Homegrown potatoes deserve a place in vegetable gardens with sufficient space -- their flavor and texture more than merit the garden real estate they require. There is something almost magical about sinking a fork into the soil beneath the unassuming plant and turning out the crop. Potatoes are generally purchased as "seed potatoes," though they are not seeds at all; they are actually small pieces of the potato variety you've chosen, and the eyes on each piece will sprout a plant.
For more growing tips on vegetable varieties, visit our Vegetable Growing Guide.
Habit: Upright leafy plants, potatoes form underground.
Days to Harvest: Varies. Early-, mid-, and late-season varieties are available. Plants can be harvested 7 to 8 weeks after planting for tiny new potatoes or, several weeks later, the vines will wither, indicating that full-sized potatoes are ready for harvest.
When to Plant: Potatoes are generally planted in mid-spring.
Light: Full sun.
Soil: Average soil amended with compost and deeply dug to loosen is ideal.
Watering: While plant is growing and tubers are forming, keep well watered. Once the foliage begins to yellow, however, cut back watering to avoid rotting tubers.
Fertilizing: If soil is not rich in organic matter, work a balanced organic granular fertilizer into the top 4 to 6 inches of soil.
Pest Problems: Potato beetles will devour foliage -- they can be excluded with row covers or handpicked. Also look for their yellow eggs on the underside of foliage. Many fungal diseases can affect potatoes, so practice crop rotation, avoiding sites that have recently grown tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, or other root crops.
When to Harvest: When plants reach about 12 inches high, 6 to 8 inches of additional soil should be piled over the base of the plant. This protects the developing potatoes from light exposure, which turns them green. If you wish to harvest new potatoes, dig plants approximately 7 to 9 weeks after planting. For full sized, wait until the vines have withered and dried then harvest all potatoes.