important immediately before and during the plant's flowering phase.

When to Harvest:
Once the vine has yellowed and died back (its once hearty stalk will shrivel and diminish in size) for a few weeks, the potatoes are ready for harvest. Lift out of the ground with a garden fork to avoid damaging the tubers. Sort and discard any damaged potatoes. Early varieties can be ready for harvest in as little as 70 days, late varieties as early as 120. Store potatoes in a cool, dark, dry place, away from onions.

Average Yield:
Yield varies by variety; expect at least 12 pounds of potatoes from an 8 foot row of plants.

Continuous Yield:

Life Cycle:

Difficulty Rating (1-5):