If you’ve ever found yourself with a bag of potatoes that have started to sprout, you might wonder if they’re still good to eat or if they’re better off in the compost bin. But did you know that those sprouting potatoes present a fantastic opportunity? They can be the start of your very own potato garden!
Sprouting Potatoes can be planted in the ground, containers, or raised beds. Plant the potatoes 4 inches or 10cm deep, with the sprouting eyes facing upwards. You can cut large potatoes into smaller chunks to get the correct 12 inches or 30cm planting distribution between plants.
Homesteaders are all about growing their own food, and sprouting potatoes present an opportunity you should not let slip through your fingers! Planting sprouting potatoes is not only an excellent way to reduce food waste, but it’s also a way to produce more homegrown food and increase the self-sustainability of your lifestyle. We will take you through the process of planting your sprouting potatoes to produce your own harvest of homegrown potatoes.
Can You Grow Sprouting Potatoes?
Sprouting potatoes can be planted in your garden, container, or raised bed to produce a potato harvest of your own, but there are some nuances to be aware of before simply digging a hole and planting the sprouting tubers.
It is essential to understand what sprouting potatoes are, why they’re suitable for planting, and how to plant them.
What Is A Sprouting Potato?
Sprouting potatoes, also known as seed potatoes, are potatoes that have started to sprout from the eyes. The “eyes” are small indentations on the potato skin from which new plants can grow.
When a potato begins to sprout, it’s a sign that it’s ready to grow into a new plant. These sprouts, or “chits,” are the beginnings of the potato plant’s stems and leaves. If you’ve ever left a bag of potatoes in your pantry for too long, you’ve likely seen this process in action.
The right time to plant sprouting potatoes is typically in early spring, once the threat of frost has passed.
However, the timing of planting can vary depending on your local climate and the specific variety of potatoes. Some potatoes are more cold-tolerant than others, and understanding these differences can help you plan your planting schedule more effectively.
It’s also important to note that not all sprouting potatoes are suitable for planting. If the potato is shriveled, moldy, or has a foul smell, it’s best to discard it.
Healthy seed potatoes should be firm and have less than a quarter-inch-long or 2.5cm sprouts. If the sprouts are longer, they can be broken off easily during planting, harming the potato’s growing ability.
Whether you have a homestead, a large backyard, or a small balcony, you can grow your own potatoes from sprouting potatoes with a little insight on how to do it correctly.
Preparing For Planting Sprouting Potatoes
Before planting your sprouting potatoes, you must take a few basic but key steps to ensure a successful harvest.
Choosing The Right Potato Varieties
Numerous potato varieties are available, each with its own set of characteristics, including different growth times, resistance to certain diseases, and varying tastes and textures.
Some popular varieties include Russet, Yukon Gold, and Red Pontiac. Research the varieties best suited to your local climate and personal preferences.
Preparing the Soil To Plant Sprouting Potatoes
Potatoes thrive in well-drained, loose soil. Heavy clay or compacted soil can hinder the growth of the tubers and lead to poor yields.
If your garden soil is heavy clay, consider amending it with organic matter like compost or well-rotted manure to improve its texture and drainage.
The soil’s pH is also important. Potatoes plants prefer slightly acidic soil with a pH between 5.0 and 7.0, with an ideal range between 6.0 and 6.5. If your soil is too alkaline (sweet), you can lower the pH by adding products like sulfur or pine needles.
Can You Plant Sprouting Potatoes In A Container?
If you don’t have a lot of garden space, or if your soil isn’t ideal for growing potatoes, don’t worry! Potatoes can be grown very successfully in containers. This method, known as container gardening, is a great way to grow your own potatoes, even in limited spaces.
Almost any large container can serve as a potato garden. You can use commercial potato planters or repurpose items like old barrels, large flower pots, or even trash bags.
The key is to ensure that the container is deep enough for the potatoes to grow and has adequate drainage to prevent waterlogging.
Whether you’re planting in the ground or a container, the steps in the next section on planting the sprouting potatoes will guide you through the process and set you up for a successful potato harvest.
Planting Sprouting Potatoes
Now that your sprouting potatoes and your soil or container are ready, it’s time to start planting. We have created a simple step-by-step planting guide to help you through the process.
1. Cutting Large Sprouting Potatoes (Optional)
If your sprouting potatoes are large, you may want to cut them into smaller pieces, each with at least one or two sprouts.
This can help you get more plants from each potato. Make sure to cut them a day or two before planting to allow the cuts to dry and form a protective layer, reducing the risk of rotting.
2. Digging Holes Or Preparing Your Container
If you’re planting in the ground, dig a trench about 4 inches deep. The width of the soil trench will depend on how many potatoes you’re planting but aim to space the potatoes about 12 inches or 30cm apart.
If you are using a container for planting, fill it with about 6 inches or 15cm of your potting soil mix.
3. Planting The Sprouting Potatoes
Place the sprouting potatoes or potato pieces in the trench or container with the sprouts pointing upwards. If you’ve cut your potatoes, ensure the cut side faces down.
4. Covering The Potatoes
Cover the potatoes with soil, leaving the sprouts ever so slightly exposed. If planting in a container, add enough soil to thoroughly cover the potatoes and water.
5. Watering The Planted Sprouting Potatoes
After planting, water the soil thoroughly but avoid overwatering. The soil should be moist, not waterlogged.
6. Waiting For The Sprouting Potatoes To Grow
In a few weeks, you should see the potato plants starting to grow. Add more soil or compost to keep the developing tubers covered as they grow.
Patience is key for gardeners when growing potatoes. It may take a few weeks to see any green growth, but rest assured that a lot is happening under the soil.
Caring For Your Potato Plants
Once your sprouting potatoes are planted and growing, they’ll need some care and attention to ensure a healthy crop.
- Watering frequency. Potatoes need consistent moisture, so regular watering is important, especially during dry spells. However, strictly avoid overwatering, as this can cause the potatoes to rot. The soil should be moist but not waterlogged. A good rule of thumb is to water when the top inch of soil feels dry.
- Hilling. As your potato plants grow, you’ll need to “hill” them by piling soil around the base of the plant. This encourages the potato plant to produce more tubers and prevents them from being exposed to direct sunlight, which can make them turn green and become toxic. Hill your potatoes every few weeks or whenever the plants have grown about 6 inches.
- Weeding. Keep the area around your potato plants free of weeds. Weeds can compete with your potatoes for nutrients and water; some can also attract pests or diseases.
- Pest and disease management. Watch for common potato pests like aphids, Colorado potato beetles, slugs, and diseases like potato blight. If you observe any signs of pests or diseases, take action promptly to prevent them from spreading. This may involve removing affected plants, using organic pest control methods, or in severe cases, using appropriate pesticides or fungicides.
- Fertilizing. Potatoes are heavy feeders, so they’ll benefit from regular feeding. Use a balanced vegetable fertilizer and follow the package instructions for application rates and frequency.
Follow these care tips, and you will be well on your way to a successful potato harvest.
Harvesting And Storing Potatoes
After weeks of caring for your potato plants, the moment of truth finally arrives; it’s time to harvest your potatoes. Here’s how to do it and how to store your potatoes afterward:
- When should you harvest your potatoes? The right time to harvest depends on the potato variety and whether you want “new” potatoes or mature ones. New potatoes are small, tender potatoes that can be harvested 2-3 weeks after the plants stop flowering. For mature potatoes, wait until the foliage has died back, then wait another 2 weeks for the potatoes’ skin to harden before harvesting.
- How to harvest the potatoes. To harvest your potatoes, gently dig around the plants with a fork or your hands, being careful not to damage the tubers. If you’re using a container, you can simply tip it over and sort through the soil to find your potatoes.
- Curing the potatoes. After harvesting, let your potatoes cure for a few hours to a few days in a cool, dark, well-ventilated place. This allows the skin to harden further and minor injuries to heal, which helps extend the storage life.
- Storing the potatoes. Store your cured potatoes in a cool, dark, well-ventilated place. Ideal storage temperatures are between 35-40°F (2-4°C). Avoid storing potatoes in the refrigerator, as the cold temperatures can convert the potato’s starch to sugar, altering the taste. Also, don’t store potatoes near apples or onions, as these can cause potatoes to spoil faster.
- Check on your stored potatoes. Check your stored potatoes regularly and remove any that are soft, shriveled, or have started to sprout. This will help prevent spoilage from spreading to the other potatoes.
By following these harvesting and storing tips, you can enjoy your homegrown potatoes for months to come.
Planting sprouting potatoes is a rewarding endeavor that allows you to transform those sprouting spuds in your pantry into a bountiful harvest. It provides a sustainable way to grow your own food and offers an engaging project that gardeners of all skill levels and ages can enjoy.
Don’t be disheartened if your first attempt doesn’t yield a bumper crop. Each step, each challenge, and each small success brings valuable lessons that will make your next gardening endeavor even more fruitful!