How To Plant Seed Potatoes In The Garden

Sharing is caring!

Learning when and how to plant seed potatoes in the garden is an important step in growing the food to fill your pantry.  Potatoes are a staple food for our family.  They are so easy to cook and can be prepared many different ways.  Hashbrowns, fried potatoes, baked potatoes, cheesy potatoes, mashed potatoes, potato salad and smashed potatoes are just a few ways that come to mind.  

potatoes in row

I love growing potatoes because after digging them in the fall, they can be stored for many months in a cool dark place like my homestead pantry without having to can or freeze them.  So much of what we grow has to be preserved in some way, and potatoes can be kept for quite awhile without any special storage preparation.  We do can some of the small potatoes every fall so that we have some already cooked potatoes in our pantry for quick and easy meals.  But for the most part we store them just like they are when they come out of the ground.

Plant In Early Spring

Potatoes like to grow when it is cool outside, so it’s a good idea to plant them in the early spring.  You can find out when it’s safe to plant them in your growing zone by looking up your last frost date on the Old Farmers Almanac website.  Then put that last frost date into a garden planning tool called Seedtime.  This will show you when it is best to plant each crop outdoors, and whether they should be started indoors first, or direct seeded into the garden.  In the case of potatoes, they are always direct seeded into the garden.  The great thing about potatoes is that they can handle a light frost, so you can plant them out into the garden earlier than some other crops like tomatoes or cucumbers.


Get Your Kids Involved

Planting potatoes is a great time to get your kids involved in the gardening process.  There really isn’t anything they can hurt when it comes to planting potatoes.  The seeds are large and the spacing doesn’t have to be exact.  I tell the kids to use their feet to figure out how much space to put between each seed potato.  That’s usually about 6-8”, depending on the size of their feet of course.  Also, after the kids get done putting the seed potatoes into the ground, you can easily walk down the row and make sure that they didn’t double up on potatoes, or miss any spots.  There’s not very many things that we plant in the garden where the seeds are this large.

planting potatoes with all the kids

Seed Potatoes

The seed for growing potatoes is simply the potato itself.  All potatoes have “eyes” which are the little indentations in the potato where they will sprout.  If you’ve ever forgotton some potatoes in your pantry for too long, you’ll notice that they start to sprout. When you plant a potato, those sprouts grow into the foliage for the new potato plant, and underground the plant develops more potatoes.  Seed potatoes can either be leftover from last years garden, purchased from seed catalogs, or from your local hardware store.  When choosing seed potatoes, it is best to choose large healthy potatoes.  You can plant the smaller shriveled up sprouted potatoes leftover in your pantry, but they might not produce very big potatoes.  For nice big healthy potatoes, use high-quality healthy seed potatoes.

eyes on potatoes


How Do You Prepare Seed Potatoes For Planting?

It is best to put your seed potatoes in a dark place at room temperature sometime in late winter, about a month before planting to “chit” them.  This is the process of allowing them to sprout.  Planting potatoes that are beginning to sprout will help them to grow more quickly once planted out in the garden.  About a week before planting, put the seed potatoes into the light so the sprouts can grow a little longer.  

Then anywhere from 1-2 days or up to a few hours before planting, use a clean knife, and cut the potatoes into seed pieces so that there is one “eye” on each piece.  You can allow them to dry out and the cuts in the potato to heal before planting.  This helps to prevent them from rotting once they are planted.  I don’t always do this however, typically I just plant the potatoes right after cutting them.

chitted potatoes ready for planting

Where Can I Purchase Seed Potatoes?

You can purchase certified seed potatoes from seed catalogs like Johnny’s Seeds, Berlin Seeds or from True Leaf Market.  Another good place to purchase them from is your local garden centers or hardware store which is what I typically do to save on shipping since potatoes can weigh a lot.  

You can also save some of your potatoes from year to year to use as seed for next years crop.  This is how the old timers used to do it, and was one reason why potatoes were such an easy crop for them to continually grow year to year.  

You DO NOT want to plant grocery store potatoes, as they have been sprayed with a growth inhibitor to keep them from sprouting.  If you leave potatoes in your cupboard long enough, and they start to sprout, you can certainly plant them, but don’t go buy a bag of potatoes from the store and plant it.  It could take many weeks or months before it sprouts and grows and that’s if they don’t rot first.  

Do You Plant Whole Seed Potatoes?

You can plant the whole potato, but because it will have many eyes on it, it will produce lots of smaller potatoes.  If you plant a piece of potato with only one eye, it will produce fewer but larger potatoes.  

cut potato ready to be planted

Do You Cut Seed Potatoes In Half Before Planting?

It is best to cut them in as many pieces as necessary so that each piece has one eye on it.  So, depending on how many eyes a potato has will depend on how seeds you will get out of it.

preparing potatoes for planting

What Month Do You Plant Potatoes?

This will vary based on your growing season and where you live.  There’s an old wives tale that says you should always plant potatoes on Good Friday, but depending on where you live that may be earlier or later than what is ideal.  Some years we still have big snow drifts on the ground on Good Friday.  You’ll want to plant potatoes when the soil temperature is above 45 degrees.  I rely on a free gardening app called Seedtime to tell me when to seed all of my crops including potatoes.  You can check it out here.

What Is The Best Spacing For Potatoes?

Anywhere from 6-8 inches apart in row is a good spacing for potato plants.  I recommend planting 1 row down the middle of a 30” wide bed.  If you’re planting in a field like I do and you’re not confined to a 30” wide bed spacing in your garden, you can plant 2 rows of potatoes about 8-12” apart from each other.  This makes hilling and watering easier later in the season and also saves growing space.  

What Is The Best Way To Water Potato Plants?

I like to water potato plants using a drip irrigation system, but you can water them with a sprinkler as well.  Potatoes like about 1” of water per week.  If you reach your hand down into the soil and there is moisture several inches down, then they probably don’t need watered.  Making the roots grow deeper in search of water will create a healthier, more robust plant.  

Where To Plant Potatoes In The Garden?

Potatoes prefer to grow in full sun, in a loose, well-drained soil.  They prefer a soil PH of 5.0 to 7.0 but are widely adaptable and will grow almost anywhere.  Potatoes are heavy feeders, so they grow best in a rich, well amended soil.  It is best if the soil has good drainage and a lot of organic matter like compost in it as well.  To learn more about how I test my soil, click here.

Best Potato Companion Plants Are: 

  • Beans
  • Corn
  • Broccoli/Cauliflower/Cabbage
  • Peas
  • Radishes
  • Eggplants

Worst Potato Companion Plants Are:

  • Carrots
  • Onions
  • Garlic
  • Peppers
  • Squash
  • Tomatoes

How Many Pounds Of Seed Potatoes Should I Plant Per Row?

You can expect to plant about 10’ of row per pound of seed potatoes.  This will vary a bit depending on how many eyes are on each seed potato.

potato eye just starting to sprout

How Many Pounds Of Potatoes Per Plant?

You can plan on getting anywhere from 3-5 pounds of potatoes per plant.  To get the most out of each potato plant, be sure to “hill” your potatoes once a week for the first few weeks after they germinate.  To do this you will just pull the dirt up on the base of the plants.  This will encourage the plant to produce more roots – which will turn into potatoes.

How Many Seed Potatoes Should I Plant?

It is a good idea to think of how many times per week you would eat potatoes if you had them readily available.  We usually eat more potatoes in the winter than the summer, because we try to eat what is in season.  Something else to consider is where you will store your potatoes.  If you have a root cellar, you can store your potatoes for up to a year if it is cool and dark.  In my unheated pantry, my potatoes will store for about 6 months.  I suggest that you start with a decent amount of potatoes in your garden, and then increase or decrease based on your needs.  

For my family of seven, we plant 100 pounds of seed potatoes per year.  We start harvesting a few new potatoes just to eat in mid-July, and then we harvest our maincrop potatoes later in the fall.  Once we get our root cellar built, I will be planting more potatoes because I’ll be able to store them longer.  

What Potato Varieties Should I Plant?

It’s a good idea to plant at least one variety of seed potatoes that is good for storing.  Some potatoes, like yukon gold, are great to eat fresh, but they don’t store very long in the pantry.  I like to plant yukon gold for fresh eating, and also some red potatoes like red norland for storing through the winter.  There are many varieties to choose from, so have fun picking a couple to try, but make sure you have at least one variety that will store well.

How To Plant Seed Potatoes In The Garden

Chit Your Potatoes (Optional)

Put your potatoes in a warm dark place until they start to sprout.  Then bring them out into the light a couple of weeks before planting so the sprouts can grow a little longer.  This makes it easier to see all the eyes before cutting apart the potatoes, and gives them a head start on being ready to grow in the garden.

Cut Your Seed Potatoes

Cut your seed potatoes into sections so each piece of potato only has one eye.  You can do this ahead of time, and allow the cuts to heal for a day or two, or you can plant them right away.

preparing potatoes for planting

Plant In Rows

Potatoes grow best in a row.  If you are growing on 30” wide beds, which is what I recommend in my garden planning tutorial, then you will want to plant one row down the middles of a 30” wide bed.  

Run a string line between two stakes to make sure your row is straight.  If you don’t have a string line, just know that you can fit more potatoes in a crooked row than a straight row, so it’ll still be fine.  We plow our potatoes out with a tractor, so my husband prefers to drive down a straight row when it’s time to plow them out.  Hence my use of the string line.  It’s always a good idea to make working together with your spouse easier by not asking them to plow potatoes out of a crooked row 🙂

Dig A Trench And Plant Potatoes

Dig a trench all along the string line with a hoe about 4-6 inches deep.

Lay the cut seed potatoes into the trench about every 6-12”.  You don’t have to be super particular about the spacing.  Just eyeball it.

planting potatoes with kids

Cover Potatoes

Using a rake or a hoe, pull the dirt back over the trench to cover the seed potatoes.  It’s best to cover them with 4-6 inches of soil.

Water Well

Keep the soil moist until the potatoes start to grow.  This can take 2-3 weeks depending on your soil temperature and weather conditions.  I typically don’t water my potatoes until later in the spring because we usually get occasional rains in the spring time and the weather isn’t hot enough to dry out the soil quickly.

And that’s all there is to planting seed potatoes.  Potatoes are fun, easy and rewarding to grow, and growing a lot of them gives you a greater sense of food security for the coming winter.  Growing potatoes will also make a big dent in your grocery bill, not to mention that they are healthier for you than store-bought potatoes as well. 

I hope you try growing your own potatoes, and let me know in the comments below which potatoes you’re growing and any questions you may have.  

Pin For Later

lady cutting up seed potatoes

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *