How to Grow Potatoes
Growing Potatoes In Your Backyard or Garden
Get Your "Seeds"
Potato "seeds" are not seeds in the usual sense. Seed potatoes are mature potatoes that are cut into pieces and planted in the ground. The eyes send out long white stems underground from which more potatoes, or tubers, grow. Your local Southern States dealer carries a variety of well-known seed potatoes that are adapted to your region's particular growing conditions.
The Right Spot In Your Garden
Choose a planting site that is fairly sunny where tomatoes, potatoes and other related crops have not grown recently. Avoid locations with heavy soils and those that are wet or shallow. Try to select a spot that has not been limed heavily and recently, since potatoes prefer a more acidic soil than most vegetables. The ideal soil acidity has a pH level of 5.5 - a pH under 5.2 can reduce yields.
Prepare the Seed
Cut each potato so that it contains 3 eyes and enough potato to give the young sprout some nourishment to grow on for awhile. A quarter of an average size potato is a good size (at least the size of a golf ball). Pieces with one eye will produce bigger potatoes, while those with more eyes produce them in greater numbers. Allow each piece to dry in the open shade for an hour or 2 so their cut surfaces will harden.
Planting the Seed Potatoes
Once the seed has dried, plant in a 6 inch deep trench and place a foot apart. Cover with 4 inches of soil with the eyes facing up. Space the rows 32 to 40 inches apart. The soil should be moist, not wet, and the soil temperature (at the depth of 6 inches) should be above 45° F at planting time. Remember, excessive wetness and cold soil conditions after planting can affect tuber sprouting.
A few weeks after planting you will notice green foliage. Let it reach 4 to 6 inches tall and then start hilling with a wide hoe to bring the soil almost to the top of the leaves from both sides of the row. Keep hilling the plants until the plants are at least a foot tall and flowers start to appear. Bring in extra soil as needed, but do it very carefully so as not to chop up any of the roots or young tubers. Water during drought to keep tubers growing, but not after foliage has died down.
Harvesting the Crop
By late August to mid-September, the potato vines should begin to die back, indicating that the tubers have matured. You can leave the potatoes in the ground for a few weeks, but dig them up if you are expecting a heavy frost or having a warm wet spell that would start new foliage sprouting.
Dig carefully with a digging fork or potato hoe, starting from the outside and getting down under the potatoes so that you don't spear or scratch them. Throw away any tubers that show a green discoloration - they are not edible.
Storing Your Potato Crop
Once dug from the hill, allow the potatoes to air dry for about an hour. Store them in a well ventilated lightly humid area with no natural light where the temperature remains cool (40° F). Do not wash the potatoes before storing, and do not pile them more than a foot or so deep.