Here is the complete guide on how to grow potatoes, harvest them, and store them, so that you can grow and eat your all-time favourite veggie right in your home.
Potatoes are both trendy and dependable - it is almost impossible to find a potato hater! It is loved by everyone from picky toddlers to master chefs across the world.
From chips, french fries, salads, roasts, mashes, and curries, potatoes are a staple in most of our homes, fast food joints, and even in posh restaurants.
Not only are they tasty to eat, but potatoes also have quite a few nutritional benefits. They are low in fat and have moderate protein along with high carb and fiber content. They also have folate, manganese, magnesium, potassium, and vitamin B and C.
Potatoes are also loved by home growers because they are inexpensive and easy to grow, demand little maintenance, and give a good yield consistently.
Have you ever wanted to grow potatoes?
Check out our step by step guide on how to grow potatoes right in your home conveniently and economically right here -
In-home gardens potatoes are grown from 'seed' potatoes - these are the portions of the root structure which we use as seeds in the soil. Although potatoes can be grown from seeds, this is a much easier option with high success rates when you are growing small batches.
You can indeed use the overripe potatoes that you already have as seeds. But, they might have been treated with growth inhibitors which makes them stay fresh for longer but prevents them from sprouting or even stunting their growth later. Moreover, they might also be carrying some hidden diseases from their growth period.
So, it is better to get your seed potatoes from a reputed organic source. Before planting, check carefully and discard any potatoes that have cracks, bruises, mold, black spots, or soft spots.
Soil and Container
Potatoes thrive in a loose fertile soil mix that is light and drains well. If you plant in soil that is too cold or soggy, your seed potatoes might rot before sprouting. Use clean new compost mix to avoid any soil-borne insect problems that might be lingering in the common garden soil.
You have two options for growing potatoes -
Containers - You can use a rubber or plastic bin of at least 16-inch depth and 16-inch diameter. Don't forget to drill several holes to avoid waterlogging. Make sure that the container is roomy to encourage tuber growth in layers
Grow Bags - You can either buy a fabric grow bag or make your own out of an old burlap sack with the tops rolled down. Fill a bottom couple of inches with your soil mix and plant the potatoes. You can unroll the sack as the potatoes grow and add more soil on top. As these bags already have micro holes, excess water can seep out and air can circulate. So, you need not cut any drainage holes.
By choosing containers or grow bags you also make potato growing easier as you can avoid soil contamination, you can move them around to get ideal sunlight, and you can avoid the damage caused by digging them from the soil while harvesting.
So, even if you have an outdoor garden space, containers or grow bags are a good idea instead of raised soil beds which are susceptible to soil-born diseases and pests leftover from the previous harvest.
Planting Your Potato Seeds
You have two options for planting your potatoes -
Chitting, greening, or pre-sprouting your seed potatoes will give you a quicker yield and slightly bigger-sized potatoes.
Although potatoes do sprout in the damp and dark, their shoots will be weak and pale. So it is better to chit them in a cool but bright spot to get dark green and sturdy sprouts.
In an egg carton or a tray line the potatoes (don't pile them on top of each other) with the buds or the 'eyes' facing up. Once they have sprouted to 1/2 to 1 inch long, plant them with sprouts facing up and cover lightly with soil.
It takes about 2 to 4 weeks for this sprouting process, so start at least a month before your planned planting date.
Alternatively, you can plant the potato seeds directly. For this method, use a sharp, clean knife to cut the potato into 2-inch squares. Make sure that each square has an eye or the bud.
Let these pieces 'cure' for two days i.e. Dry and form a seal, which will protect your seeds from rotting as they sprout and take root. However, if you have tiny ones, smaller than ping pong balls, it is better to plant them whole.
You can plant these pieces directly into the soil mix with the cut side facing down and cover lightly with the soil.
Fill the container or grow bag with 4 inches of moistened soil mix, as the plants grow add more soil and mound it up around the plants. For ideal growth, plant your potatoes 5 to 7 inches apart and cover them lightly with six inches of moist soil.
Sunlight, Watering, And Care
Potatoes thrive under the full sun for 6 to 8 hours per day. But, keep the new spuds covered lightly with soil as exposure can cause greening or sunscald. These green areas can be toxic and need to be removed after harvesting.
Potatoes need plenty of water, especially when they are flowering because that is when they grow tubers. If the top two inches of the soil are dry, then your potatoes need immediate watering. But take care that the soil is evenly moist but not soggy. Stop watering altogether once the stem turns yellow.
Digging up potatoes occasionally and checking for any damage, or rot can protect the crop in such eventuality.
You can start harvesting your potatoes when the foliage turns yellow, which takes around 2 to 3 months from the day of sowing. For some rare varieties, it takes 120 days, so keep that in mind while choosing your seed potatoes.
Potatoes are harvested in two stages. First, you can harvest the baby or new potatoes, two or three weeks after flowering stops, which is about 6 to 7 weeks from the day of planting. Pick a few plants and carefully dig around to remove them. These potatoes have a sweet flavor and delicate texture.
Leave the mature potatoes in the garden for two to three weeks after the foliage dies off. They could be stored longer. Then, carefully loosen the soil around the plants with a garden fork, and remove the potatoes.
Alternatively, you can cut open the grow bag or dump the container and harvest the potatoes.
If the weather is dry, cure the harvest unwashed in the garden. Or if you are growing indoors or have cooler weather, move them unwashed to a garage or shed and let them cure for 8 to 10 days.
Store your potatoes in an open bowl, mesh bag, or paper bag that allows airflow to prevent the accumulation of moisture and spoilage. Keep them in a cool, dry place out of direct sunlight.
Do not store them in a cool place, or with onions. It might lead to faster spoilage and sprouting. Also, avoid warm spots near the oven or on top of the fridge.
You can store potatoes longer than other tender vegetables. They can be eaten in different ways, and are pretty low maintenance to grow.
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