Why should I grow potatoes and where do I start?

Poutine.

Still need more convincing? Okay, okay…salt potatoes, french fries, home fries, mashed, baked, oven roasted, tots, hush puppies, the list of deliciousness goes on and on. Not to mention potatoes are low in fat and rich in potassium, magnesium, vitamins C and B6, iron and dietary fiber. Yes, please!

I’ve also found that I save a significant chunk of change by planting my own. Here is the math–>

I buy my “seed potatoes” for $10/bag. (Although you do not have to, you can use leftovers that have started to produce eyes.) I do 3 varieties so this is a $30 expense BUT it yields 50-60lbs of potatoes. If I were to purchase organic potatoes at the store they would be around $1.99/lb. That means my 55lbs of potatoes would have cost $110 instead of $30. Aka I have saved myself $80 and enjoyed some free natural therapy along the way. #winning

Alright, now that I have your attention, here are the basic steps for getting started:

1- Tubers. Seed potatoes, otherwise known as tubers, can be purchased from a number of websites (see Gardening Links tab in the menu) if you are looking for specific varieties. For example, I love Purple Majesty potatoes. They are purple all the way through and hold their texture well for things like stew and pot pie. These are a great option if you have a little one who would enjoy some “unicorn mashed potatoes”. Perhaps you’re looking for potatoes with a low glycemic index, then you may want to try fingerling potatoes. There is a variety to meet every need so read the descriptions and don’t be afraid to try new things.

2- Chitting. Once your tubers have arrived it is recommended that you apply a method called “chitting”. This is when you place your tubers in a cool sunny place and they start to produce eyes which grow into short thick stems. You do not want long thin stems. This tends to happen when you have potatoes that grow eyes in a dark pantry and it is not ideal for starting plants.

3- Start digging. It is best if you dig a trench to plant your tubers in. 12″ deep is sufficient and after you place your tubers in the trench, spaced 12-18″ apart, you cover them with 2-3″ of soil. Give them a drink, whisper sweet nothings and then be patient.

4- Greens. Your plants will start to produce foliage and when those leaves have reached 4-6″ tall you should burry them again until you can only see the top leaves. This process can be repeated and your plants will continue to reach skyward. Your new potato crop will grow in the soil space between the seed potato and the surface. I repeat this step until my potatoes look like they’re growing out of little hills.

5- Harvesting. When the foliage has died it is time to harvest your crop. I pull my dead greens out one plant at a time so I know roughly where I should be digging. I have a strict “no potato gets left behind” policy. You’ll want to start a little wide just to avoid slicing one of your newly grown potatoes before it ever reaches the surface. I am also quite fond of using a garden hoe instead of a shovel. Garden forks are another popular option. Ultimately I always end up on the ground sifting through the dirt with my hands anyway.

Growing potatoes is incredibly gratifying. They grow pretty quickly, they have lush foliage and they produce a bounty crop in a variety of climates. If I had to recommend one foolproof variety to start with it would be Red Pontiacs. They have a red skin with white flesh and they’re a great size for most cooking needs. I want to reiterate that this is a very generalized guide to planting potatoes. Potatoes can be grown in containers and raised beds (assuming they’re deep enough) and there are some great blogs available to outline the best approach for these methods. I personally have always grown my potatoes in a tilled plot and I am never disappointed by the yield.

I wish you all the best in your potato growing adventure, if you have any questions please don’t hesitate to reach out. Cheers friends!

Red Pontiac tuber with eyes

Three rows of trenched tubers in my plot at the local community garden.

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