Have you ever noticed how the potatoes you buy in the shops develop 'eyes' if you leave them for a while? These 'eyes' grow into roots if the potato is planted underground. Sometimes your kitchen potatoes sprout leaves, but when planted underground the shoot will stretch upwards and the leaves will develop above ground in the sunshine.
When you plant your potatoes depends on the variety of potato as well as the climate you want to grow them in.
Potatoes like free draining soil and plenty water.
Your best is to buy seed potatoes from suppliers like Burpee Seeds, who will send you out the correct seed potatoes for planting at that time.
You may be tempted to plant your kitchen potatoes that have sprouted. This is never a good idea. Chances are that these potatoes have been specially hybridized and will not grow well.
- Buy good quality seed potatoes and store in a cool, dark and dry place until required.
- Dig your ground over well and get rid of any stones and boulders in your soil.
- Dig a trench about a foot deep in a long straight row and place the seed potatoes at regular intervals along this trench, about 12" apart.
- Replace the soil and use a hoe or rake to draw the soil up so that the trench covering is raised above the surrounding ground.
- If you live in a cooler climate, you can speed up the initial growth by covering the ground with black polythene which will absorb any sun rays and warm up the ground.
- Keep an eye for signs of the potato shaws bursting through the ground, and remove polythene when they do, or cut an X in the polythene to allow the potato plant to grow on.
- Keep well watered.
- Eventually the plants will flower and the foliage starts to die back.
- This is a good time to open up the ground to check how well your potatoes have grown, and to start harvesting them if they have reached a reasonable size.
Potatoes are great for 'clearing' ground that has not previously been planted on. If you ever dig over a plot to grow vegetables for the first time, I highly recommend you plant potatoes first, as you will find the soil easier to work with and more productive the following year.
Never grow potatoes in the same place two years running. In fact this is good practice in all vegetable gardening. Always rotate your crops. It prevents the ground being leeched off goodness, and helps avoid disease.
Growing Potatoes in Containers
If you don't have a suitable plot in which to grow potatoes, potatoes will quite happily grow in any old container you have lying around - flowerpots (big ones), old tires, anything at all that has some depth. Even old sack or large plastic bags will do. Simply make sure there is a drainage hole or two in the bottom, fill with compost or garden soil and plant your potatoes as above.