Potatoes are relatively easy to grow and positively thrive in a compost-rich mixture. More than other vegetables, potatoes offer the element of surprise: You never know how many or how big your harvest is until you dig in and see for yourself. Here is what you need to know to grow potatoes (Solanum tuberosum).
Do you want to grow mealy or waxy potatoes? Mealy potatoes, like russets, have thick skin, high starch content, and are low in both moisture and sugar content. Waxy potatoes, like baby red or new potatoes, are the exact opposite — they’re thin-skinned with high sugar content.
The great thing about growing all spuds is that you can plant them in mid-April while the soil is still cold. Choose a sunny location with well-draining soil and purchase seed potatoes or cut seed potatoes from healthy potatoes. Good companion crops for potatoes are eggplant, flax, and green beans, so plant them close by if you can.
The trick is to set the tubers in a trench 4-6 inches deep and 12-18 inches apart in rows and then mound up the soil as the plant gains momentum. When the shoots emerge, mound soil around the base of the plant to keep the developing tubers covered.
Water regularly, especially during dry spells. Harvest the potatoes when the plants begin to yellow and die back, usually about 90-120 days after planting. Carefully dig up the potatoes, brush off any excess dirt, and allow them to cure in a cool, dark place for a few days before storing.
Note: New potatoes can be harvested in as little as 60 days. When the plant stops flowering, you’re ready to harvest.
If you find that your plants are infested with potato beetles, the best defence is to squish them between your fingers. Avoid using chemicals on your food crops.
See how Judith Wright grows potatoes in containers.
Try these potato varieties
- ‘Norland’ is an excellent medium-sized spud with pink skin.
- ‘Superior’ is another early type, but with white skin; makes a nice complement served with a Norland.
- ‘Russet Burbank’ is renowned as a great baking potato; fussier than some, requires optimal conditions
- ‘Caribe’ is a superb grower and prized among gourmet chefs for its bright white flesh and purple skin.
Canada’s Best Potato-Leek Soup
Harrowsmith is the farm-to-condo go-to for living sustainably and simply. Our mission is to offer a down-to-earth Canadian perspective on topics of gardening, home and design, travel and culture, food, health, wellness and the environment.