Tips for Growing Potatoes in Your Garden

By on November 02, 2011

Grow potatoes at home in Smart Pots or in the ground

Potatoes are a rewarding home crop. In our video Tricia shows how to plant and grow your own. Millions of people plant potatoes, and there are millions of ways to do it. Here are some of our favorite tips to give you a robust potato crop.

Pre-sprout Your Potatoes for a Head Start

Want to harvest potatoes a month earlier than usual? Get 4 to 5 weeks head start when you pre-sprout the seed potatoes before you plant them.

Anyone who’s had a potato sprout in the cupboard unexpectedly knows these tubers can be ready to grow. In fact, one of the many reasons to buy seed potatoes is that grocery store potatoes have often been treated with a sprouting preventative. The pre-sprouting process typically takes 2 to 3 weeks.

Two ways we pre-sprout potatoes:

* Put the potatoes in a single layer in the sun in a warm room (temperature above 60°F). Spread them out so they’re not touching.


* Let them sit in an open paper bag on a window sill.

The sprouts will be green since they are exposed to the sun. According to the University of Georgia, this “greening” will not lead to inedible green potatoes.

Once you have sprouts on the potatoes, go ahead and plant them according to the directions in our video and Potato Growing Guide. Handle the potatoes gently, to keep from breaking off the sprouts.

No Animal Manure

Do you have access to an nice supply of chicken manure? Save it for another crop. Animal manure, applied alone or as a component of compost, can lead to the potato disease called “scab”. Ohio State University explains that the manure may carry the bacteria that causes scab.

Use Straw to Hill Potatoes

Potato tubers need to grow in the dark and our video shows how to “hill” them up by regularly adding soil on top of them as they grow.

Another way to block the sunlight is to hill them up with straw. Three advantages of straw are:

* Straw is lightweight and will not restrict the tubers as they grow.

* There is little dirt to wash off the potatoes.

* It’s easy to reach in to the hill of straw and pick potatoes.

Add the straw and keep it in place

Hill with six inches of straw at planting and each time you see green stems coming up. Colorado State University Extension suggests that if your garden gets windy, wrap chicken wire around the potato hill to keep the straw from blowing away.


Consistent irrigation keeps the potato tubers growing steadily and minimizes cracking. Whether you’re hilling with soil or straw, use drip irrigation like soaker hoses on timers to supply a regular amount of water.

For more information see our Potato Growing Guide.

  Comments (20)


This is all well and good, buit isn’t this an odd time to be talking about planting potatoes? We just had first frost!  If there is a way to grow potatoes over winter I would love to hear about it…

Posted by Tim in Albion on Nov. 05, 2011 at 10:41:35 AM


We would never be so cruel as to show you crops you could not plant right now. Potatoes can be planted as long as the soil temperature is at least 45F.

Our seed potatoes are freshly harvested and in a dormant stage. They should be presprouted before planting. See the methods in the blog post above, or put the seed potatoes in a paper bag with an apple or banana that will exude ethylene gas to make them sprout.

Mulch potatoes heavily to get them through the winter. Here’s a helpful article on Fall Planted Potatoes by a Master Gardener in Pennsylvania

Posted by on Nov. 06, 2011 at 8:34:49 AM


Does anyone know if gophers can chew holes and get into grow bags?
I’ve had a hard time with gophers since I stopped using poison a few years ago. They are too smart to trap. Occasionally the cat gets one, but apparently makes no dent in the population.
This year I tried planting potatoes in plastic bins 16” high with 1/2” holes drilled in the bottoms. The gophers chewed around the holes to enlarge them and got into the bins.
So far they have not gotten into my raised beds which are 15” high and lined with 1/4” welded mesh wire. They piled up mounds of dirt around the beds high enough that they could have climbed in, except that I shoveled the dirt away. Voles get into the beds, but they’re very easy to trap with standard mousetraps. I use these beds for peppers, beets, garlic, onion and carrots. They’re expensive to build, so I’d like to try the grow bags for potatoes.
I have planted Jerusalem artichokes as a trap crop, but the gophers ate the artichokes and then went for the potatoes. Nothing satisfies them!

Posted by Fran Ransley on Nov. 06, 2011 at 2:37:41 PM


Fran, A gopher that chews through a plastic bin can chew through a Smart Pot. But you can foil those gophers by putting a gopher wire basket INSIDE the Smart Pot! Match the Smart Pot size with a Gopher Wire Basket and you’re in business.

Posted by Charlotte, Peaceful Valley on Nov. 07, 2011 at 11:02:46 AM


Hi Charlotte!  I am going to plant potatoes this year in the felt bags.  Which kind of fingerling, or other, would be best to grow in Southeast Tennessee?  Also, when is the best time to plant?  And finally, what bagged soil product would be best to use before adding the straw?

Posted by Frances on Dec. 29, 2011 at 2:54:57 PM


I have tried to grow potatoes in a wooden box, twice, and have not been successful. 
The first time, I kept adding compost soil. The second year I used straw, but planted in the soil below.
What is the secret to growing them in containers.
I don’t know how to water them correctly.
And when,exactly, do you add more soil or straw on top of the green growth.

Posted by Brenda Lovell on Aug. 04, 2012 at 2:01:12 PM


Can I plant seedlings in sandy soil in Florida in the winter?

Posted by ruth bobick on Nov. 03, 2012 at 6:33:45 AM

ruth bobick, Potatoes are grown in Florida, but the particularly warm climate has to be considered.  The winter to spring months are best with the following guidelines:  southern Florida - September through January, central Florida - January through February and northern Florida - January through March.
Sandy soil is fine for tuber growth.  Pure sand should be loosened up with as much as 70 percent sawdust to help with moisture retention.  In fact, any sandy medium used for tubers should be checked for moisture fairly regularly.
Yukon gold or russets are probably the best varieties to try in that specific region.

Posted by on Feb. 04, 2013 at 1:54:31 PM


Wondering about how to grow sweet potatoes or yams.  I never see them offered as potato starts?  Please advise?

Posted by Jody Snyder on Jun. 08, 2013 at 10:01:44 AM

Jody, Sweet potatoes are grown from slips (which are difficult to ship) so they are most often started from home-grown materials.

They prefer light sandy soils with abundant fertility, and sunny locations with regular irrigation. Soil temperatures are key—70F is the minimum with 100F optimal.

You can begin slips by immersing organic tubers half way into a glass of water in early spring.  The sprouts will form from the eyes on the tuber and can be broken off and planted.

The sprouts should be planted about 2 inches deep. They prefer to be 12 to 18 inches apart; allow about 3 feet between rows.

Posted by on Jun. 12, 2013 at 10:49:50 AM


I have planted in central Florida for the last two years with success.  I plant Yukon Golds around November 1 and have to be careful if we get a frost, but otherwise have little problem.

Posted by Dory on Jul. 08, 2013 at 3:53:22 PM

Dory, Thanks for your helpful tips!

Posted by on Jul. 09, 2013 at 3:23:05 PM


Can sweet potatoes be grown successfully using the geobin hugelkultur method as shown in your potato video?  I have trouble with them getting rotten in my soil but would love to grow them using an alternative method.  If it can be done are there any special considerations?  Also, what is the approximate yield for potatoes grown hulgerkulter?  Thanks for any response!  Getting anxious to order and get planting!  Eric in PA

Posted by Eric Robertson on Mar. 01, 2014 at 8:17:44 AM

Hello Eric,
Yes, hugelkultur would be a great method for sweet potatoes because it will really improve drainage. The typical yields from potatoes is 5-10 pounds for every pound planted. There are a lot of variables in the growing.

Posted by on Mar. 03, 2014 at 8:46:30 AM


Charlotte, I would love to hear your answer to Brenda Lovell’s question above.

Posted by DeAnna on Jan. 02, 2015 at 5:51:09 PM

I have successfully grown potatoes in Smart Pots. These are bags made out of a breathable fabric that come in various sizes. So to the point of having issues growing in a wooden container, I would first ask about drainage. The potatoes may be rotting if the drainage is not adequate. If assuming the problem is not drainage then the planting depth may be an issue. They should be planted very shallow and as the plant grows, continue to add soil on top, or hilling. If plants are growing but not producing potatoes then it is probably inadequate nutrition. Potatoes are heavy feeders so provide enough nutrients, N-P-K, to get them going. When the plants start flowering, switch over to a fertilizer higher in phosphorus and less nitrogen. Hope the information gets you in the right direction.

Posted by Suzanne at Peaceful Valley on Jan. 09, 2015 at 1:01:52 PM


This is my first year growing potatoes. I’m using Smart Pots (and a couple $1 laundry baskets) but everything is connected to the drip irrigation. It looks like all my seeds sprouted and I should be ready to hill by next week.
I’m considering hilling with straw but wanted to ask if I should move the irrigation so that it is on top of the straw? Or leave it in place at the soil level? All the articles I’ve read appear to be for field crops…

Posted by Mia on Apr. 16, 2015 at 8:51:17 AM

Sounds like you are doing everything right. I would place your drip irrigation under the straw, at the soil level. You want to make sure that you are watering the potatoes and not just the straw. Put the straw on thick, you don’t want any sun hitting the new potatoes that are forming just below the soil. Once the potatoes start to bloom, they are making potatoes. When the plants start to die back, you may want to cut down on the water and get ready to harvest potatoes!

Posted by Suzanne at Peaceful Valley on Apr. 23, 2015 at 10:04:21 AM

Hello, I am planning on planting a pound each of All Blue and German Butterball potatoes in spring. I have amended my raised beds with sulfur to achieve a ph of approximately 6.4 for most of the other vegetables. I found that both potato types I will plant are scab resistant, so would I risk scab if I planted them in the 6.4 ph raised beds? If so, should I plant each type in it’s own 45 gallon smart pot or would using an acidifying fertilizer be enough? Although I am planning to install drip irrigation, the sprinkler for my lawn currently waters my garden as well. Would the smart pots catch enough sprinkler water with the potato plants in them? Thank you so much for your support and service.

Posted by Suzanne at Peaceful Valley on Jul. 03, 2015 at 2:09:11 PM

Sounds like you are creating great growing conditions for your potatoes. There are several things you can do to cut down on the incidence of scab. One is to practice good crop rotation. It does not sound like you have planted the potatoes in the prior year or two so you are ok there. You can reduce the pH further if you are going to plant the potatoes in their own smart pot. Studies have shown that a low pH will aid in the reduction of scab. Shoot for around 5.0. Make sure that you have healthy soil which is live with good bacteria. I would plant the potatoes in their own smart pot, but that is only my personal opinion. There is no reason why you could not plant them together. About your watering, it is hard to say if your sprinklers are enough to keep your potatoes well watered. Keep in mind, watering the leaves of plants can potentially lead to diseases such as powdery mildew. I think it is best to water the soil not the plants. Hope this helps. There are a lot of articles on the internet regarding scab as well. Good luck with your potatoes.

Posted by Suzanne at Peaceful Valley on Sep. 23, 2015 at 9:01:35 AM

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