Potatoes are a staple in many households all around the world, and also a popular inclusion in home gardens.
They are relatively easy to grow, however, one crucial factor that directly affects the yield and quality of your potatoes is how deep they are planted.
Planting depth is often overlooked or easily ignored, but it can make a huge difference in the growth and production of your potato crop. So, how deep should you plant potatoes?
Seed potato chunks should be planted, eyes up, in a 6-inch depression or trench but only covered with about 2 inches of soil. This will ensure fast and reliable growth...
Compared to starting other vegetables, ones grown from actual seeds, potatoes are quite a bit different. They are typically grown from chunks cut from certain potatoes called “seed potatoes”. Unusual, but not too different, and not too hard either.
Keep reading and I will tell you what you need to know about planting potatoes for big returns.
How Deep Should You Plant Potatoes in Pots?
Think twice before growing potatoes in common pots; they need tons of room and pots simply aren’t going to be big enough to accommodate them as they grow.
If you do choose to grow potatoes in a pot, make it a big one, at least a 15 gallon capacity, and fill it up just a couple of inches shy of the rim before digging a 6-inch pit and then placing the potato. Cover with 2 inches of soil as described above.
Also keep in mind that you should be mounding soil around the developing plant once the leaves are a few inches over the surface, so ensure you have enough room!
How Deep Should You Plant Potatoes in Other Containers?
Potatoes are not really suitable for pots, but some other extra-large containers can hold them just fine. In fact, one of the most popular purchased just for potatoes is a large Rubbermaid trashcan.
It is deep enough, wide enough, and will leave you plenty of room to mound soil over the potatoes as they grow.
How Deep Should You Plant Potatoes in a Grow Bag?
Large grow bags are another good option for potatoes, so long as you don’t plan on moving them!
Aside from the type of container, nothing changes: fill the bag halfway with soil or a little more, dig a 6-inch depression, and place your seed potato chunks in it. Cover with 2 inches of soil, just as before.
If you have a large enough grow bag, you might even be able to dig two parallel trenches in the surface and plant, then cover normally.
How Deep Should You Plant Potatoes in a Raised Bed?
Growing potatoes in raised beds is another great option, and they definitely make them much easier to reach and tend to.
If you have large or long raised beds, you have two basic options for your seed potatoes: shallow or deep. Both can work.
Shallow planting involves placing your potato seed pieces about 2-3 inches below the soil surface.
This method is popular because it allows for earlier emergence of potato plants, which can help deter early-season pests like potato beetles.
Additionally, shallow planting can help you avoid the risk of rot. However, it also means that the potato plant will be closer to the bed surface and may need to be hilled more often to protect developing potatoes from sunlight and becoming green.
Deep planting involves placing your potato seed pieces about 6 inches deep in the soil as before, and then covering with a couple of inches of soil.
You won’t have to worry about hilling your plants quite as often since deeper planting results in the potatoes already being further away from the surface.
Both shallow and deep planting have their pros and cons, and it’s up to you to decide which method works best for your setup.
Can You “Plant” Potatoes on the Surface?
Yes, you can. Some gardeners swear by the super-simple method of placing potato chunks on the surface and then just covering them with dirt.
It can work, I’ve seen it happen. But I’ve seen much better results with this technique by mounding soil over the pieces and then mulch over that.
What Happens if You Plant Potatoes Too Deeply?
Planting potatoes too deeply can cause several issues that can affect the growth and yield of your potato crop.
One common problem is that the potato seed pieces may not receive enough oxygen, which can cause them to rot instead of sprout. This can lead to poor germination rates and stunted growth.
Additionally, if the tubers do manage to sprout, they will have to expend a lot of energy just to reach the soil surface, which can significantly delay the development of the potato plants. If they are already stressed, they could die off.
What Happens if Potatoes are Planted Too Shallow?
Planting potatoes too shallow results in different challenges that can negatively impact the growth and production of potato plants.
The most common issue that occurs when planting potatoes too shallow is that the potato seed pieces become too exposed to the sunlight, which can damage them.
Planting potatoes too shallow can also cause issues with moisture levels, as the soil surface tends to dry out much faster than deeper soil levels.
This can lead to irregular tuber development and ultimately affect the size and quantity of the potatoes produced.
Another potential problem is that the shallower the seed piece is planted, the more vulnerable it is to pests like wireworms and cutworms.
Are There Any Guidelines for Planting Depth in Different Soils?
Whichever kind of soil you’re dealing with, follow the guidelines for deep planting (preferable) or shallow planting according to your location and container, if any.
Generally, soil that is light and sandy should always mean potatoes are planted more deeply than heavier soils, as the sandier soils are less likely to retain moisture and nutrients.
Finally, if your potatoes are being grown in containers like buckets or potato bags with bagged mix, take care not to plant them too deep, as this may still prevent the potatoes from germinating.
How Deep Should You Plant Transplanted Potatoes?
If you want to transplant mature seed potatoes, just follow all of the advice above. If you want to move young sprouts, carefully extract them and then plant them however deep they were at their new site.
Tom has lived and worked on farms and homesteads from the Carolinas to Kentucky and beyond. He is passionate about helping people prepare for tough times by embracing lifestyles of self-sufficiency.