What’s A Seed Potato?
The first time I ever heard someone talking about planting potatoes from seed, I wondered to myself, “Where are the seeds in potatoes? I’ve never seen seeds.” I was completely serious. I can laugh at myself now, knowing what I know, but for those who are starting out where I started out (completely naive), let me fill you in.
This, my friends, is a “seed potato”– otherwise known as an old, sprouting potato spud. Once planted, those sprouts will grow into beautiful green plants, and the developing roots will form brand new potato tubers in the ground below. Sometimes when you buy seed potatoes they may not be sprouting yet. That’s okay. The sprout will grow at the “eye” of the potato over time, whether left in a pantry or buried in the garden.
Although potato plants do bloom and go to seed if you leave them long enough, potatoes are not typically planted from these seeds. Most people plant potatoes from sprouting spuds, however you can collect the seeds from a mature potato plant and grow more plants from true seed. I have to warn you though, potato genetics are funny, and most of the time you never know what kind of potato you’ll end up harvesting when planted from true seed. It is likely it will not be the same kind of potato you originally planted. Might be a fun thing to experiment with though!
My seed potatoes are potatoes that are leftover from last year’s harvest. They’ve been sitting in a crate in my kitchen since last Fall. They shriveled before we could get to them, so I let them sit and sprout, waiting to be repurposed in this year’s garden. Every now and then I sorted through them and removed any rotten potatoes. There weren’t many, but a few.
I love growing colored potatoes alongside our white ones. These purple and red potatoes have gorgeous sprouts, don’t they?
Potatoes In A Raised Bed
Over the years I’ve tried many different ways of planting potatoes. I’ve tried planting in post holes, traditional mounds, trash cans, using the “no dig” method, planting in tubs… all of which had pretty dismal results. Planting in raised beds has by far provided the most abundant crops. We harvested over 100 lbs of potatoes last year from two 5′ x15′ raised beds! I’ll definitely continue planting in raised beds from now on.
Here’s how to plant potatoes in raised beds. You’ll love how easy it is…
First, dig a long trench for your potatoes to be buried in. I use a hoe and dig down as deep as I can to the hard soil at the bottom of the raised bed, about a foot deep. You want to at least be able to cover your potatoes completely with soil. Space the rows about 18″ apart.
If you have a limited supply of seed potatoes, you can cut them into quarters or halves, making sure each chunk of the potato has a sprout or eye on it- otherwise it won’t grow a plant. If you plan on cutting your potatoes, give them a couple of days to “cure” so the cut side can dry up. Curing reduces the chances that your seed potato gets a disease.
I don’t cut my seed potatoes anymore because I have more than enough to plant our beds using whole potatoes. When you put the sprouting potato in the ground, make sure the sprouts are facing up. Space each seed about a foot apart in rows.
Once the rows are filled, cover the potatoes with dirt and mulch heavily with straw, grass clippings, pine needles, or crumbled leaves. As the plants grow, add more soil or mulch to cover almost all of the plant to encourage more tubers to develop along the root system.
I’ll try to remember to update this post as our plants grow. Hoping for another bountiful harvest this year!
Two months later…
It’s May now, and the potatoes are looking great! If I had another row of railroad ties that I could stack on top of these and fill in with more dirt, I’d get way more potatoes. But even in the 10″ of dirt they’re in we still expect to harvest another 100 pounds or so.