We never met a potato that we didn’t like! This delicious and versatile vegetable, available in a variety of colors, shapes, and sizes, can be eaten baked, boiled, mashed, and fried. It can be served as a side dish or used in soups, salads, and stews. And did you know that potatoes are even tastier when homegrown?
Starchy vegetables, like potatoes, have gotten a bad reputation as of late. Starch is a carbohydrate that our bodies turn into glucose to use or store for energy. We’re told that potatoes “pack on the pounds”; however, we don’t often hear about their nutritional and health benefits. Depending on the type, potatoes are rich in antioxidants, fiber, vitamins like C and B6, and essential minerals like potassium, magnesium, and phosphorus.
Potatoes are a tuber. A tuber is an underground stem. Your local Master Nursery Garden Center is the best place to purchase starter potato tubers. These are called “seed” potatoes. Seed potatoes are available in a number of varieties, are disease-resistant, and have eyes (buds) from which the above-ground or vegetative part of the plant grows.
Popular potato varieties include:
- Adirondack Blue
Color & Shape: Dark purple skin with purple flesh, oblong
Facts: Good yield, gourmet
Use: Great mashed and in salad
Color & Shape: Buff skin with white flesh, round to oblong
Facts: Heirloom, good yield, drought-resistant
Use: Perfect for soups and stews
Color & Shape: Thin, smooth skin with creamy flesh, round to oblong
Facts: High yield, mid-season, stores well
Use: Harvest new and mature. Frying, baking, & boiling
- Red Pontiac
Color & Shape: Thin red skin with white flesh, round to oblong
Facts: Grows well in clay soil, stores well
Use: Harvest new and mature. Excellent for mashing
- Rose Finn Apple Fingerling
Color & Shape: Thin rose-blush skin with pale yellow flesh, small, slender, finger-shaped
Facts: Heirloom, stores well
Uses: Roasting, salads, soups, & stews
- Yukon Gold
Color & Shape: Thin gold skin with yellow flesh with a buttery flavor, slightly flat and oval
Facts: Early potato, high yield, stores well
Use: Harvest new and mature. Boiling, baking, frying, mashing & salads
One to two days before planting, with a sharp, clean knife, cut the seed potatoes into 1 ½ to 2-inch pieces, each containing at least one eye. To prevent rot, allow the cuts to air dry and callus over before planting. If the seed potatoes are smaller than two inches, you may plant them whole as long as they have at least one eye.
Potatoes should be planted in the spring when the soil temperature is at least 45 degrees Fahrenheit and require a full sun site. Potatoes may be grown directly in the ground, in raised beds, grow bags, and tubs, but they must have loose, fertile, well-drained soil.
Don’t have optimum soil? This is where Master Nursery® comes to the rescue with convenient, bagged, premium soils, and soil amenders! To find a retailer near you, use our Bumper Crop® store locator.
To prepare your garden when planting potatoes:
- Inground Beds
Till native soil to at least foot deep, removing all rocks and debris, and evenly spread at least 4 inches of Master Nursery® Bumper Crop® Soil Builder [Eastern & Midwestern Regions | Western Region] atop the soil surface and till again; this is best done in the fall.
- Raised Beds [Eastern & Midwestern Regions Only]
Fill your raised beds with Master Nursery® Bumper Crop® Soil Builder; no other soil is needed.
- All Containers
Fill containers with Master Nursery® Bumper Crop® Potting Soil [Eastern & Midwestern Regions | Western Region]. Make sure that containers have adequate drainage holes to prevent rot.
Not sure how much soil you’ll need? Our handy Soil Calculator makes it easy to avoid over or under-estimating the amount required for your particular garden size.
When amending the soil in garden beds and filling containers and raised beds, incorporate Master Nursery® Bumper Crop® Tomato and Vegetable Food; this will get onions, and all of your garden veggies, off to a good start.
Now it’s time to plant. In both in-ground and raised beds, create furrows (a trench or gully) about 8 inches deep. The furrows should be at least three feet apart to give potatoes plenty of room to grow. Place the potato pieces one foot apart in the furrows with the eyes facing upward. Cover the potato pieces with 4 inches of the soil excavated to create the furrows. As the potato plants grow, you may continue to fill up the furrow and even mound the soil around the plant to develop a deep, soft place for potatoes to mature. This same process should be used in grow bags and tubs. It is simply a smaller growing space.
- Potatoes prefer a soil pH of 6.0 – 6.5 but will grow in soil pH as low as 5.5. Test your soil before planting and amend accordingly.
- Potato plants require 1 – 2 inches of water per week. If Mother Nature does not provide moisture, then we must.
- After planting, continue to fertilize potatoes monthly with Master Nursery® Bumper Crop® Tomato and Vegetable Food; to keep plants healthy and increase yield.
New potatoes are ready to harvest in approximately 60 to 90 days from planting; harvest time depends on the variety and weather conditions. It should be safe to harvest new potatoes 2 to 3 weeks after the plant stops flowering.
Fully mature potatoes are ready to harvest approximately 120 days from planting; harvest time depends on the variety and weather conditions. It should be safe to harvest mature potatoes 2 to 3 weeks after the plant foliage has died back but before the first fall frost.
Reaching into the soil and harvesting a potato or two is perfectly fine to ensure they are ready. Mature potatoes should have thick and well-attached skins. If the skins are too thin, they will be easily rubbed off and should be left in the ground for a more extended period of time.
It is best to dig your potato crop with a garden fork. Begin carefully digging a foot and a half out from the center of the plant to avoid spearing or damaging the vegetable. Damaged potatoes do not store well.
Cure potatoes for about two weeks at 45 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit; spread out in a single layer in an area with high humidity. This allows the skin time to harden. Once cured, sort through the potatoes and dispose of any soft, bruised, or damaged tubers. Store potatoes in a cool, dark environment at around 40 degrees Fahrenheit. If the temperature rises above 45 degrees, the tubers will become useless as they sprout and shrivel. The best place to store potatoes is a root cellar, cool basement, garage, or spare refrigerator. Never let potatoes freeze! Most mature potatoes will remain in good condition with proper storage for seven to eight months.