Potatoes are an extremely versatile and delicious crop that are easy to grow and relatively pest-free. High in potassium, vitamin C, and fiber, they are a starchy tuber in the nightshade family, native to the Americas. They tend to do well in elevated garden beds. Our galvanized steel planters provide a high quality and suitable environment for potatoes. Potatoes in raised garden beds generate much higher yields compared to traditional methods by taking advantage of soil depth and a good drainage system. By planting potatoes in raised garden beds, you are saving the effort of digging them and placing them in the ground. There are also benefits like fewer weeds, less tiling, and the ability to plant more potatoes together. Below is a guide on how to plant and grow potatoes in raised garden beds.
Potatoes are grown from other potatoes. It will help if you only use certified organic seed potatoes that are non-GMO or haven’t been treated with a growth enzyme. Avoid store-bought potatoes as they may not be certified disease-free, which introduces disease risk into your garden. Only small potatoes about the size of an egg should be planted whole. Otherwise, cut the potato into pieces a day before you plan to plant them, which will likely produce a higher yield.
Each piece of potato should be around 2 inches and contain 2 – 3 eyes. Eyes are the tiny sprouts from which potato plants form. Let the cuts dry in a cool and humid space for 2 – 3 days so that calluses form over the cuts, which will help mitigate rot. Once you have grown the seeds, you can save them from year to year, so you don’t have to repurchase them.
There are more than 200 varieties of potatoes sold in the US, and they come in varieties of russet, red, yellow, white, and blue. Among them are fingerlings, which are small oblong potatoes shaped like a finger. Fingerlings are small and come in many different varieties, making them suitable for raised garden beds. Below are some potato varieties that have been categorized.
Early Season Potatoes: Reach maturity within 75 – 90 days. Very popular among gardeners.
- Yukon Gold – most well-known and has a buttery texture
- Norland – red-colored potato that is resistant to scab
Mid-Season Potatoes: Reach maturity within 95 – 110 days.
- French Fingerling – rose-colored, smooth texture and rich flavor
- Gold Rush – russet skin and white flesh, a favorite for making fries
- Red Pontiac
Late Season Potatoes: Matures within 120 – 135 days. Best suited for late summer to autumn.
- All Blue
- Carola – favorite of potato lovers, retains taste even after months of storage
- German Butterball – mild flavor and very tender
- Purple Peruvian
IDEAL CONDITIONS FOR GROWING
Soils: Potatoes are best planted in rows. The ideal soil for potatoes is a loose loam that holds moisture while also draining well. They are mildly acidic, preferring a soil pH of 5.6 – 7. However, potatoes are a sturdy crop and can adapt to most conditions. Soils mixed with organic matter improve results. Make sure to situate the potatoes in a place where they will receive approximately 6 hours of sunlight. A soil pH that is too high will cause scabbing, so place straw on top of the soil to keep it acidic and prevent scabs from forming.
Temperature: Potatoes prefer cool weather and are planted in early to mid-April to be harvested in early Summer. Make sure the temperature reaches at least 45 – 50 degrees. Avoid planting them too early, as they can rot when planted in cold, water-logged soil. In the southern states, potatoes can be grown in the early winter or late fall. For more detailed information, consult a planting guide on the best times to plant potatoes in your area.
Fertilizer: Potatoes have a moderate demand for fertilizer. You should choose a fertilizer that has higher potassium and phosphate levels than nitrogen levels. Too much nitrogen content will inhibit root production, resulting in huge plants with small potatoes.
Hilling is the process of covering potatoes with rich, organic material to protect them from the sun. The taller the hill, the more potatoes you get. Hilling allows the potatoes to deepen their root systems, as that is where they will form. It is essential that the potato tubers not come into contact with sunlight, as sun exposure will cause them to turn green and become poisonous, making them unfit for consumption.
- Raised beds should be at least 12 inches deep. Start with the soil reasonably low, so you have enough room to add more. Next, place the potatoes (cut side down and eyes pointing up) into the dirt and space them 12 inches apart on all sides. For smaller species of potato, such as fingerlings, you can space them about 8 inches apart. Finally, cover them with about 2 – 4 inches of soil or compost, leaving the trench partially filled.
- When the potato sprouts, and the stem has grown 8 – 12 inches tall, you need to cover the plant with more soil. It is a pretty easy process that requires you to gently pile the plants with loose soil until only the top leaves remain. This allows for a shallower hilling experience required several weeks later, with 2 – 4 inches of soil placed around the vines.
- After a couple of weeks, the potatoes are ready to be hilled again. You can apply a loose mulch instead of soil, which will protect the plants from potato beetles and provide an environment for insects that eat the potato beetle larvae. The recommended material is straw, but leaves can also be applied, as long as they are not layered too densely. Repeat step 2 until the hill is about 12 inches.
CARING FOR POTATOES
Potatoes require frequent, light watering to prevent them from becoming knobby or misshapen. A drip irrigation system is ideal for watering them. They need about 1 – 2 inches of water per week and should be watered every five days initially. Once flowers appear, increase the watering frequency to every two or three days.
One common pest is the potato beetle, a small yellow beetle with black stripes that feeds on potato leaves. Their eggs are bright orange and deposited on the underside of leaves. If you see them, use soapy water to spray on them or handpick them and drop them into the water. Mulching can help deter potato beetles, as well as prevent erosion. Other pests include aphids and leafhoppers, which can be blasted off with a water hose. To avoid pests and blight, rotate your crops. Don’t grow potatoes in the same location two years in a row.
HARVESTING AND STORING POTATOES
Digging up potatoes can be an enjoyable experience. They are ready to harvest when the flowers have stopped blooming or when their vines wither and die. If you want new potatoes, which are small and thin-skinned, harvest them after the blossoms fall off. Storage potatoes, also known as main-crop potatoes, are larger tubers with thicker skins. They can be harvested once the foliage has turned completely brown, which many gardeners recommend cutting down to facilitate the ease of harvesting. For more precise planning, determine what kind of potato you have planted, which will indicate what season they should be planted and harvested.
Let the soil dry out around the potatoes, so it is easier to harvest them. Dig gently in the soil, making sure not to injure or cut the potato skin. Damaged potatoes will rot quickly, so they should be cooked as soon as possible. When using a digging fork or shovel, try to dig under the plant, allowing loose dirt to fall through. If you find some potatoes are green colored, discard those.
After you have harvested your potatoes, don’t wash them, but instead, let them sit out so the soil can dry completely. You can wash the potato when you are ready to immediately use it. Don’t store potatoes with apples, as this can cause them to rot. Rather, keep them in a cool, dark area with a consistent temperature of about 40 degrees, such as a root cellar or basement. You can lay them flat on the floor on a piece of cardboard or place them in a cardboard box, separated by layers of newspaper.